By Rachel Dalton
Pinterest. Instagram. Weddings. Taking up their own endcap at the grocery store. The charcuterie board business is booming right now.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence that these boards began to explode about the same time as the pandemic. They serve as a fun way to eat anything (fun moments are important during a pandemic), a good way to gather and share with your “quaranteam,” and can even be made into single servings for socially distanced gatherings.
The term “charcuterie” refers specifically to the process of curing meat products such as salami, bacon and ham. Most traditional charcuterie boards are spilling over with meats, various types of cheese and other accoutrements. However, themed boards with more eclectic choices are becoming popular as well.
Michelle Ayers, owner of Purple Door Gourmet Kitchen in Lynchburg, has been making charcuterie boards for a decade but has seen their popularity rise this year along with their larger counterpart: the grazing table.
“I have done very large displays as long as 18 feet for an event for 300 people to small trays for two to 20,” she says. “This is my absolute favorite part of my work. I always dreamed of playing with food for a living and now I get to do it every day.”
Every board is unique, but Ayers says the checklist in her head for a charcuterie board always includes color, texture, flavor and variety.
“Every board needs to have assorted cheeses, cured meat, olives, nuts, chutney, crispy bread and chocolate,” she says.
Personal chef and health coach Megan Current, of The Current Dish, also receives numerous requests for charcuterie boards. She always starts with the “forward points”: the meats and cheeses. From there, Current likes to include local jams and honeys, pickles, olives and fruit. But she will branch out depending on the season or occasion—for example, a caramel dip for apple slices or cake pops for a birthday board.
Building Your Board
Once you’ve gathered your items comes the trickier part for amateurs. Part of the appeal of a charcuterie board is the way it looks. As Ayers explains: “I believe you eat with your eyes first.”
First, decide what will be your focal point. A brie or goat cheese log works well or use folded meats in a creative way.
Folding or rolling meats will not only allow you to pack more items onto your board, but it also looks nice. Depending on your types of cheeses, mix it up and have one sliced and another cubed, for example. For accoutrements such as olives, fruit or nuts, put some into small bowls and others directly on to the board.
“Rosemary or mint sprigs are a pretty way to fill in any holes and add some greenery,” says Current.
Better Than Dip
For those with new fitness goals as we head into summer, charcuterie boards can also be a smarter appetizer choice. “You have an option of foods that are whole and less processed, many with single ingredients,” Current says. “Also, it’s so much easier to fill up on these foods compared to something like chips and dip.”
Whether you make your own or let a professional take control, the sky is limit when creating a charcuterie board.