Learn How to Make a Charcuterie Platter

Learn how to make a Charcuterie Platter that’s sure to be the hit of your next party.  Charcuterie platters are beautiful, tasty, and make a satisfying appetizer. With an endless variety of flavor and little bite combinations, you’ll always have a go-to stress-free appetizer to serve at any party or holiday gathering.

Charcuterie has been all the rage for the last couple of years and my family was thrilled to know that we’ve been ahead of this trend for years.  For years when we were in Philadelphia for Christmas, we’d head down to South Philly’s Italian Market, to buy cured meats, a selection of cheeses and little nibbles and bites at Di Bruno Bros. On Christmas eve customers will line up out the door and wait hours to take home an amazing selection of gourmet cheeses and cured meats for a Christmas day antipasto platter.  Charcuterie sounds much fancier.  We were trendy before the trend.  Who knew?

 

fruit and cheese tray

What is Charcuterie and how is it pronounced?

Charcuterie is pronounced – [shahr-koo-tuh–ree] and as it’s used now it really is just a fancy name for a meat and cheese platter or board.

Traditionally charcuterie means to prepare cured or smoked meats such as bacon, ham or salami.

It’s super easy to put together an amazing and inexpensive charcuterie platter using a mixture of everyday items and a few special ingredients.  I like to have a balance of flavors – a little savory, a little spicy, a little earthiness, a little nutty, and a little sweetness.  The perfect charcuterie board combines cured meats, a variety of cheeses, crackers, bread, and little bites like fruit & nuts, olives, dips, mustards, honey, and fruit curds.

 

Learn how to make an Italian Charcuterie Platter

Steps to Building a Gorgeous and Appetizing Charcuterie Platter

  1. Pick 1 or 2 large platters or boards + 4 or 5 small bowls.  If you have vegetarians in your group you’ll need the 2nd platter for a non-meat version.
  2. Choose 3-5 varieties of cheese.  Slice hard cheeses.  leave soft cheeses whole but remember to cut a small wedge from them or no one will touch it.
  3. Choose 3-5 varieties of cured meats very thinly sliced.
  4. Add 3-5 salty things like olives, nuts, and crackers.
  5. Choose 3-5 sweet things like fruit, honeycomb, and fancy jellies or fruit curds.
  6. Add veggies like raw colorful bell peppers, roasted peppers, eggplant marinated and thinly sliced or any of you favorite both raw and cooked.
  7. Add 2 or 3 types of sliced bread.
  8. Choose 2 or 3 dips
  9. Garnish with herbs, edible flowers or whole fruit

 

charcuterie platter

The basics of putting together a charcuterie platter:

Meat: The rule of thumb is 3 or 4 slices of meat per person, but I have lots of meat eaters so I buy a variety of meats and I estimate 2 slices per person of every type of meat on the tray.  Include a variety of flavors and textures, for example, a sliced spicy salami or pepperoni, a sweet and salty prosciutto, like LA QUERCIA PROSCIUTTO AMERICANO – SWEET AND SALTY HAM, dry-cured Iberian Ham and a mild soppressata.

Cheese: Be adventurous – this is a great time to sample unusual cheeses.  Include cheeses made from the milk of a variety of animals, like goat and sheep.   Try a creamy goat cheese from a small farm in Tennesse, a sharp Italian truffle cheese, a triple creme brie, and at least one cheese steeped in wine or spirits. Stick a balance between mellow and mild with sharp and super flavorful.

Bread and Crackers: Choose a variety of crackers, some seeded, some flavored, some buttery, a whole grain cracker and include a mild cracker like a water cracker. Baguettes, Italian bread, olive bread, and garlic-rosemary bread are wonderful choices for your charcuterie board.  Slice your bread thinly to serve.

Fruit & Nuts: Include a combination of dried and fresh fruit and salted nuts.  When you are picking your fruit, keep a couple of things in mind, choose ripe seasonal fruit in a variety of colors, so your board looks amazing!   Try serving Marcona almonds, giant cashews, flavored almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. If you aren’t familiar with Marcona almonds, are exclusively grown in Spain and have been described as a cross between an almond and a macadamia nut – they are yummy and addictive.

Olives:  Add small bowls filled with an assortment of fresh pitted olives, try including a couple of stuffed olives.

Vegetables:  I like to include raw sliced bell peppers, thinly sliced sauteed eggplant, baby heirloom tomatoes, and fire roasted peppers.

Dips:  Add a couple of dips like a creamy artichoke dip, applewood smoked bacon dip, and/or a spicy shrimp or crab dip.

Fruit Curds and Honey Comb:  I like to include a lemon curd and a grapefruit and rosemary curd + if I can find it a nice piece of honeycomb.  If I can’t find honeycomb I’ll include a bowl of local honey.  Honey is a nice addition to a sharp or creamy cheese and is lovely with ham.

 

cheese, nuts, fruit and honey

Prep Your Charcuterie Board Ingredients

  • Cheese can be cut into slices a day before you plan to serve it.  It should be wrapped in wax paper and stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.
  • Sticks of pepperoni, salami, etc. can be sliced the day before and stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.
  • Raw bell peppers can be washed, seeded and sliced the day before.
  • Eggplant can be made the day before.
  • Berries can be washed, dried and stored in the refrigerator a day in advance.
  • Don’t cut apples or pears and don’t section citrus.  They will need to be cut or sectioned just before serving.

