Charcuterie is the new “it” item to serve when entertaining, and with the holidays here you’ll be doing lots of that for sure. But if you’ve never made one, wow, can it be overwhelming! With what seems like endless choices when it comes to what to include (cheeses, meats, olives, pickles, nuts, and spreads, fruits…) it is nothing short of a task to create one of these babies. But, I’ll tell you, it’s always a big hit with guests and worth the effort. In the end, not only will you have an impressive spread to share with your friends and family, but you’ll never see cheese and crackers the same way again.

I just started creating these for my own parties, so today I’ll be giving you some tips on how to create your own, step-by-step. 

A little background as to what charcuterie is– it’s (pronounced shar-COO-tur-ree) and actually refers to a selection of cold cured meats, but now it also it also includes a selection of cheeses, spreads, crackers, nuts, and fruit. What I love so much about them is that they’re completely customizable to taste, number of guests, dietary restrictions, etc. 

So here are my steps to creating your own.

First, choose a board, tray, or platter to be the foundation. Wooden or marble cheese boards are the usual, but glass and slate work too. Be sure to choose something large enough for your guest count. And shape makes no difference, it’s all about preference. 

Next, think about how you want to structure your board. Decide how many small bowls and ramekins you may need to hold any jams, dips, or spreads as well as things like nuts and olives you want to include. I bought inexpensive ramekins and little black bowls for less than $2 each from Crate & Barrel, but you could also just raid your cabinets for small dishes and they’ll look just as nice. Imperfection is perfection. 

Some of my favorite bowled items to include are dijon mustard, fig jam, green and Mediterranean olives, sweet gherkins, and a variety of nuts. Choose things that you love!

The cheeses are next. If your budget allows, go to a local cheese shop for unique, high-quality cheeses. I love Vino Market in Midlothian! But Wegman’s is another go-to and has a huge selection. Three to five cheeses is the perfect amount of selection to be sure to have a nice variety. If you’re a beginner the rule of thumb is to include a hard cheese, a soft cheese, and a blue cheese to your arrangement, but I always just choose whatever I am loving at the time. I will also ask the store for pairing recommendations depending on the wine I plan to serve and/or the meats I choose.

Next, include a few varieties of thinly sliced cured meats. Genoa Salami, prosciutto, speck, and mortadella are some popular ones. You can usually buy these prepackaged at the grocery store, but I always have them freshly sliced. A. This is perfect for beginners because you can ask the person at the charcuterie counter to sample before you buy. B. You can order the exact amount you need. C. More variety. 

When preparing your meats on the board lay them flat, arrange them in loose rolls, or some combination of the two. You can also include harder meats that guests can cut themselves, like summer sausage, pepperoni, or salami.

Bring on the starches! Crackers, breadsticks, breads are next, especially if your board includes soft, spreadable cheeses and jams. There are no rules, but I usually have three types of crackers–a water cracker, some type of flavored option, and a gluten-free nut-based choice (Nut-thins are a favorite). This gives your guests options and different flavor profiles.

Finally, the produce. Fruits add color to your board and add a little sweetness mixed with the saltiness of the crackers and cheese. Grapes, of course, are a great choice, but I also love to include things like dried apricots and apple slices to mix it up sometimes.

When assembling, only put out enough for a sampling and then refill as needed. The cheeses and meats won’t taste too good if they sit for too long. When your board is complete, set out a few cheese and spreading knives and dig in!

Try making a beautiful charcuterie spread for your holiday gatherings this year. Tag us on Instagram at @susanmorristeamrealestate if you do!