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Charcuterie 101: The Basic Building Blocks

Charcuterie 101: The Basic Building Blocks

A well-plated charcuterie board is sure to elevate any party, girl’s night, or weeknight dinner at home. But before we dive into how to make your boards almost too pretty to eat, it’s important to get the basics down first. 

Let’s take a look at the components for building a killer charcuterie board.

Meats and Cheeses

How much? What kinds?

Of course, the base of any charcuterie board is the meats and cheeses. There’s no hard and fast rule as to how many types you need, but you always want to aim for an assortment. 

For smaller boards, stick with more of the crowd-pleasers (unless of course it’s just for you!), like peppered salami, goat cheese, and white cheddar. If you are having a larger party, you’ve got room to branch out to more adventurous selections, like blue cheese or pâté. 

In general, a safe rule of thumb is 2-4 soft to semi-soft cheeses, and 1-2 hard cheeses. While the meats are important, cheese is usually the star, so you should be good with 2-4 varieties. When in doubt, always go with more. You don’t want to run out at your gathering, and the leftovers make a perfect snack. 

What kinds?

For some solid cheese basics, we recommend a brie or camembert, gouda, asiago, manchego, white cheddar, havarti, gruyere, and any kind of goat cheese. With most cheeses, the more aged, the stronger the taste. 

Feel free to experiment with different flavors, like a honey goat cheese, dill havarti or rosemary asiago. And take a look at any pre-made cheese spreads or balls your store offers. You may just find something intriguing, like a chocolate-covered cream cheese ball for dessert.

For meats, prosciutto, genoa salami, sopressata, peppered salami and thin sliced chorizo are great go-tos. 

You can typically find more common meats like prosciutto and salami pre-sliced and packaged in your grocery store aisles. But if you decide to buy fresh sliced from the deli, be sure to buy no more than 3-5 days before serving. Also keep them tightly wrapped with no air exposure in your fridge to maintain freshness.

And don’t be afraid to ask for advice at the deli counter! We always walk away with a good suggestion when we ask for help. Or, check out a local gourmet cheese shop for even more guidance and unique varieties. 

Spreads

Again, variety is key when it comes to the spreads. Aim for a mix of sweet and savory, to suit your guests’ different tastes and your various meats and cheeses. Fruit spreads and chutneys like apple butter or fig preserves are great for sweet, as well as honey or honeycomb. Mustards are perfect for that savory punch. Depending on the size of your party, you can probably stick with 2-3.


Other Accompaniments

Both dried and fresh fruits pair excellently with cheese, and look lovely sprinkled around your board. Think berries, grapes, figs and dried apricots or cherries. And don’t forget the olives! Marinated green olives are our favorite, but you could also go for stuffed or a mix of green and black.

Nuts, whether toasted or raw, are another great addition (just be aware of any nut allergies on your guest list), while pickled veggies offer a nice tang.

Breads and Crackers

And of course, you need a vehicle carrying all these delicious meat and cheese combos you and your guests will be tasting. A standard assortment of sliced baguette and plain crackers will serve you well. You can get fancy with herb crackers like rosemary or dill if you wish, but with so many flavors already on the charcuterie board, it’s not necessary. 

Now that you know everything you need to assemble an amazing charcuterie spread, the next step is artfully plating all those meats, cheeses and accoutrements. Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog with tips on how to do just that! 

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