Charcuterie, pronounced shar-KOO-tər-ee, is a lovely cheese, meat, and snack board that you for sure want to include on the menu for your next gathering!!
We’re from Wisconsin, so we’ve been slicing cheese and serving it since the beginning of time, lol! But a charcuterie board, or cheese board as it’s sometimes referred to, is much more than just a few slices of cheddar or colby!!
These lovely masterpieces are works of art, and make for a great appetizer (or main course!) for any gathering.
History of Charcuterie…
Literally speaking, charcuterie derives from a French term that actually means “pork shop”.
Nowadays, charcuterie is the art of assembling and arranging meats (pork included!), cheeses, artisan breads, nuts, fruits, crackers and pretzels, olives, spreads, and any other scrumptious lovelies that serve well together.
These assortments of foods are artfully arranged on a large serving board, and serve as a wonderful appetizer or light meal to be enjoyed with friends and family!!
Charcuterie at the Lake
Any time of the year is a great time to make up a charcuterie board!
You could even do a small charcuterie board for two. We sometimes enjoy a glass of wine (or two!) and this is then our supper. We’ll take it on the pontoon, and it’s such easy finger food!
But I think it’s a lot more fun to do up a big ‘ol board for a group!! When my family all comes up to the lake for the weekend or over a holiday, there’s usually a cheese board involved!! We always feel fancy when we create these masterpieces, lol!!
True confessions, I could live with out coffee or chocolate but I don’t think I could go on without cheese, lol!!! It’s one of my absolute favorites! Being located in Wisconsin, I know how blessed we are to have the best cheese around!
To begin planning the charcuterie, I always start with a few hard cheeses. One of my favorites is the BellaVitano line of assorted cheeses by Sartori.
I’m lucky enough to have these at my local grocery store, but currently you can also order them on Amazon! The merlot, raspberry, and Tennessee Whiskey are my top 3!!! But you can’t go wrong with any of the others either!! Especially the Espresso — a yummy coffee bean crusted cheese delight! What?! =)
You want to have a nice variety of hard cheeses on your board. And I’d suggest one or more of the BellaVitanos if you can get your hands on it.
Cheddar, Swiss, and Gouda are also top of my list. But I’m not afraid to add a nice bleu cheese either!! Bleu cheese pairs so well with a hoppy IPA!!!
I like to slice and cube my cheese in a variety of ways to add to the visual appeal of the board.
Soft cheeses also make the board. I like to have a round of brie (better warmed a bit in the oven!), some goat cheese, and maybe a nice cheese spread — like a beer cheese or almond swiss!
Sometimes we’ll really get fancy, and make a cheese spread from scratch. A nice blueberry balsamic goat cheese appetizer is one of our faves! Or we’ll dress up the brie with a fruity or sweet topping and bake it all up together. Yum!!!
Meet the meats!!!
I’d say the only “rule” to include on the meat you have on your charcuterie is to make sure it’s finger food. That’s the loveliest part of the board, the simplicity of it all!!
Include a variety of meats to meet the tastes of all your guests. See what I did there, lol!!
I love prosciutto, that lovely thinly sliced tried-cured ham that you’ll find in the refrigerated deli section of your supermarket. This lovely meat goes well with all cheeses!!
Salami, candied bacon, summer or venison sausage, sausage sticks, jerky or any other meat that you love can surely be included as well. The trick is to have a variety of tastes and textures to make it all fun and appetizing!!
Other items to fill out the charcuterie board…
There needs to be more to your board than just meat and cheese. But if that’s all you have on hand…no rules, no worries!! There’s nothing wrong with a totally simple board either!!
To go with all the meats and cheeses, you’ll want to include some items from the bread family — one of my favorite families!! I like to include items such as bread sticks, artisan crackers, sliced sour dough, crostini, and different pretzels on my boards. These morsels add the satisfying “crunch” to the soft cheese and meat pairings.
Olives are the main fruit that I like to add to the charcuterie!! Garlic stuffed olives, bleu cheese stuffed olives, Kalamata olives…oh so many to choose from!! There’s no wrong option!
I also like to include dried fruits like dried apricots, dried cherries or cranberries, and even dried apples. The sweetness of these dried fruits nicely compliment the salty meets and flavors of the cheeses..my mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Don’t be afraid to also include veggies if you’re so inclined. Cherry tomatoes, cucumber wedges, celery sticks…they’d all go so well with everything else on the board!!
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashew, macadamia…there’s no wrong type of nut grouping to add to your charcuterie board!! Nuts add another level of crunch that will be the ying to the cheese and meat yang, lol!!
Mix them up together, or put them into some cute little bowls. Nuts are a great addition to any cheese board and you don’t want to leave them out!!!
A nice spread of honeycomb or jam is also a great addition to any charcuterie board. Honey especially pairs so nicely with goat cheese or brie or anything!!! I like to keep honeycomb on hand for just this reason. You can find it in the grocery section of Walmart even!!
You also can never go wrong with a few chunks of chocolate!! Just break up a big bar of dark or milk. Or put out a little dish of chocolate chips even. Trust me, no one will object!!!
It’s all about the presentation, or is it?
Present all of the items you’ve gathered for your charcuterie onto a large wooden cutting or serving board. I actually use an old bread board (the kind that hides away under your kitchen countertop) and use it to assemble the masterpiece!
If you don’t have a large wooden board, don’t worry! I also think an arrangement of smaller boards placed together is super cute!
You can use a large serving platter too. Use your imagination!!!
I also like to bring out the cute little bowls I’ve collected, the varied little cheese knives, and the little chalkboards to indicate cheese types. So fun!!!
Trust me, your guests aren’t going to care what you serve this cheesy meaty feast on!! Once it’s devoured, they’ll be too heady over the scrumptiousness of it all to care about much of anything.
So have fun creating your charcuterie!! Enjoy a nice glass of wine, beer, or non-alcoholic beverage along with it all.
And as a side note…
While the presentation is eye appealing…and creating and eating the charcuterie masterpiece provides a creative outlet…I think the charcuterie itself is really just the perfect excuse and impetus for gathering close by with those you love.
With everyone gathered around the charcuterie board, it provides a center point for good conversation, sharing, laughing, indulging…all those things that make great memories and fill up your soul…