Even though charcuterie boards seem simple, making them for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. You have a picture in your head of what you want it to look like but how do you actually pull it off. Which meats and cheeses should you choose? How do you know which additional items to add? Here are some things to keep in mind when assembling the perfect charcuterie board for your next gathering or when you don’t want to actually cook dinner. 🙂
When it comes to the board itself you have options. You can opt to use a cheese board, a cutting board, or even just a sheet pan. My brother gave us a cute chalkboard cheese set a few years ago so I’ve used that often. If it’s just charcuterie for two I’ll use a small wooden cutting board. You don’t need to worry about finding an expensive board, the items going on the board are the stars, not what you’re serving it on!
Your charcuterie board can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. Typically it will consist of meats, cheeses, sweet accompaniments (preserves, chocolate,dried fruit), savory accompaniments(pickles,nuts,olives,mustards) and crackers or bread. .How you build your board will depend on your guests. If you have some foodies coming over you’ll probably want to include specialty products from a local market. If you know that a guest has a dairy sensitivity you’ll want to have lactose free or lower lactose cheeses (like Gouda, Cheddar, or Brie) available. – here’s a great article from Old Europe Cheese for reference).
You can find items for your board at mostly any grocery store and local markets. If you are in the greater Portland area I love to pop into The Cheese Iron or The Cheese Shop of Portland. They have a great variety of meats and cheeses to choose from, in addition to accompaniments like local honey, imported jams and crusty baguettes. Trader Joe’s is also a great option, it’s like a one stop shop! You can get everything you need for your board (even the wine!) Dried fruits, savory dips,olives, crackers, and their cheese and meat selection is pretty great.
Some of My Favorites:
This is my little cheat sheet for when I’m starting to create my board. I’m constantly adding to it when I try something new on a board at a restaurant or at a gathering. Like sundried tomato pesto? Yum! Added that to my cheat sheet. I pull a few things from each category to make my shopping list.
- Cheese : Brie, Comté, goat, mozzarella or Burrata, Fourme d’Ambert, Camembert, Port Salut, Aged Cheddar
- Charcuterie: saucisson (dry sausage,) dry ham, prosciutto, spicy calabrese
- Spreads / dips: tapenade, rillettes, terrine, fig jam, apricot jam, honey, pesto, tzatziki, hummus
- Fruits / veggies: cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, radishes, cucumber, melon, grapes, berries
- Salty bites : nuts, olives, cornichons
- Sweet bites: dark chocolate, caramels
- Vehicles: baguette, olive bread, pita chips, crackers
The Drink Pairing
Once you’ve decided on what to include on your board next you’ll want to decide what to serve along with it. This really depends on the crowd that you are hosting. I’m all about drinking what you want. Whether it be a full bodied Bordeaux, a crisp Saison or your favorite La Croix. It’s really up to you. If you want some more guidance and not just “drink what you like!” check out this helpful Buzzfeed article.
When it comes to assembling I love the look of a really full charcuterie board, I think it’s really pretty. I start with my largest items and then center everything else around them. Adding things like nuts, olives and grapes to help fill in any holes. Adding fresh herbs such as a couple of rosemary sprigs or some basil leaves can jazz up your board too. If you don’t want a cramped board, (I know some people don’t like their food to touch) spread things out or use little ramekins.
Enjoy the delicious board that you put together and the people that you’re sharing it with. Cheers!