As we begin picnic season (and can begin gathering more again!), it's time to refresh those food presentation skills. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to revisit charcuterie boards – and dive a little deeper into how to put one together to impress your guests at your next event! The magic of charcuterie stems from the variety and customizability of each board.
Charcuterie refers to both the practice of drying and aging meats and the serving of a meat-based appetizer (or meal) with proper accompaniments. The latter typically contains some or all of the following in addition to the meats of your choice:
- Cheese (hard or soft – all good!!)
- Fruits and spreads – typically dried fruit and thicker compotes
- Bread or crackers – both to act as a vehicle for your food and to enhance the flavor and eating experience
- Pickles – of all types, not just the cucumber variety
- Other – you can add so many things – like salumi, mustards, smoked fish – whatever you'd like to customize your board for your guests or event
- Beverages – from sparkling waters and ciders (hard or soft) to all types of wines, beers, and whiskies – can all be part of the charcuterie experience
Let’s get some of the basics down…
Charcuterie, at its core, is the art of curing and preserving meats. The basics needed are a type of meat (beef, venison, pork, duck, fish, etc.), a curing method (salt, fat, pickling, etc.), space, and patience. You can learn more through this simplified view of the process.
First, prepare your meat. We recommend smaller portions of about 7-8 ounces; allow your charcuterie to dry to about 60% of starting weight. Then comes the fun part – creating your menu.
As mentioned above, you can do almost anything you want in terms of creating a charcuterie board. We like variety – so three to five meats, three to four cheeses, two or three sauces (for some reason, honey is a popular condiment for charcuterie – we prefer honeycomb to keep the rustic feel going), a couple of varieties of pickles (vary the heat spectrum a bit to allow for matching intense flavors), and the distribution vehicles. We prefer thin slices of artisan bread (the more rustic the better) and/or a lightly flavored cracker. These crackers from Kieran’s Kitchen are sublime.
Bringing it together
The art comes from creating your board. You can make individual boards for each guest with the meat and cheese and then offer the accompaniments in family style bowls, or you can create larger boards to serve as a centerpiece of the food table.
Now you are ready for beverages. The sky is the limit here! Offer an array of items your guests like. The only time to change it up is if there is a cool match in flavors (a little research is required here) – like bourbons or whiskies – which have become a popular favorite for the home entertainer. Whether straight or on the rocks, or even in a Manhattan, this is something to think about.
We prefer wine for the simple reason that wine and cheese go together very well, and richer wines (Zinfandel and Syrah) can pair very well with the smoked nature of the meats. Want something lighter? Rose wine has gotten more sophisticated in recent years (some great roses made from Pinot Noir grapes are available), and these are perfect summertime partners to a great charcuterie board.
Finally, all you have to do is get your meat ready – and we can help make that happen. Check out our Charcuterie offerings here.
As you begin gathering with family and friends again this summer, don't forget the simple elegance of a well-thought-out charcuterie board!