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Today's Most Popular Party Snack - The Charcuterie Board

There is no appetizer more impressive than a charcuterie board. Loaded with a variety of cured meats, cheese, nuts, fruit, crackers, and spreads, there is something here for everyone.

What Is Charcuterie?

Charcuterie (pronounced [shar-koo-tuh–ree]) boards, or let's simply call it charcuterie, is not a new thing. ... Charcuterie is derived from the French words for flesh (chair) and cooked (cuit). The word was used to describe shops in 15th century France that sold products that were made from pork, including the pig's internal organs. Ewww...

I think the first time I can remember enjoying charcuterie was during my first trip to Italy in 2008 - only it was called antipasto, they served it as an appetizer during most meals and it was delicious. I can’t remember the first time I became aware of the awesomeness of the charcuterie board here in the United States - or it’s ever growing popularity, but I do know that in the past couple of years it has become a definite party favorite. Historically, charcuterie was the art of preparing cured or smoked meats on a platter or board, however charcuterie boards have evolved over the years to include so much more than just cured meats.  

The fun thing about charcuterie boards is that there is no end to the possible variations. Switching up a few ingredients results in something new and amazing each and every time. 

Add in seasonal fruits and veggies to make it healthy and fresh for Summer BBQ’s or add a few special touches to make the holidays extra special. For example, a Thanksgiving charcuterie board could have sprigs of thyme and cranberries scattered about. A Valentine’s Day charcuterie board could have a small bowl of chocolate kisses, conversation hearts, chocolate covered strawberries, red gummy bears, and did I mention chocolate? Really, any quality chocolate will do, but my favorite is Abdallah Gourmet Chocolate - truffles, sea salt caramels, butter almond toffee….they are all delicious.  

The new rage is dessert charcuterie boards, breakfast charcuterie boards with bite-sized waffles and pancakes, fruit and a variety of toppings OR single serving charcuterie - something Pinterest boards and Instagram posts have christened Jarcuterie.  Cute idea, huh?

Charcuterie is served at weddings, showers, business functions and family gatherings. And why not? Creating a charcuterie board (sometimes referred to as a grazing board - which is just not as cool) is easy, delicious and the actual “art” of putting together a board makes entertaining fun and exciting!!

Charcuterie Boards: Where To Start?

I like to start with the board choice. Charcuterie boards can be as big or as small as you want them to be. Charcuterie for two is super fun for date night or picnics. For larger events, I always create more than one board to ensure my guests have plenty to eat.

You don’t need to buy a special board. You can use a wood cutting board, slate board, serving tray, etc. Any flat surface you have will work, however there are SO many really beautiful boards being sold out there, it really is worth investing in one or two (or many!) Here are a few that we carry in our Hometown Living area:

Top left: $18.99, Top right: $31.99, Bottom left: $43.99, Bottom right: $19.99

Adding Color and Texture
• When you are selecting items for your board, make sure to choose some that will “pop” on your board. Bright reds (strawberries, cherries, tomatoes), bright greens (grapes, apple slices, herb garnish), etc. There are too many brown, tan and cream foods out there and if you’re not careful, your board will look bland, not brilliant.

• Make sure you’re not placing too many like colors directly next to each other. This will help with presentation.

• The same goes with texture. Variety is key. You want some smooth, shiny surfaces like dates. You want some rough, edgy surfaces like Triscuit crackers. Some should look wet or moist like the jams and spreads, and others super dry, like the pistachios and almonds.

Tips for Charcuterie Board Assembly
It may seem like a no-brainer to assemble a charcuterie board;  just toss some meats, cheeses, and crackers on a board and voila! Yes - it CAN be that easy if you want it to be, but if you want to impress your guests, there is some thought and strategy that is involved.  Below are some quick tips for an extraordinary charcuterie board:

Start With Bowls
Your charcuterie board should include a variety of jams, preserves, mustards, dips or a jar of honey. These could be some of my favorites that we carry from Stonewall Kitchen like Classic Fig Jam, Wild Maine Blueberry spread, Apple Jalapeno jelly, Maine Craft Ale Mustard, and the list goes on or one of our Wind & Willow Dip Mixes. Give your guests some variety.

Stonewall Kitchen Jams: $7.99

Bowls are also great for fresh mozzarella balls, nuts, olives, or other relishes as well. For example, Stonewall Kitchen’s Tillen Farms Garlic Jalapeno Olives make an excellent choice as well as their Dilly Beans. These can also be found in your local Hometown Pharmacy, Hometown Living section.

Different sizes, shapes, material, and color of bowls make your board more interesting. I like variety!

Now, obviously these items need small bowls to keep them contained. But those bowls perform double duty by acting as the groundwork for your board. Solid and sturdy, they are great to lean crackers against, pile dried fruit next to, stack cheese by, etc. Place them around the board. The number and size will depend on how large your board is.

