2020 has been a lot of things, but it also appears to have been the year of the charcuterie board. I think that the necessity of staying home combined with the need for comfort and a small dose of indulgence have driven this holiday staple into a previously unreached level of popularity and I am here for it! So, when my sister-in-law asked for my contribution for Christmas Eve dinner to be a meat-and-cheese plate, I was more than happy to oblige. I think charcuterie boards are so fun and I love browsing for unique items to add to mine.
Charcuterie Board Basics
What is a charcuterie board?
A charcuterie board is traditionally an arrangement of prepared meats. In more modern times, they have come to include delicious complements to the prepared meats with items like finger-foods, cheeses, and small bites served on (you guessed it) a board! (Or sometimes a platter, dish, etc.)
What does charcuterie mean?
The word charcuterie is derived from the French words for flesh (chair) and cooked (cuit) and is used when referred to the cooking and production of prepared meats.
What goes on a charcuterie board?
2020 has pushed the envelope and the traditional charcuterie board with prepared meats and cheeses has expanded into boards of all types where anything goes. I’ve seen breakfast boards filled with pancakes, pastries, and fresh fruit. Snack boards for preteen sleepovers might contain popular snacks like chips, candies, and cookies. You’re only limited by your creativity!
Building Your Charcuterie Board
Selecting Your Charcuterie Board Base
The base of a charcuterie board is anything from an actual wooden board to something fun like a ceramic Christmas dish. Choose a size that holds enough for the audience you intend to feed. I like boards that are almost smaller than what I think I need. I like for my boards to appear abundant and overflowing.
Here are a few great options to inspire you!
Once you’ve selected your board, make sure to plan for a few bowls to keep things like jams, jellies, or sauces in place. On this year’s Christmas board, I used Trader Joe’s olivewood bowl to serve Pickapeppa Pecans. I love the earthy vibe it gives to a white platter. Here is something similar:
Bowls are a great way to bring define the mood of your board or add a fun seasonal touch. I LOVE this option:
Charcuterie Board Contents
I think the most important thing for a successful charcuterie board is variety. Variety in flavors, texture, and color. Varieties that you might want on your board include:
- Flavor: salty, sweet, savory, bitter, sour, bright, mellow, spicy
- Texture: crunchy, soft, buttery, chewy, creamy, flakey
- Appearance: colorful, natural, processed, earthy, metal, wood, ceramic
My philosophy when it comes to selecting the contents of your charcuterie board is to “read the room.” Anything goes as long as the people you are feeding will enjoy it! Your meats do not have to be the most high-end primo aged salami from that-little-town-in-Italy for your board to be a hit. Although, they certainly can be if you are building a board for an upscale event where you want to impress! That’s the beautiful thing about charcuterie boards; they are adaptable to almost any event. They can be as fancy or as low-key as you want.
Select a variety of meats prepared in a variety of ways and with interesting textures and flavors. I love salami and prosciutto on my charcuterie boards. Deli meat is another great option.
Try selecting a variety of textures when selecting cheeses. Something hard, something soft with a variety in flavor profiles. I love a soft brie cheese served with a jam (preferably fig) on a charcuterie board. Salty bleu cheese or feta always stand out for the distinct flavors.
A personal favorite is Red Dragon Cheese. It contains whole grains of mustard that add a unique crunch to every bite. It is intense in the best way!
Crackers and Bread
There are so many crackers you can choose from when building your board. Buttery and flakey or thin entertaining wafers are good choices. I also love throwing in something new and different for everyone to try. Trader Joe’s has amazing Fig and Olive Crackers that go great with goat cheese. Toasted crostini is another favorite that is perfect for spreadable cheeses and jams.
Fruits and Nuts
A cold grape or a juicy strawberry is exactly what you need after an ooey-gooey bite of cheese. I almost always include grapes on my charcuterie boards, but any fruit you love that pairs well with your meats and cheeses is a good option! Your fruit can be fresh or dried. Strawberries, cherries, figs, lunchbox bell peppers…the options are only limited by your creativity.
I love adding something unexpected with nuts. My current favorites are from The Southerner’s Cookbook by Garden and Gun. Their Pickapeppa Pecans recipe is spicy, sweet, and smoky. I love it so much I made it for Christmas presents to give to neighbors this year. Here are a few pre-made options that add a fun kick to any charcuterie board:
Fun Extras – Jams, Jellies, Pickles, and Candies
I am always on the lookout for fun jellies and pickles to add to my boards. I think these add-ons are how you can really make your board stand out and this is where I really like to have fun. This Christmas, I included Trader Joe’s Tomato Jam and Cowart’s Fig Jam from our recent Local Farmbag delivery.
Use your personal recipes for add-ons. My sister-in-law made some amazing lemony herbed olives for Christmas this year– you can bet I want that recipe to add to future boards. Your grandma’s jam recipe will go great on your board to pair with soft cheese!
Browse your local farmer’s market for offerings from local small businesses to make your board personal and local. It makes for a great conversation starter, too.
Here are some delicious and unique items that I love to add to my boards:
Once your board is assembled you can add some small decorative touches for fun. Christmas time? Consider adding some candy canes or a small ornament. Get creative!
Make sure you have spreaders, forks, and spoons for your guests to serve themselves. How cute are these options?
Most importantly, have fun! If you have unique items that you love to include on your charcuterie board, drop them in the comments below. I love trying new things!