How to create the perfect festive charcuterie board

Creating the perfect charcuterie board is like creating a work of art. It needs to be carefully planned and perfectly balanced in colour, flavour and composition; at once aesthetically pleasing and delicious. Choose a few items from each category below and you can’t go wrong. Remember that opposing colours tend to enhance each other so it’s usually best to place these in close proximity to each other, however you can also place two items of the same colour but different textures (think fresh plums next to raisins or clementines next to dried apricots) together for an attractive effect. And don’t forget flavours. Rich, fatty foods such as ham, cheese and nuts work best with sharper flavours such as pickles, mustards and chutneys or sweet flavours such as fresh or dried fruits or quince or plum pastes. Add some cold pork pies, sausage rolls or Scotch eggs for a heartier affair or more raw vegetables for something a bit lighter. Don’t forget to arrange your foods neatly and with style, e.g. you might want to roll or fold the meats; carrots and cucumbers look pretty cut into discs; scatter the dried fruit and nuts in between other foods; and surround the cheeses with the foods that compliment them. Use all the space on the board.

Tip: stick to seasonal produce where possible, i.e. I would stay away from strawberries and blueberries in the winter (unless they are in season where you live) and instead go for seasonal things like blackberries, dried fruit and clementines to guarantee the best flavour combinations.

Meat

Many countries produce a variety of cured meats. I have listed a few of my favourites, but feel free to experiment with meats from other countries and other types of cold cuts as well! If ‘fancy’ continental meats and cheeses don’t float your boat, feel free to serve whatever you like best. For example, I love fish so I served home-cured salmon with my board. You could easily switch out the Spanish chorizo for German smoked sausage or brasaola for bologna, if that’s your preference. If you are vegetarian, either leave off the meats completely or replace them with meatless alternatives such as Quorn cold cuts.

  • Spanish meatsJamón serano (dry cured ham made from white hoofed pig breeds)
    • Chorizo (sausage made from semi-fatty pork, paprika and salt. The thickness, hardness and spiciness varies from region to region)
    • Salchichon (salt or smoke cured sausage made from ground or finely sliced pork)
    • Lomo (cured pork tenderloin)
    • Jamón iberico (dry cured ham made from black hoofed breeds)
    • Sobrassada (spreadable, paprika spiced pork)
    • Morcilla (Spanish blood sausage)
  • Italian meatsCapicola or Coppa (a smoked, spiced sausage made from the neck or shoulder of a pig)
    • Salami (dried sausage made from ground pork)
    • Soppressata (Italy’s answer to the Spanish Sobrassada. This is made from pressed pork belly, tongue, stomach and other parts of the pig and can sometimes be spicy)
    • Lardo (this is essentially fat. It’s not one of my favourites but many people love it for it’s meaty flavour and buttery texture)
    • Prosciutto (cured ham made from the back leg of the pig. This comes in two styles: prosciutto crudo which is uncooked and prosciutto codo which is cooked).
    • Bresaola (air-dried, salted beef that has been aged until it becomes hard and turns a dark red colour)
  • French meatsJambon de Bayonne (this is France’s answer to Italy’s prosciutto. This ham is cured, salted and hung to air dry for a minimum of seven months)
    • Saucisson sec (dry cured sausage)
    • Paté or terrine
    • Boudin (the French equivalent of black pudding or Spanish Morcilla)

Cheeses

Many countries produce fantastic cheeses. I tend to go for a combination of French, Spanish and English cheeses, but feel free to choose cheese from anywhere you prefer. For me the key is to choose at minimum five cheeses (they can be very small pieces), as follows:

  • one mild tasting hard cheese (think manchego, Parmesan, Gruyere or Gouda);
  • one soft goats cheese;
  • one blue cheese (such as Stilton, Gorgonzola or Roquefort);
  • one soft mould ripened cheese (such as brie or Neufchatel) or washed rind cheese (such as Stinking Bishop) and
  • one sharp hard cheese such as cheddar.

Feel free to choose more or less than this, but these five types of cheeses will provide a great base for your board. You might want to choose all your cheeses from the same country or region, but this is not a requirement. Feel free to mix and match and always ask to taste before you buy at your local cheese shop. Or you could leave it up to the cheesemonger to choose for you; just give them your parameters, including price range and away they will go! Don’t forget you don’t usually have to buy the whole cheese, you can ask for a portion and they will cut it for you. FYI, if you’re doing an Italian charcuterie platter, Buffalo Mozzarella or a Burrata would be the perfect addition.

Fresh fruit

  • grapes (red, black and green)
  • figs
  • oranges, clementines, satsumas
  • blackberries
  • pomegranate
  • physalis
  • persimmon
  • pear
  • passion fruit
  • papaya
  • pomegranate seeds

Dried fruit

  • raisins
  • sultanas
  • dried cranberries
  • dried currants
  • dried apricots
  • dried pears
  • dried figs
  • dried papaya
  • dried mango
  • dried apple
  • Prunes

Pickles and condiments

  • cornichons
  • pickled peppers
  • preserved lemons
  • spicy mustard
  • chilli jam
  • quince paste
  • chutney
  • fermented vegetables such as kimchi or sauerkraut
  • olives

Nuts

  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • pistachios
  • Brazil nuts
  • cashews
  • hazelnuts
  • pecans

Vegetables

  • carrots (these look pretty sliced into discs)
  • cucumbers
  • red, yellow, orange or green peppers
  • chickory (red or green)
  • radishes
  • raw broccoli
  • cherry tomatoes

Dips

Dips aren’t a requirement but feel free to include them if you enjoy them. Try:

  • Hummus
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Taramasalata (a Greek dip made from salted, cured fish roe)
  • Babaganoush (made from aubergine, aka eggplant)
  • Green pea dip
  • Hot artichoke dip

Bread

Choose seeded crackers, your favourite type of homemade or shop bought bread or breadsticks, ready to be stacked with delicious combinations like cheddar cheese and chutney, prosciutto with chilli jam or goats cheese, figs and honey.

I served my charcuterie board with Port, but you could serve yours with red or white wine, sparkling wine, non-alcoholic equivalents or a dark grape juice (preferably made from Merlot grapes).

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I will try to help! Also if you like my ideas, don’t forget to follow me on WordPress by clicking the ‘follow’ button. You can also follow my recipes on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @everlyjaymes and learn more about my life as a mummy @everlyskids !

References:

http://www.scordo.com/food/cured-italian-italian-pork-meat-salumi-prosciutto-capocollo-cacciatore-soppressata.html

http://spanishsabores.com/2015/07/05/spanish-cured-meats/

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