How to Build a Charcuterie Board

How to Build a Charcuterie Board
Looking for something tasty to spruce up your next gathering? A charcuterie board decked out with an array of fine meats and cheeses is a great appetizer option that can take your party from yawn to yum with relatively little effort. All you need to design a fantastic, delicious arrangement is a wooden board (or simple platter) and a few savory samplings. For this article, we talked business with Brad, the owner of Cure Artisan Meat and Cheese, and our resident expert. He was kind enough to share his knowledge, and curate some enticing, no-fail ideas for your next get-together. By the time the Cheese and Meat Festival rolls around, you’ll be on your way to connoisseur, ready to take on all those delicious samples with confidence and flair.

Playing Matchmaker

The purpose of a charcuterie board is to introduce your guests’ palates to a variety of flavors, but you don’t want to overwhelm them, either. There is no need to splurge on a wide selection of products; rather, aim for about four cheeses and four meats, representing a range of textures and animals. On average, we recommend 60 grams (2 ounces) of meat, and the same of cheese, for each expected guest. Of course, your visitors’ appetites, and the rest of the evening’s menu, are unique to your event; if you have six additional courses planned, 2 ounces should be more than enough. If you are hosting big eaters and providing only the charcuterie board and drinks, you might decide on larger helpings
Choosing Your Cheese Everyone loves cheese, but when it comes to prepping for a party, that easy-to-please quality inherent to dairy goods can make it tricky to narrow down your choices Brad recommends selecting a variety of hard and soft, and light and strong cheeses, cut into generous chunks. That way your charcuterie board checks all the boxes, and you’re sure to offer something for everyone, from the pungent blue lover to the fine cheese first-timer. Whatever cheeses you choose, when you plate them, take eating order into consideration. Brad recommends the selections be consumed from lightest to strongest flavor, and from hardest to creamiest.

Top Cheese Picks

Here are Brad’s top three picks, all of which are available from suppliers and makers in the Pacific Northwest area: • Mimolette: A cheese of French origin, Mimolette is a hard cheese with a thick rind and sweet, nutty flavor. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Mimolette is the tiny little helpers who take part in its production. Cheese mites, regarded as annoying guests on most cheeses, are welcomed on the rind of the Mimolette – the microscopic critters eat away the mold that grows as the cheese ages. • Montaña: Created on British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island, Montaña is a small-production hard cheese made from sheep’s milk, with a touch of goat’s milk added for creamier texture. This cheese has a mild, sweet flavor – it’s the perfect charcuterie accessory, though it can be difficult to find when sheep’s milk is out of season. • Grey Owl: This soft, melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese is a Quebec-born creation that undergoes a lengthy manufacturing process culminating in a two-week ripening period. The snow white colour of the cheese is in stark contrast to a rind of dark vegetal ash; this cheese will add a striking visual touch to your arrangement. Sweet and tangy in taste, Grey Owl milk comes from goats that live just a short distance from the dairy.

Meats

A varied selection of delicious meats should be arranged among the fine cheeses on your charcuterie board. Once again, Brad comes to our rescue with three delectable options that will cater to your dinner guests’ range of tastes.
    • Tuscany Salami: Made with pork or beef, a quality Tuscany salami (or salame) features that lovely marbling that will add a mouth-watering design to your plate. Depending on the region from which your selection hails, this firm meat may be flavored with garlic or pepper, or even red wine and fennel.
      • Pork Rillette: Made from cured pork shoulder, rillette is made by cooking the meat in duck fat for a number of hours, then shredding and mashing it with the cooking liquid to form a spread. This dish received its name in the 14th century, and was a traditional countryside staple. Rillette can also be made with duck or goose.
        • Rabbit Terrine: You’ll really wow the guests with a wild game addition to your charcuterie board. Named for the earthenware dish in which it was prepared, terrine uses the cuts of meat not often consumed as part of the meal to create a pâté-like delicacy. If you undertake to make your own terrine, Brad recommends slow baking the meat and spice mixture, and adding local gin and a bit of mustard. Arranging these creative, stylish selections among tasty cheeses will make for a beautiful and tantalizing charcuterie board. Need a few more ideas? If you are striving to keep your board west coast-friendly, but still unique, keep an eye out for duck prosciutto, lamb belly bacon (or pancetta), or guanciale (cured pork jowl). These savory choices are all available in the Pacific Northwest, and will add a regional flair to your platter.

