Charcuterie boards are made up of a dazzling, mouth-watering, and alluring selection of cold-cooked meats, cheeses, zesty pickles, sweet jams, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, bread and crackers.
They are often enjoyed with alcohol, usually wine or beer, that complements the spectacular range of flavors on the board.
Charcuterie means a store selling cold, cooked meats, and comes from the French words for flesh (chair) and cooked (cuit). The word was used in 15th Century France to describe stores that sold products that were made from pork.
But how do you pronounce it correctly?
The correct French pronunciation of charcuterie is “shar-coo-tree” whilst to pronounce it correctly in English is “shahr-Koo-tuh-ree”. The idea stems from the belief that nothing from the animal should be wasted, not even offal such as heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, or fat.
The earliest known records of meat curing date back to the third century BC in Ancient Rome. Marcus Porcius Cato, also known as Cato the Elder, was a distinguished Roman soldier and Senator.
He was known for his military and political career, as well as being a Latin prose writer of great importance. He also has the honor of being the writer of the earliest known recipe for dry-cured meat in his “De Agri Cultura”, which means Concerning Agriculture.
To this day, charcuterie boards are a popular choice for all kinds of settings and celebrations across the globe. From extravagant restaurants to cozy bistros, from dinner parties to romantic dinners by the fireplace, charcuterie boards are a stellar addition to any occasion.
The big question is, what ingredients need to be added to create a delicious, well-rounded, and delicately balanced charcuterie board?
The term “condiment” was originally the Latin word for seasoning, referring to seasoned, pickled, or preserved foods. Now the word has adopted a much broader scope to include spices, sauces, herbs, flavorings, seasonings, and even beverages that accompany a dish.
What condiments will bring out the flavors and add to the dazzling aesthetics of a spectacular board? Read on as we delve into how to build the perfect charcuterie board and complement it with a diverse assortment of yummy condiments.
What Cheeses Should Be Added?
It’s essential to bring balance to a charcuterie board to ensure a range of diverse, complex, and complimentary flavors. A combination of hard and soft cheese allows a range of textures and flavors to complement different aspects of the board’s ingredients.
People often like to include cheeses from different regions (such as France, the USA, and Italy) as well as from different animals (including cows, goats, and sheep) to increase the diversity and range of flavors on the palate.
Cheeses come in all shapes and sizes, with flavors varying from light and subtle to rich and heavy, whilst textures range from smooth and creamy to hard and crumbly.
Some hard cheeses to consider are cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Manchego, and Gruyère. Some soft cheeses to include are goat’s cheese, brie, Camembert, cream cheese, feta, and ricotta.
To liven up the board, the addition of some smoked cheeses and blue cheeses will provide some deep, rich flavors.
What Drinks Work Best With Charcuterie?
Due to the salty flavor profile of the charcuterie board’s ingredients, drinks that are a little sweet are a fantastic compliment to the meal and experience. Champagne and chilled, sparkling wines have quite a high acidity and usually have low alcohol content, they help to bring balance to the palate.
Not a fan of white or sparkling wine? Fear not! Deep, rich, full-bodied red wines are also a delightful addition to the dining experience and help bring out the rich flavors of the meats and cheeses.
Beer is also a popular choice for drinking alongside charcuterie due to its diverse and complex tastes that complement the food. The carbonation of the beer cuts through the rich and dense flavors on the board.
Sour beers work well with meats and especially with richer and creamier cheeses. Lighter beers such as India Pale Ale (IPA) also work as they allow the rich flavors of the food to shine through.
What Bread Should Be Added?
Like with all aspects of a well-presented charcuterie board, balance is key. With so many kinds of bread available, how should we know which to use? To make this choice a little simpler, many people adopt the mindset of ‘two bread’ and two crackers’.
Including both soft and hard bread will provide varied textures, with soft bread great for soft cheese and soaking up flavor, whilst hard bread is suitable for dipping into sauces and layering meat on them.
Some may choose to be adventurous and build a sandwich with charcuterie ingredients, so ensure there are slices of ample size for those with that culinary curiosity.
The bread used on a charcuterie board is typically selected due to having a ‘rustic’ style in keeping with the overall presentation of the charcuterie boards. Rustic bread usually has a heavy crust, a soft and open texture, and is flavorsome.
Some rustic bread such as baguettes, ciabatta, rye, sourdough, focaccia, and brioche are each are a fantastic addition to any charcuterie board.
Crackers offer another option that is less filling than bread, with a crunchier bite and varied textures. They are delicious with sweet and savory condiments and perfect with a bite-size wedge of cheese on top.
Savory And Sweet Additions
As mentioned previously, the key to a charcuterie board is the balance of textures, aromas, and flavors. One way to do this is to ensure both savory and sweet additions for each kind of food or condiment on the table.
Nuts bring intriguing flavors, crunchy textures, and a load of health benefits. They go fantastically well with cheese, it’s fun playing around to find the perfect nut to complement each featured cheese. Some popular choices for charcuterie include pecans, walnuts, almonds, and macadamia nuts.
Adding fresh vegetables to the board is a great way to bring freshness and crunch, they serve as wonderful transporters for the dips and sauces.
Additionally, some pickled or marinated vegetables such as dill pickles, cocktail onions, or olives, would be a tremendous choice.
Fruit is a classic combination with cheese, bread, and spread. Fresh juicy fruit can help lighten the palate, apples, pears, and berries are particularly complementary. Dried fruits such as apricots and figs are a great addition, as well as more exotic fruits such as mango or pineapple.
A bit of quality, dark chocolate can be an interesting accompaniment to the other flavors of the board as it is lower in sugar and has a fuller, richer flavor which works well with cheese especially.
Jams And Spreads
Sweet jams are a delightful inclusion as the sweetness will complement the dry and salty taste of the meat and cheese, bringing a fresh and lively tang to the palate. Some jams to consider are strawberry, raspberry, apricot, fig, or peach.
To add a little something extra, consider adding a spicy jam option to liven up proceedings. Many are infused with chilies or peppers, and they can provide an eye-watering kick to the taste buds!
Sour jams are also an intriguing addition, such as the increasingly popular sour cherry jam, which has a tart flavor with hints of sweetness. Other sour spreads also allow for the introduction of even more texture to the board.
Grainy mustard brings heat, flavor, and a unique texture to the palate.
A classic condiment for all kinds of meals is extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This tried and tested combination works beautifully with each aspect of the board, as well as aiding digestion and being full of antioxidants!
Pesto is another condiment with a rich history and strong presence in Italian and European cuisine. As delightful with bread and cheese as it is with pasta, this adaptable condiment comes in many flavors, colors, and textures.
Delicious hummus again brings texture and strong flavors to the board. Smooth or chunky, plain, or mixed with beetroot, peppers, or caramelized red onions. It’s quick and easy to make, as well as being cheap, healthy, and a great source of plant-based protein.
Charcuterie can be enjoyed on any and all occasions. After reading this article, you should be well on your way to being able to create your own perfect charcuterie board. Although we’ve covered a huge range of condiments, don’t feel pressured to include everything!
Not everyone has enough space for a huge charcuterie board, besides it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts!