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How to Build a Cheese & Charcuterie Board

It's all about technique, not torture!

Building a cheese and charcuterie board is a breeze once you know what the foundational elements are. Variety (visually, texturally, and flavor-wise) is key but so, too, is seasonality. A winter board should not feature strawberries, but by the same token a summer board should have more fresh fruit than dry fruit. It''s important to arrange the elements in the way that they should be consumed so that the diner knows what pairings you intended. Above all, plate what you enjoy and don’t be afraid to experiment!

Board Selection Choose a board in both size and shape that will work well with where it will be placed and for how many people it needs to serve.

Cheese Selection

Variety is key. This includes type of cheese (hard, soft, aged, blue, etc.), type of milk (cow, goat, sheep, etc.), and shape (slice, round, log, etc.). 3-5 cheeses is ideal, depending on your board and crowd size.

Hard: Manchego, Parmesan, Comte

Soft: Brie, Camembert, Chevre

Aged: Cheddar, Gouda, Edam

Blue: Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort

Charcuterie Selection

Variety is also key. This includes style of meat (cured or pâté), type of meat (cow, pork, duck, etc.), and shape (slice, round, log, etc.). 3-5 is ideal, depending on your board and crowd size.

Cured: prosciutto, Jamón ibireco or serrano, salami, chorizo, lardo, pancetta, coppa, bresaola, soppressata, saucisson, pepperoni,

Pâté: liver, goose, duck, vegetable (country style, straight, mousseline, rillettes)

Savory Elements Roasted or spiced nuts, olives, cornichons, pickled vegetables, mustards, and tapenades are all excellent options.

Sweet Elements

Fresh fruits (grapes, berries, figs, apricots, apples, pears, peaches, plums), dried fruits (apricots, dates, cranberries, raisins, pears, apples), fruit pastes and jams (membrillo, marmalade, fig jam, chutney, etc.), and honey (or honeycomb) are ideal choices.

ILOC tip: do not repeat fresh fruit and dried fruit and jams on the same cheese board; if you use fresh figs, don’t use fig jam, too.

Preparation and Placement

For round rind cheeses like Camembert, remove one small slice to encourage people to break into the cheese. Arrange wedge cheeses so that the rinds are inward and the exposed cheese is easily accessible. Consider pre-slicing or breaking up hard cheeses like Manchego and Parmesan. Group the elements that you wish to be served together, such as honeycomb and chèvre or salami and Grana Padano.

Crackers & Bread A mix of crackers and sliced breads is ideal, some plain and some seasoned or studded with fruits/nuts/spices. The crackers and bread may be part of the board or served in a separate vessel apart from the board.

Implements and Serving Vessels

You’ll need some cheese knives, small forks or tongs for the meats, and some small spoons or spreaders along with some ramekins or small bowls to contain condiments like mustards or chutneys.

Additional Suggestions

· Bring cheeses to room temperature before service for ideal consumption.

· Consider slicing hard cheese into portions to make it easier for guests to consume.

· Avoid stinky cheeses for parties, which can repel guests.

· Group the sweet and savory elements near the cheese with which you think they pair best (ie place the honey near the goat cheese and the membrillo near the manchego).

· Garnish with fresh herbs for color, but with restraint.

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