A beautiful charcuterie or cheese board is one of our favorite pre-dinner offerings. At some cocktail parties, it can even take over as the centerpiece of the evening's fare. We of course love all the visuals, textures and tastes. But we also love the sophisticated old world charm it brings. And since most of the items have a good shelf life and are best served cool / room temp, it's easy to shop and assemble it advance. It's the perfect party food!
You can easily assemble you own fabulous cheese and charcuterie boards at home to entice your guests. Here are some steps to follow that can make the process easy.
Step #1 - Start with the meats and cheeses.
Meat and cheese are the stars and they should get the lion's share of your attention, budget, and space on the board.
Quantities should vary depending on your unique situation. E.g. what else is being served? How long is the happy hour? Is a full dinner to follow? As a general rule , 1-2 ounces of charcuterie and 2-3 ounces of cheese per person is a good starting point for a charcuterie board that plays as appetizer to a meal. If the charcuterie is the only food, you can double or triple those quantities depending on the time of day and your unique crowd's tastes.
With both the meat and cheese, try to create an array of flavors, textures, and visuals. You may opt for 2-6 varieties of each depending on the size of your group.
When selecting meats, look to mix in different styles: sliced and whole, cured and cooked, whole muscle and stuffed ground, etc. Creminelli Fine Meats is one of our favorite local vendors and we'll often create some variety by selecting some of their sliced prosciutto, whole capicola, and soppressata, and wild boar - just to name a few!
When selecting cheeses take the same approach. It's nice to offer something soft like a brie or young goat cheese, something blue like a gorgonzola or Maytag, something aged like a manchego or cheddar.
Indeed, cheddars are always highlighted on the cheese boards you'll see at our events. Aged cheddar is practically universally loved. And our fantastic Utah artisans are producing some of the world's best cheddar selections. You might consider the Barely Buzzed from Beehive Cheese (a perennial favorite of ours), or the Vanilla Bean from Heber Valley. And may we brag a bit here and suggest our own Culinary Crafts Exclusive Cheese Flight. You can read in more depth about Utah's fabulous cheese scene here.
Step #2 - Add sweet accoutrements.
The strong and pungent flavors of your cheeses are often best balanced against something fresh and sweet. Fresh berries, apples, pears, grapes, figs, etc. are always a fit. In the off seasons, dried fruits are a perfect fit.
You can also also bring in some sweetness via spreadable elements like honey and jams. There's lots of great local cottage made jams at your farmer's markets. Raw local honey abounds as well. Slide Ridge Honey is one of our favorites.
Step #3 - Add salty accoutrements.
Olives, nuts (may we suggest some fabulous Red Rock Pistachios), and savory tapenades are perfect for this piece.
Step#4 - Add tangy accoutrements.
Pickles of any and all varieties are the go-to option here. But whole grain mustard, chimichurri, or citrusy hummus can fill this role wonderfully too.
Step#5 - Don't forget the vehicles.
Bread, crostini, lavosh, crackers, etc. are important because they're delivery devices. They facilitate getting that cheese and honey to your mouth!
Step #6 - Add something just for looks.
Take a look at the board you've assembled thus far. How does it look? Does it need some color? Does it need a touch of something fresh? Edible flowers, fresh herbs, etc. can be the extra touch that takes your board to the next level.
Step #7 - Think about the beverage pairings.
The good news is that so many different drinks pair wonderfully with charcuterie and cheese:
- Something bubbly. Crisp acidic sparkling wines are the obvious choice. Dry sparkling cider is a nice non-alcoholic option. Club soda with citrus is also very pleasant. Avoid the overly sweet mainstream soda options.
- Beers - especially well balanced ales cut the fat and make the charcuterie taste rich and flavorful.
- Wine - it's hard to go wrong pairing wine with meat and cheese. The richness of the meat and cheese will stand up to a full bold red if you prefer. But light and acidic whites are wonderful palate cleansers that play very well. If you have spicy elements on your board, avoid high tannin wines. Slightly sweet and off-dry wines can be wonderful, but don't go as sweet as you would with a dessert wine. May we suggest our own private label wines or any of the fabulous blends from our favorite local winery Old Town Cellars.
Join us on our Instagram later this week for a shopping trip with Kaleb Crafts to see how we shop for and assemble the perfect charcuterie board. Or, for a limited time during the holidays, you can skip the work and buy the a killer charcuterie board already assembled for you in our online shop.