The word “charcuterie” has expanded a bit beyond its classic French roots, and is sometimes used to describe a collection of meats, cheeses, fruits and other finger foods arranged together. I understand that purists scoff at this change, but I care less about what I call it and more about whether or not the people I make it for are enjoying it. And no joke, they enjoy the crap outta this.
I know this is a bit odd since I’m not really cooking anything, but Jules and I love entertaining – having people over and spending time with them while sharing great food – it’s the best. I’ve had a lot of practice at putting together charcuterie boards, and I think they’re perfect for so many occasions (or no occasion at all). So here are my favorite things to include, along with a couple condiment recipes and a video below walking you through it all.
Something pickled and/or brined
Olives, pickles, artichokes, peppadew peppers (a personal fave) – lots of things to choose from, but the tang is important for cutting through the richness of some of the other items. I love these gherkins from Gaea – tangy, but not sweet like most gherkins are.
Crackers, toasted bread, nuts, or even pork rinds (for my keto folks out there). The crunchy texture makes the board more enjoyable, because it’s not just mushy thing after mushy thing. You gotta have that texture in there – something mild flavored is great. And don’t forget some gluten free options if making for larger groups. There’s usually someone and having something for them really goes a long way in making them feel welcomed.
Sopressatta, prosciutto, pepperoni, salami. This is where a lot of people have problems with the term “charcuterie” because most meats represented on “charcuterie” boards are actually Italian salumi. But again, let’s not worry about it, because these things are delicious. And if you’re worried about all the nitrates in the cured meat, opt for uncured options like this turkey salami. It’s pretty dynamite.
Berries, grapes, and whatever is seasonal. Right now that means peaches and plums, but soon we’ll be looking at pears, citrus and pomegranates. Fresh fruit is another great thing for cutting the fat in the meat, but you can also use dried, unsweetened fruit (cherries are my go-to).
Creamy cheeses, hard cheeses, sharp cheddars and specialty cheeses. Get a good mix of cheese like whole milk mozzarella (mild, fresh), aged cheddar, blue stilton (sharp), and manchego (a hard cheese with a great flavor that goes with just about anything). Super hard cheeses like parmesan I think are better used in other ways, but that’s for my taste.
Fruit spreads (can’t go wrong with a fig preserve) and mustards. Harsh mustards may not be the best choice, but below I have a recipe for a honey mustard made with stone ground whole grain mustard. It’s super delicious, as is the sour cherry chèvre (which can also act as one of your cheese options).
Always. I always have some form of chocolate. I use Lily’s when I’m on keto, but anything dark will do. And chocolate covered almonds pull double duty – love them on a board.
This is optional, because people won’t eat them. But at the risk of sounding pretentious, I find that the smell of fresh rosemary or basil makes eating everything else more enjoyable. You still get the flavor through smell, and it’s really great.
Of course, with all of this, you also want to make sure you have some great serving pieces to arrange it in and on. Here are all my favorite pieces that were used in the video above:
• Small olive wood cheese board
• Medium olive wood cheese board (the one in the pictures is no longer available, but I also have this one and it’s about the same size and I love it as well)
• Large round bread board
• Olive wood fruit bowl
There are so many things you could use – make some boards of your own and put them on Instagram, tagging @chrislovesjulia. Would love to see what you come up with! Until next time, friends.
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