Let's Eat, Wining & Dining

Charcuterie Boards That Bring Holiday Cheer

By Stephanie David

The holidays are fast approaching. All the décor I see up in stores right now keeps reminding me. That means it’s time to start planning for all the gatherings and events surrounding this festive time of year. One of my favorite parts of get togethers are all the tasty appetizers – charcuterie boards in particular.

When it comes to deciding what to serve up, a charcuterie board is a perfect to-go option that is always a hit and makes for a beautiful display. They’re versatile and can take on almost any theme for the occasion. You can easily adjust the components for different preferences, scale the portions based on guest count, the price range you’d like stay within or to take on a theme by focusing on a color palette, geographic region or season.

At times, charcuterie boards can seem intimidating to create, but they’re easier than you might think! I’m going to help break down the process by sharing my tips and tricks so you can knock your holiday charcuterie board out of the park.

Your Cheese Board Tools

First things first, we must pick a serving dish and tools for delivering the deliciousness. You can use anything ranging from a platter, wooden board, piece of slate, all the way to right on the counter to make a grazing set up. The size of your gathering will help determine the size of the spread you will want to put out.

You’ll also want to have a few ramekins or small bowls on hand to fill with the liquid items like, honey, jams, chutney, etc. and some cheese knives for cutting and spreading.

Your Cheeses and Meats

Selecting your cheeses is a good starting place. Here you can offer a range of flavors through aging, milk, etc. Cheese made with different milks, such as cow, sheep or goat, can also offer different textures and flavors. I like to mix it up and suggest having a soft cheese, semi-soft cheese and hard cheese such as chevre, brie, and cheddar and aged Gouda. Often, I will start with two crowd-pleasing cheeses and then toss in an experimental cheese.

Quick tip: Portions range based on if you’re serving your spread as an app or meal. For an appetizer, I would suggest 1 oz of each cheese per person, and 2 oz if it’s dinner. One ounce of cheese can roughly break out to 4 dice as a visual example.

Next, I like to stop by the deli counter for the meat. “Charcuterie” is a French word that describes cured pork products such as salami and ham. Salami, prosciutto, summer sausage and even pepperoni are popular picks.

Quick tip: When possible, I like to request the exact amount I plan to use from the deli counter. You get more variety in selection and avoid wasting any of the meat and can save money too!

Don’t Forget Your Fruits, Nuts, and Veggies

This section of your board building can bring in color, flavor, texture where your creative juices can fly. I like to make sure to incorporate some classics like honey, olives, jam, grapes, marcona almonds, and dried fruit.

Quick tip: Pick fresh produce that is in season. It’s usually more cost effective. Also, be sure to look through your pantry prior to shopping since often you might have nuts, honey, etc. already on hand.

Your Carbs and Garnish

No board would be complete unless you topped it off with crackers and bread for your cheesy bites. I will often pick up grainy crackers or slice up a baguette to enjoy fresh or toast briefly to give it a bit of crisp.

Quick tip: Have a basket or bowl off to the side to have for extra crackers and bread. It’s also helpful in case you have someone gluten free enjoying the board and can’t eat it so you can put all the crackers in the basket.

Assembling Your Charcuterie Board

I recommend placing down the cheeses (slicing the harder cheeses in advance for easy grabbing), ramekins and larger food items first. These items act as your anchors to your board. Start from the middle and work your way out while spreading items and color across the space.

Start to add in the other parts to the board with your meats and fillers, being sure to consistently spread the types of items across it for evenness of color and texture so it doesn’t feel lopsided. Once you’re about done, if you have space for crackers, add thin slices of bread (like a thin baguette) or a variety of crackers with different shapes and nuts to fill the last holes.

Lastly, you’ll want to add a touch of garnish to finish off your board. Tuck it in and around your board to finish it off. Then put it out for all to enjoy!

Quick tip: Don’t forget any fresh herbs or edible flowers growing in your garden, like rosemary or thyme. These are edible and safe to be on your board.

Your Sample Shopping List

This sample shopping list is the perfect place to get you started with crafting your own charcuterie board this season! Use this list as a jumping-off point for your own easy appetizer creation! This plate will feed 4.

–        Cheddar – 4 oz

–        Aged Gouda – 4 oz

–        Brie Wedge or Wheel – 8 oz

–        Thinly Sliced Prosciutto – 4 oz

–        Thinly Sliced Salami – 6 oz

–        Dried Fruit

–        Clementines

–        Pear, sliced

–        Apple, sliced

–        Honey – ¼ cup

–        Nuts, almonds – ¼ cup

–        Bread and crackers

–        Fresh Herbs, thyme or rosemary (for decoration)

About the Author: Sharing a cheese board with friends while sipping a glass of wine is the basis for the Instagram account Cheers & Chews run by Stephanie David. If you’re interested in learning more cheese board tips and tricks, wine adventures throughout Virginia and other fun tidbits, give the account a follow.

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