Charcuterie Boards

I. Love. Charcuterie. Boards.

I love everything about them. I love the thought involved in picking the items for the board; I love the process of arranging everything together; I love the family style grazing that happens when people share a board; I love all the snacks that a naturally created from the leftovers. They’re perfect for picnics, casual gatherings, or formal events. They can me tailored to any budget or to accommodate food allergies. Should I go on, or do you fully understand just how much I love charcuterie boards?

I’ve made charcuterie boards before as simple dinners, or as a snack to have available prior to a meal for my guests. I’ve been wanting to make a large one for friends to share over dinner and when I saw fresh figs in the store the other day I felt inspired to pull one together.

Selecting the Elements of Your Board

There are countless articles and posts out there about what you should pick to add to your charcuterie board. Some will say that you should pick ingredients “from the same region” meaning pick cheeses, meats, and snacks that are from the same area of the world. The strategy I live by is this: Pick what you want to eat. Simple. I buy what I know I will like and what my guests will enjoy, or something new that I’m interested in trying. If they happen to be “from the same region” then I guess I’ll be extra fancy.

I also try to think of flavors and textures when building a board. I always incorporate something sweet, salty, and tangy such as jam, marcona almonds, and olives. For texture, I like to include a fresh french bread cut into small slices that will provide a softer vessel for topping. Crackers provide a crunchier option. I also incorporate fresh and dried fruits, as well as fresh veggies. I think a lot about color when picking my fruits and veggies. Radishes, mini bell peppers, grapes and figs all bring bright varieties of colors to the board.

When picking the meats, I try to have a chicken/turkey option for someone who doesn’t eat red meat. I usually include salami, prosciutto and turkey. I almost always include brie on my boards because it’s one of my favorite cheeses. In addition to the brie, I usually try to pick something with intense flavor like a blue or stilton. I also like to include a smoked cheese like smoked gouda. You can also add variety by mixing up the milks of the cheeses such as a sheep’s cheese or a goat’s cheese.

Assembling the Board

If i’m making a smaller one, I’ll just make the whole thing on one of my larger platters/boards. This one was going to be larger so I used a table cloth, a large platter, and some banana leaves as my base. I knew I would want to keep the cheeses on the platter so they would be easier to cut. I then added the banana leaves around the platter to provide spaces for items that contained more moisture, and a place to lay the meat so the fat wouldn’t stain my table cloth. I bought these leaves at my local grocery store knowing that they would be food-safe. You could buy leaves at a florist but then you run the risk of them being sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals.

Once I had my base down, I placed some of my small bowls containing marcona almonds, honey, jam, olives and pickles. I placed them around my board then filled in the rest as I went. I used grapes for height, and placed the mini peppers around for color. Then I added the cheeses on my large platter and filled in with crackers and the rest of my elements. I finished the board by garnishing with fresh rosemary.

My Board Elements

  • fresh french bread
  • sesame crackers
  • whole wheat crackers
  • marcona almonds
  • mini bell peppers
  • prosciutto
  • salami
  • sliced turkey
  • fresh figs
  • cornichons
  • pitted Italian olive blend
  • dried apricots
  • 4-berry jam
  • honey
  • grapes
  • radishes
  • smoked gouda with chilies
  • cheddar cheese (goat’s milk)
  • brie
  • blue cheese

What elements will you include in your board?