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How to Make the Perfect Charcuterie Board

A charcuterie board laden with cheeses, meats, fruits, crackers and preserves is enough to make your mouth water. Here's how to build a showstopping sharing platter.

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A charcuterie board is a beloved appetiser that was prevalent throughout Europe. Nowadays the charcuterie board has become a favourite for many and typically consists of cured meats, cheeses, pates, crackers and bread that's served on a wooden board or stone or slate slab.

The charcuterie board has become synonymous with sharing. Many people build decadent charcuterie boards for summery dinner parties as they're ideal for al fresco dining and casual social events with friends and family. For those who love to host, impressing your guests with a charcuterie board that is filled with mouth-watering meats, cheeses, crackers and fruit can turn your dinner party into a showstopping and unforgettable dining experience.

Originating from Europe, the charcuterie board is a beautifully arranged serving platter filled with cold and preserved foods such as cheeses, meats, pates, spreads, fruit and bread. The purpose of a charcuterie board is to bring people together and enjoy simple yet elegant food with one another, while enjoying a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage that suits the food that's arranged on the board.

The food you include and how you arrange your charcuterie boards come down to the guests you are entertaining and personal preferences. What's more, each component should complement one another, so your guests enjoy harmonising flavours. For instance, mortadella (a cured meat) beautifully complements peaches, pears, kiwis and even pineapple - perfect for an exotic sharing platter.

Is a Charcuterie Board Similar to a Cheeseboard?

Cheeseboards and charcuterie boards are technically not the same, but recently they have become synonymous with one another. Luxurious cheeseboards may come with jams, preserves and olives. However, a traditional cheese board simply refers to a selection of cheeses that's served as a course. A charcuterie board, on the other hand, is a sharing appetiser that comes with many more various components.

What is a Charcuterie Board?

What are the Main Foods Found on a Charcuterie Board?

While you have the freedom to add anything you wish to your charcuterie board, there are traditional foods associated with such sharing platters. Traditionally, charcuterie boards are filled with cured meats, various cheeses, fruits, jams, chutneys and crackers. If you're wondering what to put on a charcuterie board and wanting to build an authentic sharing platter that replicates traditional charcuterie boards, here are the main components to focus on.

Cured Meats

Cured, dried meats are a great and standard addition to a charcuterie board. When choosing the best cured meats for your board, you can't really go wrong. Offer a selection that bring something new and different. Spanish chorizo can bring a little spice to the board, while prosciutto is sweet and salty and can be wrapped around fruit or bread sticks for extra flamboyance to your board.

Other popular cured meats include:

  • Salami
  • Chorizo
  • Mortadella

Cheeses

Again, you can choose which cheeses you love best. Ideally, you want a good variety of cheeses ranging from texture to flavour. Offering some hard cheeses and a couple soft cheeses can all add depth to your charcuterie board and cater to various tastes. Maybe you could include a variety of cows, sheep and goats cheese.

  • Gouda
  • Manchego
  • Feta
  • Roquefort
  • Camembert

Fresh and Dried Fruit

Choosing the fruit for your board can be tricker as you want them to complement the cured meats and cheese you've selected. That being said, try not to think too hard when deciding. Cranberries, apple, pear and even strawberries can all work well. This can be your time to experiment. For instance, strawberries are delectable with feta and a balsamic dip.

Crackers, Slices of Bread and Bread Sticks

Variety is key when it comes to crackers. Arrange them across the board and add freshly sliced baguette and bread sticks for an assortment of flavour and textures.

Jam or Chutney

Much like with the fresh and dried fruit, try and consider flavour profiles that would complement the cured meats and cheeses you have chosen. Apricot, raspberry, grape, and fig jam can all be delicious additions, adding depth to your board.

Olives and Nuts

Marcona almonds work well with Spanish meats, but pecans, macadamias, cashews and pumpkin seeds can all be welcome additions. When it comes to choosing nuts and olives, keep them simple - salted or unsalted nuts and Greek or kalamata olives add enough additional flavour without being overpowering.

