While there’s no wrong time for a charcuterie board, there’s something about the cool, crisp fall air that makes you want to cozy up with some wine and dive into all your favorite nibbles with your favorite people. The best part of creating a charcuterie board is that it’s completely tailored to your preferences? Want more roasted cashews? Throw them on! Don’t like olives? Don’t need them! If you’re a little overwhelmed by the completely open-ended choices that charcuterie boards provide, rest easy. We’ve put together a helpful guide to get you started. After this, you’ll be the go-to charcuterie board king or queen!
What Is Charcuterie?
If you’ve seen the Instagram posts and articles about charcuterie but are still confused about what exactly it is, it’s pretty simple. This French word means the art of preparing and assembling cured meats and other accouterments (delicious accompaniments). It’s become a little synonymous with charcuterie boards, which are a selection of cured meats, fruits, cheeses, nuts, like roasted or raw cashews, and crackers arranged beautifully on a cutting board.
Where Do I Start When Making a Charcuterie Board?
This is a common question, and the easiest answer is to start with the board itself. Typically boards are heavy blocks of cutting board. Other times people use beautiful platters. They’re often rectangular, but you can use any size or shape you want. If it helps, imagine the size of a medium to large baking sheet- this should be enough to feed a small crowd.
Next, you’ll want to collect any serving bowls and butter knives. If you have tiny spoons or serveware, now’s the time for them to shine! You don’t need giant soup bowls or serving spoons because the art of charcuterie is to have a variety of limited quantity items on the board. Small saucers or bowls you’d store salt or seasonings in are great for holding crackers, olives, pickles, or – our favorite – roasted cashews. You can either buy or roast your own cashews.
What Foods Do I Put on My Charcuterie Board?
Now that you have your serving platter and dishes, the fun part can commence! You can customize your board to your liking, but as a guide, charcuterie boards usually have a combination of the following things:
- Cured meats
- A variety of cheeses
- Something briney like olives, pickles, peppers, or artichokes
- Dried Fruit
- Crackers or small slices of toasted bread
- Jelly or Jam
The goal is to mix a complimentary variety of flavors and textures.
Building Your Charcuterie Board
You’ll typically want to start with your two main stars of the show: meats and cheeses. These are the ‘main course’ of the charcuterie board, and which meats and cheeses you choose will likely guide your choice of accompanying foods and flavors.
When choosing meats, typically, there’s at least one variety of salami. Perhaps there’s some prosciutto, sausage, or pepperoni. But you can choose whatever you like. You’ll want to serve these thinly sliced and fanned out or folded for effect.
The same rule applies when selecting cheeses for your boards: choose whatever you like. If you have three types of meat, select 2 to 3 types of cheese. Typically there’s a harder, saltier cheese like a pecorino romano and a creamier, softer cheese like brie. If you’re feeling fancy, try adding a smoked gouda.
The next thing that all great charcuterie boards have is a variety of nuts. Our favorite nuts to include are roasted cashews. They provide a crunchy, creamy, savory snack that pairs well with everything. You could also add some pistachios or seasoned almonds.
You’ll always want something briney to cut through all the fat, salt, and cheese on the plate. This is where little cornichons come in hands. Olives are also great, as are pickled peppers. Anything to add a little kick works well here. And you get to display them all in your beautiful serving dishes.
For fruit, grapes are usually the first choice, followed by some sort of fresh berry in the summer or sliced apples in the winter. A great touch visually is to quarter or halve a whole pomegranate. It’s stunning to look at, and delicious to add pomegranate seeds to that perfect bite.
A handful of dried fruit adds texture and color to your board. Anything from dried apricots to figs works well.
For breads and crackers, I like a mixture. Square, buttery crackers fan out nicely, while thinly sliced crostini with some olive oil add a nice texture and flavor. Charred sourdough is also a nice touch.
A nice, fancy jam or jelly rounds out the party.
Last but not least, sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary add color and fragrance to your display.