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Two recent birthday gifts were just the inspiration I needed to write this column. The first gift was a book from my co-editor on how to create beautiful charcuterie boards. The second gift, from my husband, was a personalized charcuterie board. They know me too well.
“Charcuterie” is a French word and is pronounced /shahr-koo-tuh-ree/. By the dictionary definition, it refers to a delicatessen specializing in dressed meats and meat dishes, or products sold in such a shop. However, in
recent years, “charcuterie” has become a broader term used
to describe a variety of foods such as meats, cheeses, crackers and fruits arranged attractively on a large platter or wooden board to be shared with family and friends in a social setting.
Charcuterie is not a new concept. Snacking on meats, cheeses and fruits has been around for hundreds of years. Some credit millennials for bringing the trend to the forefront due to the rising interest in artisanal foods plus the photogenic qualities of a well-appointed board. Think Instagram.
“I think the popularity of charcuterie rose with the pandemic because it was something fun that families could make and enjoy together,” said Nicolle Laviolette, owner and creator of ConVino Board in Ontario, Canada.
Laviolette’s ConVino boards are crafted from 100 percent Canadian black walnut and have a hole to fit a wine bottle. The name translates to board with wine. Along with her boards, Laviolette teaches virtual charcuterie classes. “You don’t have to be an artist or a creative person to make a charcuterie board. Anyone can do it,” she said.
Laviolette suggests starting with three kinds of cheese, a soft, a medium and a hard to begin building a charcuterie board. “You want the cheeses to have completely different textures,” she explained. The meats are next, choose two. “If you are serving meat lovers, add a third,” she said.
Next, add something sweet and something salty. “For the sweet, try fig jam or honey to drizzle over things. Nuts are a good salty item,” recommended Laviolette. “Then add fruit for freshness and to balance everything. Crackers are a must for crunch,” she said.
Styling is key in creating an artful-looking board. “I always try to make my board look texturized. Instead of laying everything out flat, I try to make it look 3-D. Spreading out the colors of the fruits and cheeses will make the board more inviting,” Laviolette explained. “Always pre-cut the cheeses. If you cut them ahead of time, people will feel more comfortable digging in.”
When determining how much of each item is needed, Laviolette suggested three ounces of meat and cheese per person for an appetizer or light dinner. “Then add a handful of fruit, nuts and crackers for each of them.”
The next step is determining which wine goes best with your board. “My go-to is a bubby, a prosecco or Champagne. Their high acidity is the best for pairing with meat and cheeses,” said Laviolette. In terms of other wine, she offered the following, “I would pair a creamy brie with a dry chardonnay. Blue cheese goes well with Riesling because the cheese is salty, and the Riesling is sweet. Once you find that match, it just intensifies the flavors of the cheese and the wine.”
When it is time to build your board, here are two combinations from Laviolette to help you get started. If you cannot find a particular item, or prefer something different, feel free to substitute it with a similar item.
And, for the final preparations – tidy up the patio, select a playlist, grab a few friends and enjoy your masterpiece together.