During the holidays, unexpected guests sometimes like to pop in and make an appearance at a moment’s notice. We’ve got you covered with these charcuterie board tips so you can host a perfect happy hour on the go.
Now that you’ve got the basic idea, there are so many different directions you can take charcuterie boards. If you’re looking around and realize you have Spanish wine for dinner, consider creating the charcuterie board using Spanish cheeses and meats. You could include Cabra Romero cheese, prosciutto, Manchego, cured chorizo, Marcona olives, some baguette, olives, and fresh grapes. If you’re drinking an Italian wine, consider learning towards Italian style meats and cheeses for the night.
Consider the different textures and flavors that you are incorporating onto your board. If you have an herb crusted goat cheese, maybe steer clear of including another herb infused cheese and select a more mild cheese to go alongside it. Do you have some brie in the fridge? Pair it with a harder parmesan cheese to add some variety to the board.
For meat we usually include a few types of salami, chorizo, prosciutto, jamón, or sausage. I seem to always include prosciutto because I really enjoy the delicate texture of the meat; it isn’t heavy and adds a nice salty flavor when paired with a piece of baguette and cheese. Harder meats like salami work well on charcuterie boards. They add a bit of toughness and chewiness which is pleasant alongside the other textures on your board.
For bread, we love to grab a crispy sourdough baguette and slice 1/2 inch pieces. If you’re feeling a little ambitious and have a few minutes, you can throw these in the oven under then broiler with a little sea salt, olive oil, and even a bit of fresh grated parmesan cheese to create toasty crostinis. Toasting the baguette adds a bit of crunch that contrasts nicely with soft or crumbly cheese and the meat. I would recommend always having some type of bread or cracker on your board to pair with everything else; it’s an important base that you don’t want to forget. Having some simple, salted crackers is also a great idea in case someone wants a lighter bite.
I like to have some jam or chutney on my charcuterie boards. Typically, I like to include something sweet like a blackberry or apricot preserve and something with a bit of a kick — think a peach jalapeño jam or red pepper jam. Another nice addition is including a savory jam with ingredients like bacon or tomato. These spread well on the bread, pair nicely with the cheese and meats, and add a little taste of comfort food to your board. I think it’s a great idea to use both a sweet and savory / spicy option with your jam because it adds versatility and gives people more options.
Including a pot of honey and some mustard is also a great idea for your board. If you can find whole honeycomb, it’s always a hit! The consistency and taste of the honeycomb spread across some aged Parmigiano-Reggiano or cheddar is excellent. Last week we spread some honey on a piece of La Bottega Artigiano Aged Balsamic & Cipolline Onion Cheese with a piece of prosciutto and it was excellent. Adding dips or spreads like hummus or pesto is another way to add flavor and color easily.
For fruits, I tend to lean towards darker fruits like blackberries, cherries, raspberries, plums, nectarines, peaches, and strawberries. However, fruits like apples, apricots, grapes, and pears are also really nice. Having fruit provides a nice, juicy addition to the board and helps break up the dry cheese and meats. Dried fruits like apricots or figs are nice as well if you’re looking for a hint of tang. Aside from fruits, we usually include some olives for a salty kick.
I always have Marcona almonds and walnuts for some additional protein and crunch. Sometimes I will add some spiced pecans or salty pistachios. You can spice or salt your nuts or you can leave them raw. I like when they are dusted with some salt or seasoning just because it adds a bit of contrast to the more mild cheeses.
When it comes to cheese, it’s common to use an aged, soft, firm, and ‘funky’ cheese (like Blue cheese) on your board. It’s also common to include a fresh cheese. Your options are honestly endless, use the flavors you enjoy most.
Fresh goat milk cheese with some jam is soft and fresh; the texture is smooth since the cheese easily smears on baguette and crackers. Try an herb encrusted or coated version for a bit more flavor, this cheese is normally very light. Ricotta is another option that smears easily and has a soft consistency.
If you’re looking at soft cheeses, Camembert, Brie, and Feta are all good options. Mild cheeses like Mozzarella and Swiss are always crowd favorites. Aged cheeses are a fun addition to the board as well. We look for cheeses like smoked gouda, aged cheddar, Couple, and goat cheese. For your Blue or ‘Funky’ cheese, try a nice Stilton.
Harder cheeses like Manchego or Parmigiano-Reggiano add a different texture to your board. The pieces are hard and crumbly in texture in comparison to the smooth, buttery consistency of the goat milk cheese for example.
Looking for cheeses that are coated with herbs is a nice way to add some variety to your charcuterie board; chives work well with Brie and Cheddar cheese, basil for Brie and Feta, and thyme for Gouda. There are lots of herb and cheese variations, however a personal favorite is herbed goat cheese or gouda.
Good luck creating and enjoy!