• Lauren Humphreys

Charcuterie 101

Charcuterie boards are my go-to appetizer anytime we are hosting family or friends. Technically speaking, charcuterie refers to an arrangement of various cured or smoked meats. For the sake of this blog post, I am going to consider "charcuterie" as the meats plus all of the other accompaniments (ie cheese, veggies, crackers, nuts, etc). To be honest, I do not care for the majority of smoked and cured meats commonly used for charcuterie boards. I tend to dive into the cheeses, crackers, veggies, fruit spreads, and nuts. Those are my types of party foods!

Sadly, we haven’t been able to have parties amidst COVID-19, so I am sharing photos from the past. The photos are still relevant but I look forward to reshooting new photos once the time allows for a real party celebration.

Enough about Covid, this post is about charcuterie! Charcuterie boards are our favorite because of the ease of preparation and high popularity. Most of the components can be prepared in advance and others can simply be poured out of a bag or box. Plus, it promotes conversation and keeps everyone satisfied until it is time for the meal. You can also get creative with ingredients you love the most and can easily accommodate for dietary restrictions and preferences. For example, if you have vegetarian guests, you can keep the cured meats separate or omit them altogether.

The best thing about this type of appetizer is you have the power to choose all of your favorite products to showcase to friends. If you are a newbie at making charcuterie boards, I wanted to give some tips about ingredient selection. Incorporating a variety of colors and textures is always helpful. I also like serving the spread on multiple serving trays and boards. Markers for cheese and cutting knives also add appeal.

When it comes to food selection, I like to include various flavors that will cater to those who want savory, sweet, and spicy (or all of the above). I also always include veggies; it's the dietitian in me! Here are some of my guidelines that I like to follow for a basic spread:

Breads & Crackers [choose 3-4]:

Crunchy breadsticks, butter crackers, woven whole wheat crackers, thin wheat crackers, cheese-flavored crackers, pretzels, poppyseed crackers, toasted baguette slices.

Cheese [choose 3-4]:

Plain or flavored goat cheese, cream cheese, fresh mozzarella, burrata, gorgonzola, blue cheese, provolone, asiago, aged cheddar, pepper jack, habanero cheddar, gruyere.

Cured Meats [choose 2-3]:

Salami, prosciutto, soppressata, summer sausage, cured sausage, or pepperoni.

Spreads [choose 2-3]:

Fruit spreads, chutney, fig jam, jarred pesto, whole grain mustard, spicy mustard, horseradish mustard, hummus, creamy vegetable dip, raspberry habanero spread, pepper jelly.

Veggies [choose 3-5 of the following]:

Carrots, sliced bell peppers, radishes, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, jicama, cucumbers.

Other [choose 3-5]:

Dried fruit, mixed nuts, whole cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios, chocolate, chocolate bark, olives, stuffed olives, pepperoncinis, small pickles, cornichons, grapes, strawberries, pear slices, raspberries, strawberries.

The ideas above are just some basic recommendations. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, so use your creativity. Sometimes you can find amazing inspiration just by browsing the grocery store. Aldi has some of my favorite items! You ultimately can pick and choose ingredients that you and your guests will love. I hope this post will inspire and aid you as you prepare for your next party! Don’t forget the wine!


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