A charcuterie board is one of the easiest crowd pleasers over the holidays (or any time of year). It’s simple to whip up and you can cater it to a variety of tastes, themes and of course, wine pairings! In this post, I am going to share everything you need for the perfect charcuterie set up!
The Best Charcuterie Ingredients
Meats & Cheeses: With meats and cheeses the options are endless! There are fresh, smoked, cured, and cooked options. My best advice is to be sure to choose meats and cheeses that compliment one another as well. A few easy pairs are Serrano ham and manchego cheese or Italian prosciutto and aged parmesan. I like to have a few different meats and a few different cheeses to choose from.
Although purchasing packaged meats is the more simple option, I like to opt for freshly sliced meats from the deli counter. It only adds a few extra minutes to your shopping trip, but it’s definitely worth it. This is also a great opportunity to find locally sourced farm-to-table options or to opt for a selection of imported delicacies.
Pickled Things: I always love to include baby dill pickles on a charcuterie board as a staple. Other great options include gherkins or sweet pickles. I love pickled red onions, pickled garlic and even pickled melons. I love to make my own in small jars for this very purpose.
Olives: When it comes to olives, I like to opt for fresh ones from my local grocer rather than jarred olives. A variety of olives with a selection of ‘stuffings’ is always nice. This is also where you’ll find small stuffed peppers which could serve as another accompaniment.
Bread: Bread makes everything better and a charcuterie board is no exception. I love pieces of fresh sour dough, thinly sliced rye bread or a sliced baguette, either fresh or toasted as crostini.
Crackers: Don’t dismiss crackers for a charcuterie board! There are some lovely options. I love to make homemade icebox crackers (recipe here), or add a ‘fancy’ gourmet cracker such as Raincoast Crisps. Another nice option are epicurean pretzels! My fave pretzels right now are Twigz Pretzels.
Nuts: A bowl of raw nuts such as almonds, walnuts or pecans is always an easy add-on. To take things up a notch, I like to add smoked almonds or candied walnuts or spicy pecans. You can make these yourself in the oven and experiment with flavours or pick them up at your local market.
Fruits: I love a selection of fruits such as fresh or dried figs, dried apricots, sliced pears, dates or dried cranberries. Like nuts, they are an easy add-on and decorate the board nicely. This is a fun place to add a seasonal touch, such as candied fruits. A wild card would be the aforementioned pickled melon.
Jams & Jellies: I make homemade jams and jellies every fall in tiny jars for the express purpose of being used on charcuterie boards! They’re great paired with meats and cheeses and spread on bread or crackers. My favorites include fig, cherry, pear and plum (regular and spiced) and apricot. More about these here.
Honey: There are two great ways to serve honey on a charcuterie board: either in a dish with a honey dipper or in pieces of fresh honeycomb. Honey adds a delightful sweetness and pairs well with so many cheese options.
Spreads & Dips: Some like to include a grainy mustard or dijon on their boards, particularly with pork. Other great spread options are a red pepper spread such as Ajvar or a delicious hummus. My favorite hummus is from Mother May I because it comes in a number of different flavours, so you’ll be able to find one that suits your board.
Pâtês: Pâtê is an easy way to class up your board and it’s something not everyone thinks of. My best advice is to visit your local grocer and find something from a local farm. There’s no need to have a large amount on hand either.
Charcuterie Wine Pairings
The wines you choose to serve with your charcuterie board should correspond to the ingredients that you’ve chosen, but here I’ll make a few general recommendations that should pair with most boards. I often feel like when in doubt, open a Pinot Noir. I always love the Blue Mountain Pinot Noir – it’s a safe choice. For a more full-bodied red charcuterie pairing, I love a great Cabernet Sauvignon or an Old Vines Zinfandel.
Don’t be afraid to pair a nicely chilled, crisp white such as the Kung Fu Girl Riesling, a favorite of mine from Washington State. A Lambrusco or Chenin Blanc are also excellent charcuterie wine pairing choices. One of these is sure to provide a nice balance to the salt, smoke and spice on the plate.
Charcuterie Board Serving Dishes
When it comes to serving dishes, regardless of category, I almost always opt for white or wood. White is always clean and classic, and pairs well with anything. Wood is natural and serves as a great backdrop for artisan items. Here are the items that I recommend having on hand for serving your charcuterie:
Wooden Cutting Board: I love to have the majority of my ingredients on a large wooden cutting board, almost set up like a giant grazing bar. This allows me to lay out my selection of meats and cheeses, dried and fresh fruits and nuts all in one place. This is also where you can lay out crackers and sometimes slices of bread.
Large Serving Platter: If serving items on a wooden surface isn’t your style, then I recommend a large white serving platter. This will provide a clean, neutral backdrop for all of the colours of the board to shine! Marble is another great option!
Bread Basket/Bowl: Depending on the size of your main board, you may require a separate bowl or basket for your bread.
Cheese Knives: Guests will need a tool to cut the cheese! This will help them slice out portions for themselves. I suggest a variety of knives for different cheeses. Consider that brie will require a different tool than say a smoked cheddar.
Spreading Knives: A set of knives for thicker spreads and soft cheeses are idea for portioning and serving these items.
Small Serving Spoons: Small serving spoons are ideal for dishing out dollops of mustards, spreads, jams and jellies.
Small Serving Forks & Tongs: Small serving forks, spears and tongs are helpful for dishing up meats and small pickled items in a more sanitary way. Small tongs can often be hard to find, so be creative and consider ice tongs and other barware.
Small Mason Jars: I love 125mL mason jars for serving jams and small pickled items. This keeps these things contained and keep any residual brine from leaking onto other items.
Small Bowls: I like to keep olives in small serving bowls. These are also ideal for nuts, dried fruits, pickled items and small portions of spreads.
Ramekins: I like to serve items like goat cheeses, Boursin and even pâtés in ramekins. They’re uniform and their straight sides make serving these items a little bit easier.
Appetizer Plates: Individual plates allow guests to create their own flavour combinations from the delicious ingredients that you’ve provided. I have had this set of 12 from Crate & Barrel for years and I love them!
Cocktail Napkins: Charcuterie is eaten with your hands so be sure to have extra napkins on hand!