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Charcuterie: All A-Board!

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Photo by Jackalope West

Bored of your plain old ham and cheese sandwich? Well, a board might be just the thing you’re looking for! Charcuterie boards have become increasingly popular over the last few years, taking the cheese-and-crackers lunch from our elementary-school days to a whole new level. (Personally, I’m a big fan of anything that gives me an excuse to eat cheese for any occasion.) Whether you are hosting a party or just switching things up at your family dinner, learning the art of the charcuterie is a fun way to upgrade some classic staples.

What’s Charcuterie Anyway?

Cheese and cured meats are certainly not new. A type of cheese was found in ancient Egyptian tombs, and the practice of curing meat dates back to the ancient Romans. The word charcuterie itself is French, referring specifically to the wide variety of cured meats they developed in the fifteenth century in an effort to use all parts of the animal with no waste.

A charcutier is a person who practices the art of charcuterie, which in the fifteenth century meant someone who engaged in the art of preparing various meats and presenting them in new, diverse ways. Now, as charcuterie has expanded to include cheese, fruits, and other delicious pairings presented on boards or serving platters, the work of a charcutier has expanded as well. If you’ve seen the gorgeous, vast arrays of charcuterie all over your social media feeds, you may feel a little intimidated by the prospect of trying to build your own board. But never fear, we are here to take you step-by-step through the journey of becoming a modern-day charcutier.

Choose Your Cheese & Charcuterie

Remember that variety is key when assembling a charcuterie board. This means choosing a diverse selection of cheeses, meats, and other provisions. If you’re new to the charcuterie scene, the best way to start is to choose three to five types of cheeses. Vary the flavors and textures by choosing a few firm cheeses like white cheddar or parmesan, a soft cheese like brie, and a crumbly cheese like goat cheese. Next, add your meats. Prosciutto, salami, and saucisson sec are a few great options.

Color Outside the Lines

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, olives, vinegars, oils, jams, preserves . . . if you can dream it, you can add it! Charcuterie is not just a delicious snack—it’s an art form! My favorite addition is a raspberry pepper jelly; it’s just the right mix of sweet and spicy, perfect for bringing your creamy cheeses to life. So get creative and add bright, yummy pairings that will transform your wooden board from a platter to a painting. And don’t be afraid to color outside the lines—the best boards have splashes of color all throughout, no lines needed.

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Photo by Anto Meneghini

Not to Be Cheesy, But...

  • The most popular cheese recipe in the United States is macaroni and cheese . . . mac and cheese board, anyone?
  • There are two thousand varieties of cheese. The charcuterie options are practically endless!
  • Looking for a wedding gift fit for a queen? Try cheese! Queen Victoria was given a wheel that weighed a thousand pounds to celebrate her marriage, and, honestly, I can’t think of a better gift.
  • The literal translation of charcuterie is “cooked flesh” . . . I bet you could’ve been happy not knowing that one.
  • Love The Bachelor? Try making a charcuterie board with salami roses (that will rival those given out on the show) for your next watch party!
  • Formal dinner parties in colonial America typically included a cheese course until the nineteenth century when it was replaced by a dessert course. Luckily, you don’t have to choose—you can have your cheese and dessert!
  • National Dairy Month is June! Let’s celebrate with charcuterie the whole month long!

Add Your Own Twist

Once you’ve mastered the classic charcuterie board, you may discover you never want to eat off a regular plate again. The internet is filled with fun ideas for spin-offs like butter boards, candy boards, or dessert boards. The possibilities are endless! Host a party where each guest brings their own themed board, or create a new food board all for yourself. Either way, you are the charcutier now—you decide!
— London Brimhall