I am aware that I have written a lot on wine and cheese in the last months but with summer upon us I think it is a terrific topic to cover thoroughly. One important item we haven’t discussed yet is charcuterie (typically pronounced “shahr-ku-tuh-ree” in the U.S.) which is the art of preparing and assembling cured meats and other meat products. Many people, myself included, use the terms charcuterie or charcuterie boards to refer to an assortment of meats that are paired along with such items as toast, fruit, cheese, jams and sauces.
The word charcuterie originated in France and it translates to “pork-butcher shop” and the original French translation referred to pork. In today’s modern charcuterie boards, you’ll find an array of other meats such as duck, goose and chicken. The French pronunciation of charcuterie is “shar-coo-tree.”
How to Make A Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie boards are not difficult to prepare. It might take you a little experimentation to make the boards look beautiful and to get the right combination of flavors so your family and friends all have something delightful to nibble on.
Let’s take a look at the various parts and pieces of a good charcuterie board. Information I have put together here comes from personal experience and research, as well as talking to others including several chefs. Personally, I think getting together with friends, enjoying some wine along with a fabulous charcuterie board is a great way to spend time.
Types of Meats to Use
There are any number of popular meats to use on your board. Listed below are just a few you can select.
Prosciutto (this is one of my favorite meats for a charcuterie board): There are two main types of Prosciutto. One type is from Italy and the other is from Spain. The Italian prosciutto is more aromatic and sliced more thinly. The Spanish prosciutto has a bolder, saltier taste and is usually sliced thicker. Here are some suggested pairings to go with prosciutto:
- Goat Cheese
- Figs or Fig Jam
- Blue Cheese
- Fresh Mozzarella
Wrapping these items with prosciutto is the best way to serve them.
Salami (also, one of my favorite charcuterie meats): It has a salty, semi-sweet flavor. It is often made with peppercorns and occasionally garlic and wine which gives the meat a robust and aromatic flavor. Listed below are some suggested pairings for salami:
- Whole Wheat Crackers
- Brown Mustard
- Pimento Olives
- Goat Cheese
- Provolone Cheese
Pancetta: Pancetta is a type of thick prosciutto that is rolled up with pepper. Pancetta has a robust and meaty flavor. It is served diced and eaten by itself or it can also be cubed. Below are some suggested pairings for pancetta:
- Parmigiano Cheese
- Slices of Melon (Cantaloupe especially pairs well)
- Mozzarella di Bufala Cheese (Buffalo Mozzarella is made from the milk of Italian Mediterranean buffalo)
- Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus
Pâté: Pâté is a creamy, meaty spread that comes in many varieties and usually has a little fatty taste if prepared from meat. There are a number of meats that a Pâté can be made from such as chicken, duck or beef. Pâté pairs well with the following:
- French Baguette
- French Bread
Other meats you can select for your charcuterie are Spanish chorizo, mortadella, capicola and speck (dried pork meat).
Types of Cheese for your Charcuterie Board
Cheese also plays a huge part in making an outstanding charcuterie board appealing and tasty. There are any number of cheeses and cheese spreads you can use. Listed below are some of the most popular ones:
- Brie Cheese (one of my favorites)
- Blue Cheese
- Smoked Gouda
Executive Chef Chad Coryn’s Advice and Comments on Charcuterie Boards
Before I go much further with this article, I want to admit that I do not have a lot of experience putting together fabulous charcuterie boards. I do, however, love to eat from them (along with enjoying a glass of good wine). I also serve them at a lot of wine dinners as they are great to munch from before or after a meal.
Because of this, I think it’s important to share the advice of Chef Chad Coryn, Executive Chef for the Tiedemann Wine and Events Group which includes LEX 530 Metropolitan Event Center and Tiedemann Wines. Chef Chad has 28 years of cooking experience and has held an Executive Chef position for a good number of years. Below he outlines his thoughts on what goes into making an epic charcuterie and cheese board.
