How to Make a Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie is one of those weird words that has suddenly been heard more often but not everyone knows what it is. First off how do you even pronounce it? Say Shar-coo-tree. It sounds a little intimidating and when you find out it’s French for "cured meats" then it becomes even more confusing! Today’s charcuterie boards are really meat and cheese trays with little extras thrown in to complete a great snack or meal. I have a few items that I always keep on hand in my pantry so I can quickly throw together a charcuterie tray as an appetizer or light meal when I have to bring an appetizer or have friends unexpectedly stop by.
Meats that have been preserved, such as ham, sausages, jerky, and pates, are typically included in charcuterie. This was the case before refrigeration became prevalent, but I like to include them so I don’t have to be concerned about how long this appetizer tray sits out for guests. I like to use hard sausage sticks, sliced summer sausage, rolled ham slices, and occasionally I’ll include a smoked fish pate.
I like to include a variety of cheeses, hard and soft, to go along with the cured meats and appeal for those guests who are vegetarians. I always have a block of white Cheddar on hand, and I’ll also include a yellow Colby or Cheddar for my hard cheeses and either slice a nice soft brie or include an herbed goat cheese or spread to round it out with soft cheeses.
Dried and Fresh Fruits
This is where it gets fun. I love to incorporate an assortment of fresh and dried fruits that are so tasty with the cheeses. Fresh grapes, sliced apples or pears are standards, but also try in season fruit like fresh blueberries or blackberries. I love the taste and contrast of dates (I use pitted ones) with cheddar or dried apricots. Fig jam or any chutneys are fantastic too.
Olives are actually a fruit too, just brined, and I love to include my favorite Casteltravano olives. These bright green orbs of buttery goodness are liked by even olive-haters since they are so mild and their pair great with cheese adding the right amount of saltiness.
Add Some Crunch
I like to layer in some crunch with nuts and add crackers to hold all of the combinations of meat, cheese and fruits. Any nuts will work, but my go-tos are almonds since they aren’t strong and won’t compete with all the other flavors. I like to give guests a choice of crackers and use plain water crackers, something rustic like melba toast, and when I can find parmesan crisps, I’ll include them for those watching their carbs since they are made of just cheese.
Adding in fun cocktail napkins (cloth or paper) and sprigs of fresh herbs to fill in the gaps is a nice final touch (and a great cheat for those holes). I like to clip fresh mint from my garden or basil, rosemary, or thyme springs from my windowsill herb pots. You can also use these to separate the meats from touching other items on your board so any vegetarian guests can still enjoy it too!