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Simple Steps For A Showstopping Charcuterie Board

Easy tips for a flavorful board from the team at Columbus Craft Meats

July 27, 2021

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Taken from the French word for “cooked meat,” charcuterie is an artistically plated spread of slow-aged salumi paired with cheese, crackers and various pickled, sweet, spicy and savory accompaniments. It is one of the oldest, most beloved foods that continues to win over fans of all ages and tastes today.

Whether you’re new to the art of charcuterie, looking for a safe place to learn, or a seasoned charcutier seeking inspiration to take your board to the next level, the makers of COLUMBUS® Craft Meats are on a mission to help everyone build better charcuterie boards. Explore salumi and pairing creations that will help you to fall in love with charcuterie. Crafting salami is an art and a science – and something the Columbus master salumieri (expert salami makers) do with passion.

“We believe the best charcuterie board excites all the senses and every great charcuterie board begins with craft meats,” Evan Inada, charcuterie/partnerships director at Columbus Craft Meats, said. “Our Italian style meats are made with the finest cuts of pork, our special blend of spices, and are traditionally cooked and cured to perfection.”

From COLUMBUS® Italian Dry to Secchi Salami, every craft meat is produced with time and care. To make the best board possible, begin with selecting premium craft meat choices and create thoughtful pairings that will awaken your tastebuds and beyond. Charcuterie’s countless flavor and its ability to be paired with a range of foods, savory to sweet and everything in between, elevates its appeal.

Charcuterie is made up of exciting flavors and sharing a charcuterie board should be a fun experience too,

Evan Inada, charcuterie/partnerships director at Columbus Craft Meats

You can make a meal out of it. It can make your family gathering or party more memorable—and Instagrammable. A charcuterie board invites everyone to come around a thoughtfully created bounty of flavors to enjoy together. Ideal for exploring and expanding your tastes, it can encourage your kids to try new foods nestled beside their favorite snacks or your friends to sample salami that goes great with their favorite beer and wine.

“Charcuterie is made up of exciting flavors and sharing a charcuterie board should be a fun experience too,” Inada said. “At Columbus, we want to help you taste, explore and entertain.”

Meat

Start with salumi—cold cuts or cured meats, including Italian delicacies—as the centerpiece of your board. The meats are your hero from which to build and feel inspired. Have fun with your meat choices. Try something familiar and mild, something spicy (or with a hint of pepper) and a salami you’ve never heard of before. Two to three ounces of meat per person is recommended.

For presentation, they can be rolled, fanned, laid flat or even turned into beautiful organic shapes. Fold and assemble a salami river or curate salami roses for extra flair. Depending on how you want to organize your board, there are many options and inspirations available to you.

A slice of salame is the flavor bridge the bonds all the other elements on a charcuterie board together. Dry curing and slow aging the salumi instead of cooking creates the developed texture and flavor that triggers the umami on your tastebuds and brings levels of flavor into your charcuterie bite as you pair with cheese, fruit and things that crunch. The developed flavor in each salumi slice means that you can slice it paper thin and still pack plenty of flavor. One-quarter pound of salami will usually give you anywhere from 20 to 30 slices, depending on the diameter. The fact that it is slow aged also allows it to be sliced paper thin where you would need a thicker slice of a more processed salami.

Cut each type of cheese in different sizes and shapes. Create a fan shape, stack in piles, organize in rows, or offer a cheese knife with a whole block. Place the cheese next to the meat it complements.

Cheese

Follow with complementary cheese. Add a variety of complementary soft, creamy and/or hard cheeses to elevate the flavors of your meat. Hard Italian cheeses pair well with all our salami selections. Fresh and earthy cheeses pair perfectly with our rustic style salami. Well-aged Italian and Spanish cheeses highlight the spices in our pepper focused salami. One to two ounces of cheese per person is a good benchmark.

Cut each type of cheese in different sizes and shapes. Create a fan shape, stack in piles, organize in rows, or offer a cheese knife with a whole block. Place the cheese next to the meat it complements.

