Charcuterie (shar COOT er ee) literally means a butcher that specializes in pork product or the products made there. However, if you’ve ever been to happy hour at a brewery or a hipster bar it can also mean a plate of various meats, cheeses, spreads, fruits and crackers that can serve as an appetizer or as a meal. Charcuterie is the new cheese plate.
|How to Make a Charcuterie Board|
You can be creative and make a board that is pleasing to you. I will get you started by answering some basic questions.
How much meat will I need?
If the charcuterie is an appetizer, then you will need about 2 ounces per person. If the charcuterie is the main meal, you will need 5 ounces per person.
What type of meat should I get?
You want an interesting variety. Make sure you get some bold and some mild flavors. Depending on how many people you are feeding you should choose one or two whole muscle cuts, one or two sausages and something soft and spreadable.
Examples of whole muscles cuts include capicola, Jamón serrano, prosciutto, or roast beef. Mortadella, pepperoni, salami, soppressata and summer sausage are all good choices for sausage. The soft and spreadable option sometimes throws people. You can choose a pâté or use my recipe for Potted Beef. If you are less adventurous then you can substitute hummus or another bean spread.
Do I need cheese?
Yes. You should have at least one hard cheese and one soft cheese, more if you are serving this as a meal or as an appetizer for many people. Choose a pungent and a mild cheese. Cheeses are best served slightly below room temperature. For ideas, read my instructions for making a cheese plate.
What else should I serve?
You should offer seasonal fruits, nuts and small pickles or olives. I also serve fruit paste. Fruit paste is like sliceable jelly and can usually be found in the deli section of your grocers. It adds a needed sweet element to your plate. I prefer Rutherford and Meyer. Jams such as fig or blackberry are also good sweet choices. Depending on the meats you are serving offer your guests stone ground mustards or prepared horseradish. Slices of soft baguette and crackers make a good foundation for these nibbles. Choose a mild cracker because you don’t want it to compete with the charcuterie.
What should we drink?
Again, this is up to you. You can serve white wines if you are serving mild meats. Hardier meats require red wines or even beers.
Try to have salty, sour, sweet, bitter and spicy flavors on your charcuterie board. Have soft and hard cheese, Soft bread and crackers. Crunchy pickles and soft jams. This will allow your guests to make many interesting combinations of flavors and textures. Charcuterie items need to be served slightly chilled. It is never a good idea to allow meat to sit out for too long. I place the meats in the fridge on several small plates, wrapped in plastic. I can rotate these out and make sure that they are fresh. Also, if we don’t need everything that I purchased, the meats in the fridge become a delicious lunch tomorrow! Make sure to have many small dessert plates and napkins on hand. You will also need a few cheese spreaders and appetizer forks. (Or just use toothpicks and plastic knives, we aren’t judging you.)
Most importantly, have fun.