All about Charcuterie

All about Charcuterie

Holidays and weekends is enjoying spending time with family and friends. No matter the occasion, charcuterie boards make the perfect party platters. Not only are they easy to create, they are a simple way to make a stunning party centerpiece. Best of all, these deli platters usually include something that appeals to every guest’s tastes. Size your charcuterie plate to accommodate all of your guests, from just a few to many more. These boards can look overwhelming but honesty with preparation , its easy to create and everyone will enjoy it.

charcuterie examples

What is Charcuterie?

First off … how do you pronounce charcuterie?  [shahr-koo-tuh–ree].

Charcuterie is the art of preparing meats which are often cured or smoked such as bacon, ham or salami.  A charcutier is a person who prepares charcuterie. You can use any kind of meat or non meat items on your board. A charcuterie board is commonly seen on menus pretty much everywhere these days and it’s the perfect way to enjoy some nibbles with friends and family!

Preparing a Charcuterie Board

As you begin thinking about making the perfect charcuterie board, you will want to start thinking about different colors and textures to make it vibrant and interesting.

Red and black berries, dried apricots, fresh herbs, pickles, olives and various dips can add lots of color.

The board should look full, don’t be afraid to pile and stack them while thinking about varying the different items throughout.

How to Make a Charcuterie Board

There are a few steps to preparing a charcuterie board, including selecting ingredients, slicing/preparing them, and arranging them.

Charcuterie Plate Components

Meat: I estimate about 3-4 slices of meat per person when building a board.  I try to include a variety of flavors and textures for example a sliced pepper salami, a rolled prosciutto and thoughtfully piled ham.

Cheese: Choose a variety of cheeses; about 1 or 2 oz per person as an hors d’oeuvre.  Look for various hard and soft cheeses from mellow to sharp.  Cheeses are easiest served already sliced.

Bread and Crackers: Again variety is key, I like to include buttery flaky crackers, grain crackers and thinly sliced and toasted baguettes.

Fruit & Nuts: Both dried and fresh fruit will add gorgeous color and lots of flavor to your charcuterie board! As you are purchasing fruits, keep a variety of colors in mind for a beautiful board.  Nuts should be shelled and salted.

Pickles, Olives and Dips: Adding small bowls filled with dill pickles, olives, jellies, mustards and delicious dips is a great way to add some zip and flavor to your board.

Gourmet Spreads, Oils & Dipping Spices: Adding small bowls with spreadable items like oil and dipping spices is a great to enhance flavor to your board

Jellies and Jams: Adding more sweetness to the boards especially if you are doing a breakfast or brunch theme.

Most of the items can be prepared, washed and/or sliced ahead of time meaning this easy appetizer can take just minutes to prepare.

You’ll also need lots of toothpicks, knifes to slice cheese/meats, spoons, little bowls, etc. That way everyone can easily serve and enjoy your charcuterie board ideas.

How to Arrange a Board for Charcuterie

People do this in various ways. However, this is the ‘formula’ I use to help in creating a visually appealing board.

Step 1: Start with your base

Wood boards, cutting boards, pottery plates, slates and more have all been used as the base plate of charcuterie platters. Be creative with your choice, but consider the number of guests you are serving. The larger the party, the bigger the charcuterie tray should be. If serving more than 50 guests, more than one charcuterie platter should be considered. Have fun with the ingredients by choosing sweet and savory flavors, vary each platter with different themed foods (ie: meat lover, vegan or vegetarian)!

Step 2: Add the meats

Using the already placed ingredients and jars to help ‘prop’ meats up. Now it’s time to add your mixed selection of ingredients. When it comes to creating an interesting charcuterie board, make sure not to lay the meats ‘flat’. Instead, create visual appeal by rolling, folding, scrunching, and shaping the meats in various ways based on their size and flexibility. This not only looks great but is easier for your guests to remove, too. Once again, make sure to spread the options across the board rather than place them all side by side.

Step 3: Add the crackers/bread

Make sure not to lay the bread too close to any ‘wet’ ingredients but still spread them evenly across the board. I like to make sure I have at least 2-3 options (i.e., baguette slices along with thin crackers or vegetable chips), even on a small charcuterie board.

Step 4: Place the fruits, veg, and accompaniments

Now it’s time to fill in all the little gaps on the board with fruits, veggies, and all the other accompaniments of your choice. I recommend making sure to place different colored and shaped ingredients beside one another to spread color across the board. Add lots of different components, too, for plenty of choices! These really help to boost color and texture!

Make sure not to place anything too ‘wet’ next to the bread and crackers and use larger fruits (like grapes and pomegranate) to add height and dimension. You can then finish off the charcuterie board with these last flourishes, including herbs to garnish and any cheese/ingredient markers, so your guests know exactly what the various ingredients are.

Tips for Best Results

  • Using a theme: You don’t HAVE to have a theme for a successful charcuterie board. However, if you don’t know where to begin, then a theme can help. You can create themes based on the season, holidays, color, region, dietary preference, flavor profiles, etc.
  • Plan the amount: To avoid waste, it’s a good idea to plan for how many guests you plan to feed. As a general rule, plan on around 3oz of charcuterie (cheese and meat) per person for an appetizer/snack and 6oz when serving as a main, along with 2-3 slices of bread, some crackers, and a handful-ish of the various accompaniments.
  • Balance and contrast flavors: Adding a combination of sweet, savory, salty, and spicy components is a sure way to appeal to all and create a balance of flavors. Plus, giving your guests a lot of options almost always leads to success!
  • Balance the board: Likewise, balance the boards with colors, textures, and shapes. Don’t place any components that are too similar side by side (color, shape, and size). However, it can be a good idea to place ingredients that pair well beside one another (i.e., cheese and grapes).
  • Create dimension: Adding bowls, jars, and folding/shaping the meat are all great ways to add dimension to your charcuterie board.
  • Fill the board: In most cases in life, less is more- that’s not the case with charcuterie boards. In my experience, a charcuterie board packed with ingredients and barely any (if any at all) board showing tend to look the best.
  • Don’t forget the ‘utensils’: Include plenty of serving tools and utensils like toothpicks, cheese knives, spoons, etc. After spending time curating and perfecting your charcuterie board, the last thing you want is to end up with tons of leftovers because people couldn’t easily eat the components!

Don’t get too bogged down by the ‘perfect’ pairings if that’s not what you’re into. Yes, certain meats and cheeses work best together, but you can also just use your general common sense to choose flavors YOU think works well together. Trial and error are all part of the fun. Have fun and enjoy the ride!

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