How to Build a Charcuterie Board
While going out during weekends is a great way to have fun, inviting friends over at home is also a good idea. When you hang out at home, you can be loud and share the stories you will not feel comfortable sharing in a public space. You will also not have to worry about closing times or getting home if you’ve had a bit too much to drink.
Inviting people to your home is not that complicated, especially when you prepare a Charcuterie and cheese board to enjoy with your friends with some bottles of wine. It will look like a feast of finger food, with enough options for different tastes, and it tastes better than ordering pizza.
What Is Charcuterie?
First of all, charcuterie is pronounced [shahr-koo-tuh–ree]. It is the art of preparing and presenting cured or smoked meats like salami, bacon, and ham. Actually, a charcutier is someone who prepares the meat and while the word charcuterie is translated to ’a butcher of pork’, you may use any kind of meat. When you go to some restaurants, these boards can be ordered to share with friends or family.
However, these days, charcuterie is no longer restricted to meat. It now mixes together different tastes like sweet jam, fresh fruit, cheese, pickles, cured meats, and some other interesting tastes. It is served with wine and beer to complement all the different textures and flavors on the board.
Creating A Charcuterie Board
An easy charcuterie board is always a perfect solution because it is very versatile. You can decide how you want to mix different textures and flavors. This means you can even create a vegetarian board by substituting salami for fig salami and hummus instead of pate. Gluten-free is also possible by removing the crackers and bread.
To help you get started, you might want to consider the following things.
- Are you interested in focusing only on food from a certain country or are you open to mixing up different items from various countries?
- What can you purchase in your local supermarkets? Are there specialty grocers in the area? If they are not available, can you order something online?
- Are there any dietary concerns or preferences you will need to accommodate?
Another aspect of a first-class charcuterie table is the presentation, making it both visually appealing and putting them together properly. Here are some steps you can take to assemble them together.
- Prepare flat wooden surfaces like cutting boards or butcher blocks. If you are serving vegetarian or vegan platters, then you might want to put them in separate boards.
- Consider the colors. For example, jam, pickles, and fruit add some color to your platter. You can either put them together on some white plates or put them beside the other items to make them look colorful.
- Add some small tags to distinguish what the items are and where they come from. You can also add some information on dietary factors your guests need to consider.
- With all these in mind, put together your charcuterie board that will make it look professional.
Charcuterie Board Basics: The Meat
The way how to assemble a charcuterie platter is not like planning for a barbecue. This means you do not have to load up on meats. Most of what goes in your board are rich, so a little bit can already be filling. If it is for an appetizer, you can budget about 2 ounces for each guest but if it is the main dish, you can bring it up to about 5 ounces per person.
You will also want to introduce some variety in the meats. You can choose between raw cured meat (or Crudo) and cooked (or Cotto). The first ones, like Proscuitto, are quite intense and taste saltier. You will need to balance that with sweeter and fatter cooked meats like ham.
Here are some kinds of meats you can add to your board.
Some of these meats come pre-sliced, meaning they are not as thickly-sliced as the meats used for sandwiches. They can be easily purchased and there is also no need to cut them smaller.
The first choices are the popular Jamon Serrano and Jamon Iberico from Spain, while the Italian version Proscuitto is also a great choice. The curing processes differ but the taste and the texture are quite similar.
Tenderloin is also a good idea, like lomo de cerdo (Spanish cured pork tenderloin) or lonzo (the Italian version). Beef tenderloin (cesina for the Spanish version and bresaola for the Italian one) is another popular choice.
Other choices include guanciale (a kind of bacon similar to pancetta), mortadella (a richer version of bologna), speck (cured and smoked German pork shoulder), and filetto bacciato (cured loin that looks like puckered lips when sliced).
- Something To Slice Yourself
Some of these meats can be put on your board for the guests to slice themselves. The first choice is hard salami (which has a sweet note that counters with the wine and the peppercorn). Sopressata is a kind of Italian salami that is ground coarsely and can be found sweet or spicy. Saucisson Secis is the French version but it can be milder.
Smoked sausages like kielbasa can be a rich addition and adding one kind should be enough for your board. Finocchiona (salami that is sweeter due to fennel being added to it) and capicola (dried pork shoulder or neck that is cured with salt) are other options.
- Spreadable Meats
Another interesting addition is spreadable meat which can be made from different animals like salmon, boar, duck, or chicken.
Of these, pate is the most popular and well-known. There are 2 different categories of pate, chunky and smooth and is made mostly from duck or chicken liver. Terrine is also similar, although the pieces are chunkier and they may also have some seasonings and vegetables included. It is also possible to find some vegetarian versions.
Rillettes are meat (like duck, pork, or rabbit) that has been cooked very slowly in fat until it is tender. It is then shredded and mixed with seasoning and fat until it becomes spreadable that is called brown jam.
Charcuterie Board Basics: Cheese
A great balance to all the richness of the meats is to introduce various kinds of cheese on your board. You can estimate about 3 ounces for each person. There are many kinds of cheese to choose from, which makes it a bit trickier to know which one to buy.
A good way to start is to start with 3 kinds of cheese, one mild, one sharp, and one medium. It is also good to provide a non-dairy kind like goat milk or sheep milk cheese. Goat chevre is a great choice for a mild cheese, while Gruyere or Gouda is a nice medium-bodied cheese. They are great for red and white wine, as well as with most beers.
Lastly, a mild blue cheese goes great with bold meat and red wine.
Charcuterie Board Accents
While the meats are the biggest part of your charcuterie board, you will need to balance the flavors and the richness of the meat with something else. The whole point of the charcuterie board is to provide different options for your guests, so adding these elements given them a lot to choose from.
- Pickled vegetables like cucumber, carrots, or pepperoncini, or you can try out giardiniera (an Italian pickle made of carrot, cauliflower, bell pepper, celery, gherkin, and sometimes with chili)
- Fresh fruits like grapes, berries, melons, or apples
- Bread like toasted sliced bread or artisan bread, which you can rub with oil and some cut garlic clove. Plain bread and crackers are also alternatives.
- Hummus or similar dips
- Jam or preserve
Beverage Options That Go With Your Charcuterie Board
Your charcuterie board serves to complement your choice of drinks, and it should match well with the food you have prepared.
First of all, focus on 3 styles of beer that will match your selection well: wild ale, porter, and Saison. They are great for most palates and will balance the fat from your meats and other flavors of the charcuterie food.
When it comes to wine options, a hearty red kind of wine like Pinot Noir will be perfect when you are serving a charcuterie board at home. On the other hand, Italian sparkling wines like Lambruscos and Proseccos, as well as off-dry Rieslings, will be good at resetting your palate.
Lastly, you will want to introduce a non-alcoholic option for your guests. You will also want something with fizz, although this does not mean adding soda. The sweetness of soda can overwhelm your palate. Instead, go for sparkling water with a slice of lemon and lime.
Building your very first charcuterie board can be overwhelming at first, especially when it comes to choosing items that will complement each other. You will need to try some of them out, so make sure you buy a bit extra of everything. But after your first try, it becomes easier as you get used to the tastes and seeing what people like. And before you know it, you are an expert at assembling a charcuterie board.