Wind & Willow Dip Mix: $4.99

Meats and Cheese

After the bowls are in place, I like to add the meats and cheese. The cheese can be cubed or sliced or can be added on the board as a wedge. Wedges of brie or havarti look really impressive and along with serving knives, guests can just dig in and help themselves. Place larger items like sliced meats and blocks or slices of cheese on the board first. 

Some soft cheeses I especially love are brie, havarti and goat cheese and then some good old fashioned hard cheeses like Muenster, Cheddar, Brick, Pepper Jack - maybe even some squeaky Wisconsin cheese curds or fresh mozzarella!  

For meats, salami is a personal favorite of mine as well as prosciutto and sopressata, however, any cured meat will work on a charcuterie board. I love serving a variety on my boards: Genoa Salame, Italian Dry Salame, Peppered Salame, Prosciutto, Soprasetta, Pepperoni…lots of variety is a good thing. Folding these in bite sizes makes it easier for the guests to grab and go.  

Crackers and Bread

You will want to add crackers and/or bread to your charcuterie board. This is super important as this is a critical building block when your guests start to layer all the flavors. You want something sturdy and you want a couple different options – think 2 to 4.

I will slice up a baguette and then add 2-3 types of crackers.  My favorite crackers are Breton Crackers due to their larger size and sturdiness, however Stonewall Kitchen’s Everything Deli Crisps and Everything Flatbread Crisps as well as their Roasted Garlic Crackers and Sea Salt Crackers are tasty and add interesting texture to your board. Adding a few SW Seasoned Sea Salt Pretzels couldn’t hurt either - they tend to disappear in a hurry because they are addicting!

Stonewall Kitchen Sea Salt Crackers: $6.99

Fruit & Garnish
Fill in gaps on your board with fresh and/or dried fruit. There is no wrong answer here. Use fruit that is in season and is easy to pick up. Grapes are a great choice as well as pretty much all berries. Apple slices are a nice touch and pair particularly well with brie and cheddar.

Dried fruits are easy and accessible year round. I like to go with larger varieties like dates, apricots, plums, figs, etc.

Rule of Thumb: Sweet, Savory, Salty, Spicy
Charcuterie boards should generally incorporate sweet, savory, salty, and spicy items for a truly balanced experience. Here are some examples:

• Sweet - Fruit (fresh and dried): grapes, strawberries, dates, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, figs, etc. Your spreads can also be sweet like apricot or fig jam, blueberry spread, jellies, etc.

• Savory - The cheese and meats take charge here. I like to have at least 3 varieties of each.  Adding mustards, pestos and even olive pate’s also are a nice touch.  

• Salty - Because the meats are cured, they are also salty. Cheese, nuts, and crackers are other sources of salty items.

• Spicy - You don’t need to go overboard here – maybe one or two items. Some cheese can be spicy, pepper jelly is spicy, etc. Just make sure you let your guests know where the heat is on your charcuterie board.

Serving Size
If the charcuterie board is being served as an appetizer, account for 2oz of meat per person. But if the board is the main meal, double that number.

What To Serve with a Charcuterie Board?

Wine is a perfect choice to serve with your charcuterie. According to, for wine pairings, focus on the food’s main components of salt, fat, and acid. Salt in food will soften wine’s harder elements, like bitter tannins or sharp acidity. At the same time, it will enhance the perception of the body on the palate. The wine should always be more acidic than the food you are serving. 

Foods high in fats or oils pair well with bolder red wines because the fat counterbalances the high tannins in the wine. But you can also opt for crisp, acidic white wines.

This combination gives the perception of cleansing the palate. The wine’s acidity cuts through the richness from the food. Aim to match the boldness of a wine to the boldness of the dish. If you prepare a charcuterie board offering more delicate flavors, select a similarly delicate wine. Also, remember that wines with high tannins will clash with anything spicy or bitter. Make the event entertaining by offering wine in some of our cute wine glass options with fun sayings like the ones below:

Champagne, there's something about the lightness of the body of this wine, coupled with the acidity and bubbles that does not overwhelm the lighter flavors but simultaneously cuts through the heartier flavors, so believe it or not champagne is the #1 choice for a charcuterie pairing.  

That’s it, in a nutshell! Easy peasy and your guests will love it. AND bonus - it’s all relatively healthy food, with good fats, nutrients, vitamin C and loads of protein. So enjoy and get creative!

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Posted by Margaret Strause
Margaret Strause
Margaret Strause is the Director of Front End Sales and Marketing, as well as a buyer and merchandiser for Hometown Pharmacy. Stop by one of our stores to shop our exceptional home decor, clothing, gifts, and so much more.