Summer is just around the corner which means hot weather, sun and fun, and plenty of opportunities to host barbeques, parties, and backyard bashes. A charcuterie board is a perfect addition to any party spread – it takes virtually no time and if you start with the right ingredients, it’s sure to be the highlight of your event.

History

The word charcuterie is derived from the French word chair, meaning flesh, and cuit, meaning cooked, and at its inception, was used to describe shops in fifteenth-century France that sold products made from pork. Today, it describes a platter including meats, cheeses, nuts, veggies, and crackers or bread arranged in a display of textures and flavors. A charcuterie board is perfect as an appetizer for a more formal celebration or a quick bite at a casual function. Looking to create one of these stunning and delicious no-fuss party snacks for your next get-together? Follow this easy recipe and you’ll be able to create the perfect charcuterie board in no time!

For starters, a classic charcuterie board is made of these components:

  • Cured Meats
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Crackers or baguette bread
  • Jelly or Jam

The key here is to include a variety of colors and textures that compliment each other so that your platter not only tastes delicious but looks interesting and festive. Pull out all the stops. You want your board to look full of life, so find the ripest tomato, the juiciest olive, and the most vibrant violet for a jam or jelly. And don’t be afraid to layer up. You want your board to look fat and full and it’s fair to estimate that you’ll need about 2 ounces worth of noshery for each guest.

That said you should also keep in mind that things in your charcuterie board must be easily spread with a knife or finger food just to make for ease of eating.

Meats

First, be cognizant of the cuts of meat and vary the slice thickness and texture. It’s also important to vary the level of spice throughout the board. Often times it’s customary to use two muscle cuts and three encased types of meat. The taste here should always — above all else — be salty and rich, giving it the perfect flavor profile to be eaten in small bites. Here are some options of meat to include in your next charcuterie board: Genoa salami, soppressata, Italian dry salami, cacciatore, crespone, Felino, finocchiona, hot soppressata, peppered salami, rosette de Lyon, Secchi, Cotto, dry coppa, hot capicola, hot coppa, chorizo, mortadella, or prosciutto.

Cheeses

There are a wide variety of cheeses that can be added as the perfect compliment on a charcuterie board and it’s important to showcase the different flavors that cheese can offer. Pick three: one classic, one unique, and maybe something milder so that you’ll cover all of your bases. These are best served sliced, but by using soft and hard cheeses here, you’ll truly tap into the uniqueness. Some options for cheese are manchego, brie, hard cheddar, parmigiano reggiano, marinated feta, fresh mozzarella, or drunken goat.

Nuts and Bread

Nuts and bread are two of the milder ingredients to a charcuterie board. They should serve as a base that will carry and amplify the flavor of the other things you have in your spread. Make sure you include these in a separate bowl for your guests who may be allergic.

Choose a plain flavored bread so that it can be easily paired with the other items on your board like a sliced baguette. Nothing is worse than competing flavors, so don’t include anything that might throw things out of whack.

Fruit and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables add a fresh taste to your board, so it’s very important to have plenty of these on hand. Olives are obviously a staple here, but some people like to use strawberries, grapes, mandarin orange, pickles, and peppers. These fruits and veggies will offer some crunch, texture, and maybe spice to your board that will be a true treat.

Dip or Spreads

To keep it simple, you need something sweet and something salty, that should cover your bases. Tart mustard will pair nicely with cured meats while sweet honey will deliciously accent fruits and veggies. The dips and spreads are essentially there to provide a highlight to all of the flavors you’re showcasing and tie everything together. It’s important to take the time to pair your pieces correctly to ensure your dips will be a hit. Place them in ramekins beside your board or spread honey or add a small sampling to the plate itself.

Garnish

Finally, garnishing your board is nearly as important as making sure that you’re including all of the right things. Use edible flowers or fresh herbs like thyme & rosemary to decorate the empty space.

It’s important to note that while these foods typically make up a charcuterie board, it’s very important to make it your own! Part of the fun of crafting one of these culinary masterpieces is knowing your audience and being able to adapt to the tastes and styles of the guests who will be in attendance. One of the best things about a charcuterie board is taking advantage of the versatility. This is truly a project to make your own, so take heed: focus your board on one particular region or theme, substitute vegan or vegetarian options for meat and cheese, nix bread and crackers for a more gluten-free option and check out this blog where the team at Spend with Pennies describes their perfect board. 

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to include on your board, your next step is arranging. Color code or use small tags to designate the different. Go wild and use patterns and designs to complement which pieces pair best. Is there a find you’re particularly proud of? Arrange your place to emphasize this in particular. Consider using a patterned table cloth or parchment paper so that your charcuterie can extend over the entirety of the table or better yet. Impress with one of Man Vs Wood’s expertly crafted, hardwood charcuterie boards guaranteed and specially made to impress, even once the food is gone!