Creating Your Charcuterie

Congratulations - you have some excellent meat and cheese selections just waiting to be sliced, arranged, and devoured! If you’re passionate about your charcuterie board, chances are you’re anxious to create a beautiful display that will prompt your guests to exclaim how they couldn’t possibly eat that stunning work of art (and then, of course, proceed to do just that). For the most pleasing visual appeal, you’ll want to select the best platter for the job. Brad recommends popping into a few local artisan shops (or taking advantage of a craft market) to hunt down a board fashioned from local wood. A live edge (that is, a natural edge that hasn’t been shaped and sanded) is a striking feature, but can make the piece hard to clean. Maple is an economical choice, particularly in this part of the world, and black walnut is a stylish choice as well. Ultimately, the board should serve to make its toppings really pop, so if you’re purchasing a new item for this particular charcuterie arrangement, consider your food selections. If you’ve chosen an array of darker meats, a light-colored board is best; if you have a lot of white cheeses and pale meats, opt for a deeper hued wood. Though the meats and cheeses are the focal point of your board, you will want to offer your guests a few condiments, as well. You can always off-set each row with a sleeve of Ritz crackers, but to offer your guests a more unique, specialized snacking experience, select surfaces and toppers that complement each careful selection. Choose one amenable type of bread and a neutral-tasting cracker (nothing with a flavor that might interfere) on which guests can spread a soft cheese or pâté. A high-quality mustard is a must, and add a fruit chutney, fig jam, or onion relish for good measure. If you want to offer more selection, include a garnish like olives, dried fruit or nuts, or dainty cornichon pickles. Accompaniment Pairing Recommendations • You’ll want to serve your Mimolette with something that can stand up to the hardness of the cheese. Gone Crackers, made in Vancouver, British Columbia, are an excellent, regional choice. The company has designed a whole host of delicious flavors; choose something subtle, to ensure the Mimolette remains the star of the show. • For the Montaña, have a little bowl of quince paste at the ready. After stacking the smooth, creamy cheese on a crispy cracker, finish off the perfect presentation with a generous slice of the sweet-scented jelly. • Soft Grey Owl is an excellent spread for crusty bread. Layer thick helpings of this pretty cheese on slices of French baguette, and top each tasty morsel with a little spoonful of fig jam. • After spreading a bit of pork rillette on a slice of crusty bread (it’s a two-for-one deal with the Grey Owl!), top it with a scoop of kimchi – an fermented vegetable garnish concocted in Asia – for an elegant grouping of great flavors. • A generous slice of colorful, spiced rabbit terrine can be taken to the next level with a dollop of local, stone ground mustard. • Finally, offer some tart, pickled vegetables – green beans, red onions, mushrooms ¬– to go along with your finely-sliced Tuscany salami for a classic pairing everyone will love. The information outlined here, while great for impressing your dinner guests, is just the tip of the cheese and meat iceberg. Each type of cheese, every meat, has its own fascinating history, production process, and perfect pairing. We’ve barely scratched the rind in this article, but our upcoming festivals will take you deep into the workings of the charcuterie realm. Whether you’re an initiate or a master, the Cheese and Meat Festival opens up a world of divine regional samplings, presented to you personally by the very connoisseurs who made or hand-selected them. At each event, our experienced vendors are standing by to tempt your taste buds and answer all your questions. Check off your holiday gift list, or beat next year’s rush by picking up your tickets for the Seattle Cheese and Meat Festival today!

Meats

A varied selection of delicious meats should be arranged among the fine cheeses on your charcuterie board. Once again, Brad comes to our rescue with three delectable options that will cater to your dinner guests’ range of tastes.

    • Tuscany Salami: Made with pork or beef, a quality Tuscany salami (or salame) features that lovely marbling that will add a mouth-watering design to your plate. Depending on the region from which your selection hails, this firm meat may be flavored with garlic or pepper, or even red wine and fennel.
    • Pork Rillette: Made from cured pork shoulder, rillette is made by cooking the meat in duck fat for a number of hours, then shredding and mashing it with the cooking liquid to form a spread. This dish received its name in the 14th century, and was a traditional countryside staple. Rillette can also be made with duck or goose.
    • Rabbit Terrine: You’ll really wow the guests with a wild game addition to your charcuterie board. Named for the earthenware dish in which it was prepared, terrine uses the cuts of meat not often consumed as part of the meal to create a pâté-like delicacy. If you undertake to make your own terrine, Brad recommends slow baking the meat and spice mixture, and adding local gin and a bit of mustard.
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