Crafting the Perfect Charcuterie Board

The holidays will be here before we know it and Cork & Knife has some excellent tips and tricks for crafting the perfect charcuterie board to entertain family, friends, and guests. Cork & Knife’s Program Coordinator, Malinda Lea Romine, has put together some useful info to help, even if you’ve never attempted to create your own charcuterie board.

First Step: Presentation

The board you select for your display matters, and wood or marble tend to be a great choice for cheese. If you want to extend the life of your board, to protect the surface, use cheese or wax paper under your cheese and meats. Think about the area you will use to serve or display your charcuterie, and choose the shape of the board, platter, or tiered tower accordingly.

Second Step: Select Your Elements

Design choices include color, shape, texture. Select 3 – 4 cheeses, and be sure to include a variety. But know your audience! Choose some mild and some more flavorful. Cork & Knife carries a large variety of imported cheeses that go beyond the typical! Big flavors and textures can be found in our Aged Gouda, Noord Hollander, Humboldt Fog, and Valdeon Blue. One goat cheese, one sheep cheese, one cow cheese, plus one blue cheese is a classic four cheese presentation. Cheeses should be arranged in order from softest to hardest. Soft cheeses are served in a large wedge or circle with a cheese knife. Cut a small wedge out of the wheel to encourage guests to serve themselves. Some people hesitate to be the first one to cut into a beautifully arranged hunk of cheese.

Next, choose a selection of cured meats, such as Prosciutto, Salami, Mortadella, or dried beef, like Bresaola. Two to four meats works well. Large round Salami slices, such as Finocchiona or Soppressata make a great meat rose! To make, fold slices of salami around the mouth of a small glass opening, such as a champagne flute, in concentric, overlapping circles, turn over and slide the meat out of the glass and on the board, and voila – you have a meat rose! Rectangles can be folded in half and bunched into ribbons. Duck Salami and Duck Prosciutto are tasty alternatives to pork.

Flavor and quality matters! Consider the rest of the meal, or beverages being served. Flavors detected by the tongue include sweet, bitter, sour, salty, meaty (umami), cool, and hot.

Think layers; place large items first, and set apart from each other, typically the cheeses and meats are added first. Between these meat and cheese islands, add crackers, crostini, and gluten-free options such as almond crackers. Next place smaller accessory items, some complementary and contrasting elements. Accessory items include chips, nuts, fresh and dried fruit, cornichons, mustards, jams, and honey. If you choose to serve olives or dates, best to remove all pits, to avoid surprises! Fill in with sauces served in ramekins; jams, jellies, fig paste, mustards. Be sure to include serving ware, such as cheese knives and small spoons.

Third Step: Choice!

Variety is the spice of life. Serve up a collection of items, smaller portions = more options. Create the opportunity for your guests to discover unique flavor and texture combinations, such as crunchy/smooth, spicy/savory, stinky/sweet, chewy/juicy.

Meat and cheese boards are primarily finger foods so remember to provide small plates and napkins.

Final Step: Relax

Relax and have fun with it, there are no hard and fast rules. This is a creative process, and should be unique to the setting, the cook, the event, and the guest list. Shop wisely, pick a serving dish, gather your ingredients, pour yourself a glass of wine, and begin!

And if it all seems too much or you’re short on time during the season, remember you can purchase artisan cured charcuterie boards directly from Cork & Knife, tailored for any occasion. The boutique wine and cheese shop can even add wine to pair perfectly with your board, they just require a 24-hour notice for catering and large orders.