How to make the perfect picnic Charcuterie board
Charcuterie (pronounced shar-koo-tuh-ree) boards have becoming increasingly popular when entertaining. An easy to prepare appetizer or fun dinner idea for two, charcuterie is the art of preparing cured or smoked meats.
Endless variations and taste sensations are possible with charcuterie. Use in season fruits and vegetables to make it easy and add a few special touches for seasonal holidays such as sprigs of thyme and cranberries scattered for Christmas and chocolate and strawberries for Valentine’s Day.
Where to begin? Start with your board choice.
Your charcuterie board can be as small or as large as you want them depending on the size of your board. No need to run out to the shops to find a special charcuterie board, any flat based surface will work! Wooden cutting boards, slate boards and serving trays are ideal.
Add colour and texture
When selecting the ingredients for your charcuterie board consider choosing some ingredients with colours that will ‘pop’ to cut through the colours of the meats, cheeses, biscuits and breads and make your board look brilliant, not bland. For example, bright reds (strawberries, cherries, tomatoes), bright orange (carrots), bright greens (grapes, apple slices, herbs), purple (figs, olives).
Think about colour composition. Make sure you’re not placing too many like colours together as this will help with presentation. The same rules apply with texture. The key to a brilliant charcuterie board is variety. You want to keep creating interest throughout the board as it is being enjoyed by mixing colours, food textures and flavours.
Tips for Charcuterie board assembly
Start with bowls
Your charcuterie board should include a range of jams, preserves, mustards or dips such as fig spread, pesto, coarse ground mustard, apricot jam, flavoured pate etc. Give your guests the gift of variety.
Add your spreads and dips along with small snackable items such as olives, gherkins (pickles), pickled onions, fresh mozzarella ball and/or salted nuts into small bowls to easily contain each food type within your board design.
Bowls perform double duty as the ground work for your charcuterie board. Solid and sturdy they ate great for adding structure for biscuits/crackers to lean against, pile dried fruit or nuts next to, stack cheese by etc. The number of bowls you can use within your charcuterie board design will depend on the size of the board. Place bowls around your board to add structure.
Meats and Cheese
Once the small bowls are laid out on the board, add in a selection of cured or smoked meats and cheeses. Some cheese can be cubed or sliced, some cheese can be added on to the board as a wedge for example brie or blue cheese with a cheese knife. Make sure to add larger items like sliced meats and blocks or slice of cheese on the board first. This will help you work out the layout and spacing as you build your board.
Salami, prosciutto, smoked ham are just a few suggestions. Visit you local deli for a selection of fresh meats, cheese and antipasto items such as olives, sundried tomatoes etc.
Crackers and Bread
A critical building block for your charcuterie board design, now is time to add in crackers and breads. Crackers and breads allow your guests to layer all the flavours into small parcels to enjoy. You want sturdy options and choose between 2 to 4 variations.
Fruit & Garnish
Fill in the gaps on your board with fresh and/or dried fruit and nuts. Use in season fruit that is easy to pick up. Think grapes, berries, figs, dates, dried apricots, dried plums. Apple slices also make a nice touch and pair nicely with brie and cheddar cheese.
Head out to your herb garden for some fresh herbs like mint, thyme, rosemary and add them to the board as a finishing touch…and you’re done!
The 4S’s: Sweet, Savoury, Salty, Spicy
Charcuterie boards should generally include sweet, savoury, salty and spicy items for a balanced palette. Here are some examples:
Sweet: fresh and dried fruits and spreads e.g. fig jam, apricot jam, jellies.
Savoury: Cheese and cured or smoked meats – at least 3 varieties of each.
Salty: Cured meats, cheese, nuts, crackers etc.
Spicy: One or two items maximum, think spicy coated macadamia nuts, sliced jalapeno peppers or chilli infused olives for an added kick.