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Nicole Hensley

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December 23, 2020

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How to Create an Epic Charcuterie Board

Some of my favorite moments have been experienced around a charcuterie plate with friends, sharing stories, sipping wine and enjoying an intentionally slow and carefree time together. 

So much so, that when my husband and I are looking to create a date night at home or small gathering with close friends, we always choose to create a meat and cheese board. 

It my no-fail go-to. It always contains at least a few (if not all) selections that our friends enjoy and encourages others to step out of the box and taste something new with no hard commitments. 

Today I’m excited to share how I make my classic charcuterie board. 

THE CHARCUTERIE BOARD

Let’s start with the board. 

Boards come in all shapes and sizes, but I honestly think that having a go-to large board will never fail. Whether you are making a cheese board as one of your of many appetizers for a home party or an all day grazing station, a large board will never be too large.

I prefer wood boards, but they do take a bit of extra care to ensure they last long. Other great options are marble and slate. 

For this board, we used a really amazing wood “lazy susan”. When we sit around the table, I love being able to move the board around rather than requiring anyone to have to reach over and worry about their sleeves. 

CHEESE BOARD SERVING TOOLS

I bring out enough cocktail plates and forks to accommodate the guest count in order to avoid clutter but I make sure that I have extras in my cupboard just in case someone needed a fresh plate. When we play with honey and jams, it could make a small plate messy pretty quickly. 

On the board, you will find jams and bowls with their appropriate spoons or tongs and of course, the cheese knives. I personally don’t get too fancy although the option to get specific is out there. 

I tend to think that charcuterie boards can be intimidating enough for certain crowds and by adding knives or requiring guests to slice cheese off the block can put them over the edge. So when I have certain guests over, I do make it as approachable as possible. 

THE CHEESE

For my classic charcuterie board, I love presenting a mix of soft and hard cheeses, simple and bold flavors. 

Herbs de Provence Bellavitano (made by Sartori Cheese) – This is a creamy cheese with a nutty, fruity flavor. It begins in the mouth like a premium Parmesan and finishes in award-winning style with hints of melted butter. This is where our artisan cheesemaking first began to shine. It is excentuated with spices like dehydrated garlic, sea salt, lemon peel, parsley and lavender. 

Sweet Red Grass Fed Cheddar (made by Barbers) – This is a classic yellow cheddar. It’s my husband and youngest son’s favorite and tends to be the most approachable and the cheese that always runs our first. 

Truffle Gouda (made by Klare Melk) – One of my favorites for a good punch of flavor. I happen to love truffle and this cheese has the perfect amount of it. I find this cheese to be the perfect pause of flavor between other sweet or traditional flavors.

Goat Cheese – We always include a classic goat cheese with no added flavors. The reason we don’t choose to have it pre-mixed with honey, berries or seasoning is because we add those items to the board separately for each guest to mix into their goat cheese based on preference. 

Drunken Goat (made by Mitica) – This cheese is a bit harder than the average goat cheese log. “Named Cabra del Vino – Literally meaning ”goat with wine” this semi-firm pasteurized goat from Spain’s Mediterranean coast is cured for 48-72 hours in Doble Pasta red wine. The paste remains nearly pure white and the rind absorbs a lovely violet hue. The paste is sweet and smooth, delicately grapey, with a gentle, pliable texture and mild fruity flavor. A D.O.P cheese, it pairs well with medium fruity reds.” (Source: Murray’s Cheese https://www.murrayscheese.com/drunken-goat)

Brie: Just like the goat cheese we choose a mild and classic brie. We don’t top it with anything as we love encouraging our guests to get creative and add their own toppings admix it up from bite to bite. 

Pepper Cheddar – The last cheese component in my classic charcuterie board is a pepper cheddar. For this board, I chose a Hatch Green Chile. It was approachable for most palettes. But depending on the group, we sometimes go for a sriracha, habañero or other hotter pepper choice. 

THE MEATS

I love to pick a variety of meats of different textures and flavors and my go-tos always tend to be the following four:

  • Chorizo
  • Salami
  • Pepperoni
  • Prosciutto

THE ENHANCEMENTS

This is one of my favorite components to the cheese board. Because it’s with the enhancements that you can take a typical cheese board and elevate it. 

I love selecting a couple types of nuts. For my traditional board I go with a marcona almond and a caramelized pecan.

Olives and Cornichons. You can’t go wrong with adding a tart and completely opposite end of the spectrum flavor to counter balance the creaminess of the cheeses you will be eating. It add a refreshing tasting and spark to the subtle.

Lastly, it’s time to add the jams and honey. For the Sunday afternoon board that my hubby and I like to enjoy occasionally, we simply use the bottle of honey that we have in our pantry. But for larger occasions I bust out my absolutely favorite cheese board enhancement – The honeycomb. Oh what a difference it makes to the actual look of the board, but wow, the experience in having the slight crunch that comes with it is always worth it. 

Lastly, you can’t forget about the cracker. It’s the foundation to each little masterpiece that you and your guests will be creating. My favorite crackers are Raincoast Crisps Cranberry Walnut. Now again, depending on your crowd, you may also want to include some simple water crackers. It will be much more inviting to your rits and Colby Jack lovers. 

If you ask me, a charcuterie board can take the average home party to one that was even more memorable. The board is a conversation started and one that helps make the stories and chats grow longer as you and your friends will choose to sit and graze and make memories. 

Want a perfect holiday cocktail to pair with your meats and cheeses. Check out my 2020 Holiday Cocktail Recipe here.

I would love to see your creations. If you build a board, please tag me on Instagram. I love getting inspiration from others and would love to see how you made this board your own.

Until next time, 

Nicole

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