Building the Perfect Charcuterie Board!

Tips on Building the Perfect Charcuterie Board

Celebrating National Wine and Cheese Day in Style!

National Wine and Cheese Day is upon us, and what a great way to celebrate it, by pairing up your favorite vintage with a beautiful charcuterie board full of delicious delights! Wine and cheese have always come hand in hand in entertaining since maybe evening the beginning of time, but taking it one step further to include a culinary trend that may seem new, but definitely isn’t.

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If you are unfamiliar with a charcuterie board, you have undoubtedly seen them on social media, in magazines, or on a favorite food program. They are those eye-catching wooden boards that are seemingly painstakingly arranged to make the food that adorns them almost too good to eat. Almost. The presence of one of those boards at a gathering invites you in, first by the eyes, and then by the taste of the offerings. They are frankly, impossible to resist.

The word “charcuterie” alas, isn’t as beautiful as the boards themselves. The word "charcuterie" comes from the French term "chair cuite," which means "cooked flesh." Not very appealing sounding, is it? In the time before the invention of refrigeration, it was a way to prepare pork, sausage, and other cured meats so that they were preserved long after the butchering. The first method of preservation is said to have begun in ancient Greece and Rome.  As time evolved, and the process spread and became popular throughout Europe, so did the manner in which meat was prepared and preserved. As each region adapted its own methods, recipes, and flavors as such, charcuterie became an essential part of European culinary culture. Thankfully, as time progressed, the focus was more on the contents of the board than how the boards came to be.

Though charcuterie boards seemingly have been around for centuries, why then the rise in recent popularity?  This can be contributed to a number of reasons.

The love of food:  Not only is eating essential to life, but it is also a number of people's absolute favorite thing to do!

The presence and appeal to social media and socialization:  It is no surprise that social media has a lot to do with the uptick in popularity of the charcuterie boards.  We all love to share and as we know, with social media you have literally seconds to catch a viewer's attention.  What better way to lure in a like or a swipe than with a beautiful and appetizing photo of some fabulous foods?  The charcuterie board is the ultimate example of a beautiful display.  Pair them with the love of entertaining, and you have an incredible element to make your special occasion the talk of the town (or at least your social pages).

Charcuterie boards appeal to creativity and aesthetics:  Today’s culture loves beauty.  Beauty in people, in architecture, in music, in food.  Artists use a charcuterie board as a substitute for a pallet, paints, and a canvas, instead using their culinary creativity to masterfully display a variety of foods in an artistic fashion.  Even when made with similarities no two are ever the same, much as two masterpieces are never the same.  They may have the same ingredients, but the person assembling them will do so with their own unique style and flair.

Versatility, Customization, and Adaptability:  The charcuterie board can appeal to everyone. No matter the dietary restrictions, tastes, occasion, or number of guests, your presentation can be adapted to fit any need that you have. From adults to children, who doesn’t like sampling small tastes of delicious foods? They are also the perfect vehicle for using locally sourced or artisanal food ingredients. Farmer’s markets are a perfect spot to shop for some special ingredients to use in your next presentation.

Ease of Preparation:  For the most part, charcuterie boards are easy to assemble.  Even if you don’t have a creative bone in your body, the food you are choosing for your board will undoubtedly draw you to assemble it in a particular way, and visually appealing way.   Most of the time there is no cooking involved, and with a lot of the traditional ingredients could be readily available in your pantry for an impromptu gathering with unexpected guests.  The presence of a charcuterie board makes any gathering a little more special, and even if you are home alone, or with just family, you don’t need an excuse to make one.

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Setting the Stage

Charcuterie boards of today come in many forms.  From the sweet to the savory, they can hold and beautifully present any number of delectables.  They can be arranged by color, with a theme, holiday, or even just hold your favorite flavor pairings.  They can be the main centerpiece at your next event, or be a perfect substitute for lunch or dinner, with no party or event in progress.  There simply is no right or wrong way to create one.  There are, however, some basic guidelines to give you a jumping-off point in creating one of your very own that can be likened to a play or a movie.

  • It all starts with a setting or a base: The setting of the charcuterie board can be a beautiful wooden board or a large tray or platter. There are many resources for these, but your local home decor store is sure to have an abundance.  Depending on how large you want to make it,  a board or a platter makes your creation portable, but elaborate charcuterie placements can also run the length of a dining or buffet table using waxed butcher paper to protect the table’s surface, for a truly dramatic effect at a large gathering.  Whatever vehicle you choose to display your board, be sure it has room to house all of the elements you would like to display.
  • Next are the main characters:  In a typical savory charcuterie board, these are the meats and cheeses. Choose a selection of cured meats with different flavors and textures. With cheeses, select a variety of cheeses that complement the meats. Include different types such as soft, hard, and aged cheeses. Vary the flavors, textures, and colors for visual interest.
  • Followed by the Supporting Cast:  The supporting cast of breads and crackers back up the main characters.  Guests can place the meat and cheese selections atop different varieties of tastes and textures from crisp crackers to soft baguette slices.
  • Add the Musical Score:  The musical score of a film can add drama and heighten the performance.  The accompaniments you place on your charcuterie board should do the same. Spreads, chutneys condiments, olives, pickles, and the like can all enhance the flavors and experience of the meats and cheeses.  Nuts and fruits can also fall into this category, and both can add even more flavor, color,  and beauty to your board.
  • Special Guest Appearance:  You may want to add some special selections that can appear in small amounts in your charcuterie, depending on your production budget!   These could vary from extravagant chocolates or special exotic ingredients that you have always wanted to try but only want a smattering of.  The charcuterie board is the perfect opportunity to think outside the box and try something special.  Though you want to definitely make selections that will appeal to most palates, this is also a time when you can venture out of the box and mix in something that you haven’t tried before.

All of these elements combined can set the stage for a wonderfully presented and appealing charcuterie board for your next gathering or even your next meal.  Bon appetite!

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