Cheese, cold cuts and some nibbles do not need an occasion – but there is no better reason to dig into some nice cheeses and charcuterie than a party. And the holidays have plenty occasions to break out the cheese slate. With ever more fantastic domestic artisan cheeses and charcuterie makers offering their gourmet goods to delighted eaters like us, there are plenty of ways to build a cheese & charcuterie board that is surprising and unique.
This two part blog post is my personal checklist. First up: how to cheese and accompaniments.
It’s always a good idea have a mix of textures, ages and milks – make sure you have creamy cheeses (like a fresh goat cheese, a brie or camembert), an hard cheeses. Some young, more delicate cheeses, and some aged ones – they usually have the more intense flavors. Finally, a cheese each of cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat milk and a blend. And to top it off a blue cheese. Now, that being said, you do not want to offer more than five cheeses, especially if you are also planning to offer charcuterie! The goal is a flavor exploration, not a flavor confusion!
The right mix of contrasts is important with charcuterie, too, so think in groups of cold cuts and pick your favorite: salami, pate/terrine, dry cured ham or bresaola, cooked ham or mortadella. Make sure not all have the same flavor profile. If you have a mild prosciutto, you might want to go for the spicy salami. Contrast, contrast, contrast is the key to a successful board. Not only will the variety keep the tastebuds excited, but you will make sure that there is something for every guests’ liking! Make sure your cheeses are at room temp– take them out of the fridge the night before!
Cheese & charcuterie are delicious, but they are also very rich – accompaniments like pickles, relishes or jams all have acidity (at varied levels) that help to keep your tastebuds ready for more. Often cheese & charcuterie are paired with oil-based antipasti: olives, sun-dried tomatoes and the like. While undoubtedly delicious, they are not the perfect pairing. They are fatty, as well, and compete for the tastebuds’ attention. It’s great to offer some antipasti for vegans and vegetarians, but not as cheese accompaniments.
Pickles and relishes are usually acid and savory: match them to milder cheeses and charcuterie. You want contrast – so a spicy pickled pepper like our Heirloom Beaver Dam Pepper is a perfect match for a rich cheddar cheese. A succulent country pate? Pair with a milder, but still tangy relish. You do not want to overpower the flavor of the pate with spice. Have a fresh goat milk cheese, that itself has a good amount of acidity? Pair it with a sweeter pickle: goat cheese and beets are a classic pairing for this reason (see how we combine them to a Feta & Beet Crostini).
Jams are great on goat and sheep milk cheeses, too, because their fruitiness and sweetness complements the natural flavor of the cheeses. And do not pass up the opportunity to pair a sweet jam with a spicy salami. A slice of salami calabrese with a dollop of tomato jam is a match made in heaven!
Round out your offering with some gourmet crackers (make sure to include some gluten free options!) and nuts – everyone loves a crunch in between bites of cheese and cold cuts!
Interested in ideas on presentation of the board – and beverage pairings? Continue reading here.