Inada notes there are a lot of great cheeses that you can find at friendly prices that are perfect on a charcuterie board, such as cheddar, Havarti, fresh mozzarella, and mascarpone that you can mix with your favorite fresh fruits. Buy as a block and cube the cheese yourself to get the best price and remember, the cheese shape doesn’t have to be perfect because you are breaking each cheese into bite size pieces anyway. Some cheese shops even have a broken or imperfect sale bin where they put random wedges to offer at an amazing discount.

Accoutrements

Color/Crunch:

Who can resist a visual showstopper? An array of inviting colors gets you ready to dive into the incredible flavors that await, so fill the landscape of your board with a variety of color and crunch. As you bring various combinations to life, you’ll want to ensure you have ample crunch texture to balance your meats and cheese.

For color, think fresh herbs, bright peppers and uniquely colored fruits. For crunch/texture, bring on the crackers, nuts and bread. These, along with your meats, provide a great vehicle for holding your bites with multiple elements and spreads.

Although artisan nuts, breads and crackers are perfect for charcuterie boards, they can cost you roughly $6 a box. To create the crunch on a budget, utilize your dry seasonings in your spice drawer to elevate the peanuts and almonds in your cabinet. Just toss a dab of olive oil into a jar with your plain unsalted peanuts and add your favorite spice to match your board’s flavor. Inada recommends lavender and turbinado sugar for sweet pairings, rosemary and kosher salt for rustic, and chipotle and cocoa powder for spicy. To find a cracker solution that looks deceivably pricy, take a $1.99 baguette from your local market, cut very thin slices brushed with olive oil/herb mix and toast until crisp in under 10 minutes.

Acid:

Select acidic bites that pair well with spicy meats. These foods will cut through any richness to cleanse your palate for the next bite. Place acidic ingredients near spicy items for this reason as well. Reach for peppers, pickled vegetables, tomatoes, olives and cornichons.

“Just pickle it yourself” sounds a lot harder that it really is, according to Inada. Water, salt and vinegar make the perfect pickling solution to put whatever vegetables you have in your fridge like cauliflower, green beans, carrots, Brussels sprouts and onions. Also choosing sweet acids in sliced apples, Cara Cara oranges and kiwis are great items to replace pricy grapes and berries.

Sweet:

Finish the remainder of your board with the sweet components. Sweet flavors will complement creamy cheeses and mild salami and enhance the flavors on the board. Explore fruit, chocolate, jams, jellies, marmalades, honey and candied nuts.

“While ideal flavor pairings exist for craft meats, there are many combinations to explore,” Inada said. “Use charcuterie boards as an opportunity to follow your instincts as much as try new pairings. If you love the way one food complements another, give it a go, but don’t be afraid to explore the array of flavors available to you here.”

Sampling a variety of tastes and textures is part of what makes charcuterie boards as satisfying to eat as they are to look at. Striking a balance of flavors is as important with a charcuterie board’s components as it is in adding ingredients when cooking. Aim to unite contrasting characteristics and textures to create composed, harmonious bites. Add personality to your board with visually interesting elements that introduce new flavors.

“Everyone loves charcuterie—even people who haven’t had it yet,” Inada said. “That ‘wow’ factor you get after you make a board is special. We can make anybody a charcuterie pro. They just need to know which items to pair and once they have guidance, they can go from there.”

Try It At Home Build A Board for $75

Shopping list:

  • Meat: Genoa Paninos ($6), Coppa ($4), Calabrese Salame ($4), Italian Dry Salame ($3), Secchi ($6), Hot Sopressata ($3)
  • Cheese: cheddar ($3); gorgonzola ($5), brie ($5), spreadable herb cheese ($4), asiago ($4)
  • Color/crunch: apples ($2), mixed berries ($4), almonds ($3), candied pecans ($4), baguette ($2), butter crackers ($2)
  • Acid: Castelvetrano olives ($4), cornichons ($2)
  • Sweet: marmalade ($3), dark chocolate ($1)

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