“Almost all cheeses are delicious, but how quickly can a tray of cubed Swiss, gouda and cheddar become boring? The textures of these cheeses are almost identical and offer no excitement to the palate. To me, texture is as important as flavor when creating a charcuterie board that will interest and excite. I begin with choosing at least three types of cheeses with different textures and depth of flavor. For example, a soft, spreadable, mild camembert paired with a semi-soft, somewhat robust cheese such as an English cheddar and a firm, musty, salty cheese such as an aged pecorino romano will offer great contrast in textures and flavors.
“Interest and excitement can be added through the accoutrements. Thinly sliced crisp apple not only pairs perfectly as a flavor accent to the English cheddar, but also has a contrasting texture. Fruits, olives, nuts, breads, jams and chutneys are used not only to compliment the cheeses but to build upon their textures and keep the palate interested. With cured meats, texture can be accomplished through carving. A dry-cured salami sliced thick as a coin will offer a completely different mouthfeel than a paper-thin slice of prosciutto. Add spreadable duck liver pâtés or spicy ‘nduja (spreadable pork salume from Italy) and you have another trifecta of textures and flavors.
“Using these suggestions, you will find the variety of textures offered by the cheeses, meats and accoutrements will also add tremendous visual appeal when constructing the charcuterie board. Cheeses can be spread, cubed, sliced or crumbled, salami cascaded, prosciutto made into small rosettes, and flatbreads jutted against each other for height. People eat first with their eyes. A visually-enticing charcuterie board gets the palate excited for what is to come.”
Other Items to Include on your Charcuterie Board
Bread and crackers: variety is key. Personally I like to see butter, flakey crackers, grain crackers, wheat bread sticks and thinly sliced toast or baguettes.
Fruits and nuts: both dried and fresh fruit pairs well with the other items you select for your board. Consider fruits such as melons, oranges, pineapple, cherries, strawberries, grapes, sliced apples, as well as fresh and dried figs. When you are purchasing your fruit try and select a variety of colored fruits as it helps enhance your board’s appearance.
Pickles, olives and dips: adding small bowls filled with olives, pickles (sweet and dill), peppers, jellies, mustards and various dips is a great way to add additional flavor to your board.
How to make a Charcuterie and Cheese Board
Step 1: Select the right size board to build your plater, which of course depends on the number of people you are expecting to select from it. Boards can be of wood, marble, slate or even various platters.
Step 2: Choose a variety of cured meats and salami.
Step 3: Select various cheeses using an assortment of soft and hard cheeses of your choice.
Step 4: Add your pickles, olives, perhaps even some grilled artichoke hearts and other items you and your guests will enjoy.
Step 5: Select some (just a few) jams, mustards and other spreads with a selection of crackers, bread or breadsticks.
Step 6: Add some colorful fresh fruit such as grapes, perhaps some berries and some dried fruit as well.
Step 7: Finally add a variety of nuts. They can be placed in jars or just piled in small amounts on the board.
Step 8: Artfully arrange all the components on the board and have fun doing it.
Step 9: The most important step: selecting the wine or wines you are going to pair with your charcuterie and cheese board.
There are tons of different ways to create and build your charcuterie and cheese boards. Many times, the board you build will depend on the theme of your party or the board theme (Italian, Mediterranean, Spanish or French). Have fun and please send me pictures of all the fun boards you come up with.
As always, I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. If you are reading this blog for the first time please consider subscribing while you are on the website. This way you’ll get our reviews and articles delivered to you for free in your email box. If you care to share your comments on this blog posting or other topics please do so in the comments section below.
Look Forward To These Happy Things:
Upcoming LEX 530 Events!
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Friday, June 26, 2020 – WE ARE SOLD OUT!
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Friday, July 17, 2020 – Live music by Patti Lightfoot and Jim Whitmer (click to buy tickets!)
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – August Date TBD
Oktoberfest Dinner – Tuesday, September 22, 2020 – with Elkhart’s Iechyd Da Brewing Company
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Friday, November 20, 2020
Important Wine Holidays
June 26 – International Rosé Day
June 21 – Lambrusco Day
August 1-5 – International Albariño Days
August 4 – National White Wine Day
August 18 – International Pinot Noir Day
September 3 – International Cabernet Day