How to Make a Charcuterie Board for a Party

Now you know the key components of a charcuterie board, it's time to build your own. It may seem daunting to pair every addition to the board, but the reality is that numerous cured meats, cheese and fruits naturally complement one another. What's more, the beauty of a charcuterie board is that you simply arrange the various foods and allow your guests to select the bits and pieces that appeal to them most.

Without further ado, here's our top tips to help you build a delicious charcuterie board for your next gathering.

Start with the Board

How large is your charcuterie board going to be and how many guests are attending? Once you know the number of people you???re catering for, you can locate a wooden board or slate slab that offers you enough space.

Large, thick wooden boards can make a beautiful piece of serveware - especially if you're dining al fresco and looking to create a rustic atmosphere. Once you've selected your serving board, it's time to consider the food you're placing on top.

Think of Complementing Flavours

While you want to avoid overthinking complementing flavours, you will want to ensure several elements of the food on your board can be mixed for an intense and harmonising flavours.

We've briefly touched upon complementing flavours. To help, here our some of our favourite combinations.

  • Wensleydale cheese with blueberries and ginger snaps
  • Prosciutto and gruyere cheese
  • Brie, fresh figs and toasted almonds
  • Blue cheese, pear and honey crackers

Start Arranging Your Ingredients

We eat with our eyes, so arranging your ingredients and paying attention to the board's presentation can easily elevate your charcuterie platter. And while certain meats will pair more nicely with certain cheeses, refrain from putting them beside one another.

One great element of a charcuterie board is its rustic charm and the freedom to be as creative as you please. To help you build a stylish yet delectable charcuterie board, here are our top presentation tips.

  1. Work in odd numbers. For instance, 3 cheeses, 3 cracker types and 5 different cured meats can help you build an aesthetically pleasing sharing platter.
  2. Slightly overlap your meats, leave the chorizo half uncut, and layer cheese slices.
  3. Leave no space untouched. For a lavish charcuterie board, fill each gap with a small dipping bowl that's filled with jams, hummus, or olives. Sprinkle nuts into small sections that are yet to be filled. Place berries and fruit across the board.

Use Herbs as Decoration

While you wouldn't necessarily eat the herbs, adding some to the sharing board can help add extra decoration and colour. Plus, if anyone does wish to add a basil leaf to their mozzarella topped cracker, then they have the option to do so.

Keep Portions Bitesize

Whether you're serving a charcuterie board as an appetiser or throwing an al fresco luncheon for friends, you want all food to be bitesize so your guests can easily nibble and graze. While you want your guests to be satisfied, avoid overstuffing them. After all, a main course and a dessert may be following if you're throwing a dinner party.

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How to Make a Vegan Charcuterie Board

Vegan charcuteries boards can be just as easy to build. Simply swap out cured meats and dairy cheese with meat alternatives and vegan cheese. Nowadays you can procure vegan cured beef slices, smoked ham, and vegan feta, mozzarella, camembert and more. When it comes to choosing fruit, anything but figs go (they contain dead wasps!).

How to Keep Your Charcuterie Board Fresher for Longer

Ensure perfection by creating your charcuterie board ahead of time. By doing so, you can entertain your guests and serve them a pitcher of delicious cocktails. Keep your charcuterie board fresh by wrapping the board in clingfilm and placing it in the refrigerator.

Once your guests start to become peckish, bring the charcuterie board out and place it on top of a deep baking tray that's filled with ice. The ice can keep your board cool enough, which is ideal if you're planning to dine outside and under the summer sun.

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Keep cheese knives, forks, and knives on hand so your guests can cut additional slices of cheese and plate the cheese and cured meat on crackers wouldn't using their hands. Knives are useful if you have jams, chutney, hummus or spread for bread and crackers. You may also wish to keep tongs at hand, which are perfect for picking up baguette slices.

While a charcuterie board may look like finger food, serving utensils can make eating easier and much more hygienic.

Have Serving Utensils on Hand

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When it comes to building a charcuterie board, think simple, elegant, and seasonal. If you're creating a serving platter in the autumn, base your board around seasonal produce that's currently easily sourced. Try not to overfill or overwhelm your board but ensure there's not a single gap. Finding a balance can be difficult, but once you've created one charcuterie board, it'll soon become second nature and you'll be known for building an abundant and delicious sharing platter amongst family and friends.

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