 

Wine, cheese and prosciutto

How to Serve a Charcuterie Platter

  • Pick your favorite extra large board or platter.
  • There is no rule that everything has to fit on one platter or board.  Choose several platters and pile them high with all the yummy ingredients you’ve collected.
  • In my house, we have a couple of vegetarians so I always create at least 2 boards – one with meat and another without.
  • The board or platter should look full and colorful.  Try mounding nuts and berries, stacking cured meat, and fan fruits.
  • Use complimenting bowls for dips and such.

 

cured meats market

How to Make an Inexpensive Charcuterie Platter

I have a confession I love putting together my Charcuterie board so much that I can absolutely get carried away when shopping for ingredients to feature.  My husband now refuses to let me and our youngest daughter go into Di Bruno Bros. or any specialty store unsupervised, since the year I spent more on my charcuterie platter than the entire meal for 12 people.  That was the ultimate charcuterie board and I still dream about the truffled pecorino cheese.

I still shop Di Bruno Bros. online and always find amazing little tidbits to make my charcuterie platter a little more special.  So I came up with a plan to help reduce the cost of building the most beautiful and tasty board.

  • Pick one “luxury” item from each category as your splurge.
  • Shop at a specialty meat and cheese store or grocery they can help you explore different meats and cheeses and will allow you to sample ingredients to help you make the perfect purchase.
  • The remaining items can be purchased from your local grocery chain or club store.
  • To save money and make your board look amazing, fill it with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Make a list.  You’ll want 3-4 items from each category.
  • Consider ordering ingredients online.  This is my new favorite way to save money when planning any meal or charcuterie board.  I’m much more focused and disciplined when I shop for food online – I’m not distracted by displays or tempted to buy impulse items.
  • Shop local – discover artisanal cheese makers and Charcutiers in your area.

 

Suggested Charcuterie Platter Ingredients

 

cheese

Cheese to Splurge on for a Charcuterie Board:

  • Cacio Di Bosco Al Tartufo – A Pecorino with lovely veins of black truffle.  This cheese is perfect for shaving into feathery strips and looks absolutely gorgeous on your Charcuterie board.
  • or Humbolt Fog goat cheese from Cypress Grove in Arcata, California.  This cheese will become an obsession and is usually available at Whole Foods.  Check out their other cheeses, they are all delicious.

cheese board

Cheeses to Save on for a Charcuterie Board.

  • Grafton Village Truffle Cheddar – a Vermont Cheddar with a hint of truffle, nice earthiness with the familiar high-quality cheddar taste.
  • Chèvre – either flavored or plain.  This soft spreadable goat cheese is delicious and comes with a variety of flavorings and looks amazing on your board.  Try Bucheron Cheese from France.
  • Gruyere
  • Triple Cream Brie or Camembert

sliced soppressata

Meat to Splurge on for a Charcuterie Board:

Prosciutto and melon

Meats to Save on for a Charcuterie Board.

 

fruits - berries and citrus

Fruits for a Charcuterie Board.

Choose a variety of fresh seasonal fruits.  Purchase fruit that doesn’t have to travel too far to reach the market…better yet buy your fruits and Veggies at the Farmer’s market,

  • Dates stuffed with smoked almonds
  • Bacon wrapped dates
  • Dried apricots or plums
  • Assorted fresh berries
  • Cantaloupe slices
  • Figs, quartered and drizzled with a balsamic glaze
  • Variety of grapes
  • Clementine sections
  • Sliced apples and pears
  • Balsalmic macerated strawberries

 

vegetable platter

Vegetable for a Charcuterie Board

  • Raw, sliced bell peppers
  • Sauteed eggplant marinated and thinly sliced eggplant
  • Baby heirloom tomatoes
  • Fire roasted peppers
  • Charred Asparagus
  • Pickled Green Beans – a new obsession

 

Olives

Nuts & Olives for a Charcuterie Platter

  • Marcona almonds
  • Giant cashews
  • Flavored almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Wasabi peas
  • Kalamata Olives
  • An assortment of fresh pitted olives
  • Blue cheese or pimento stuffed olives.

 

veggies and dips

Savory & Sweet Dips for a Charcuterie Board  

  • Creamy artichoke dip
  • Applewood smoked bacon dip
  • Spicy shrimp or crab dip
  • Tomato & White Sultana Chutney 
  • Olive tapenade
  • Lemon curd
  • Grapefruit and rosemary curd
  • Honeycomb.  If I can’t find honeycomb I’ll include a bowl of local honey.

 

cheese and crackers

Crackers and Bread for you Charcuterie Board

  • Seeded crackers
  • Flavored crackers
  • Buttery crackers
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Baguettes
  • Italian Bread
  • Kalamata olive bread
  • Roast garlic-rosemary bread

I love making charcuterie platters and create a new version for almost every event.  I serve them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, other holiday parties, football tailgates, and super bowl parties.

They are so fun to create, absolutely gorgeous to serve, hearty and filling and DELICIOUS!  What will you create?

2 Comments

  1. carl

    I’m hungry after reading this post, even the pictures look good enough to eat!

    Reply
  2. Lauren

    Great post, thanks for the ideas!

    Reply

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