Now that you have selected great cheeses and charcuterie and your friends and family are on their way over, what do you serve with them? There are so many options; we will help you make your picks into a great cheese and charcuterie board. The cheese and meat are the stars, but when you add perfect accompaniments, it is even better. But, what do you add to the board? Here is our list of 7 must-haves, all designed to make a cheese and charcuterie board a memorable presentation. You can be as fancy as you want and make artful displays, roses made from thinly sliced salami to just putting it all on the board and let your guests help themselves to whatever treats they like. Here are our suggestions:
Fresh bread or crackers
We always suggest fresh bread over crackers whenever possible. We like the classic baguette with our boards, but a country sourdough loaf, a walnut loaf or raisin and/or fruit bread is a great pick as well. When good bread is unavailable, crackers are fine. Plain crackers are best, flavored crackers are fine as a snack, but may interfere with the flavors of the cheeses and cured meats. Seeded crackers are a great choice, as the seeds get toasted during baking and add a nice flavor. You can also try rice crackers, matzo, or even cauliflower crackers, and there are many gluten free options available.
Pears are a great accompaniment to cheese, make sure they are ripe and soft. Apples are fine, red or green, the Fuji works well with cured meat and Granny Smiths are a nice sweet/tart combination that pairs well to cheeses. Berries are great with triple cream cheeses, especially blueberries. When in season, cherries are great with savory items like spicy salami or washed rind cheese. Fresh figs are an all-time favorite to go with both cheese and cured meats, the natural sweetness is great with ricotta and soft ripened cheeses. Grapes are a classic combination, both red and green. Don’t forget that dried fruit also works well. Raisins, cherries, apricots, apples and figs all can be a wonderful substitution for fresh fruit.
Mustard is such a great match to both cured meat and to bolder cheeses. There are so many types of mustard to pick from, smooth or coarse, strong or flavor added. Try the whole grain mustard with any cured meat. The spicy whole muscle cuts are exceptional with a bold mustard, even a horseradish infused mustard. The Italians make a variety of fruits in a mustard sauce called mostarda. Mostarda pairs well with mountain tomme cheese and softer sheep milk cheeses. There are several types of Mostarda to choose from, our favorites are the mixed fruit and the mustard and quince.. Honey mustard is great with both cheese and cured meats, just make sure it is not too sweet.
Nuts are perfect with cheese, and walnuts are great with cured meats, especially pork salami style meats. Toasted pecans and hazelnuts as well at black walnuts are wonderful accompaniments for most cheeses. Hazelnuts are tasty when served with white bloomy rind cheeses like brie and camembert. Toasted pecans are wonderful with full flavored cow’s milk cheeses. Walnuts are exceptional with blue cheeses. Pistachios work with most salami styles. Various nuts can be candied, made to be spicy or flavored, these all can work on your presentation as well. Nuts are a great addition to cheese and cured meat boards.
Honey is an all time favorite for both cheese and cured meats. Fresh ricotta with sweet honey and nuts is a major treat. Try savory or bitter honey as well, herbal honeys are great with full flavored cheeses. Bitter honey is a foil for triple cream cheeses, it balances out the combined flavors. Nuts in honey is also a very traditional accompaniment. There are so many honeys to pick from, Honeysuckle flower honey is great for delicate flavored cheese, big bold cheddars are great with a spicy honey. Cotto ham with a touch of honey really brings out the sweetness in the ham. Honey can be enjoyed with most cheeses and spicy cured meats.
Olives are also a must have. The salty brine of the olives give them a flavor that compliments cheese and most cured meats very well. Try a blend of green and black olives, both are tasty. The big meaty green olives go perfect with duck prosciutto and smoked country ham. The small black olives pair with aged sheep milk cheese, like Pecorino Maremma. Olives come plain, lightly spiced, seasoned with citrus or other bold flavors, most are perfect for cheese and charcuterie boards.
Pickled items are a must - think cornichons or pickled pearled onions. The vinegar can work with stronger cheeses, especially washed rind cheeses. Pickled sweet peppers, like peppadews are a nice addition to your board. Our Spanish pickled Piparras peppers are perfect if you include any tinned seafood on your board, or with bold cured meat. I have had pickled turnip stems alongside a camembert style cheese that was spectacular. Most pickled hard veggies, carrots, turnips etc work well and add an additional flavor to your boards.
Use any of the ideas to robust up any cheese and cured meat boards. The main items are great on their own, but the flavors can be enhanced by adding any of the suggested items above. The goal is to give your guests great flavor combinations, get them to try something new and enjoy the various flavors. You can make them very fancy with precision cheese cutting, arranging the cured meat slices in artistic ways. These suggestions also add additional textures and colors to your boards. Not only can you make them taste better with all the additions, you can make them fun and distinctive. There is no reason to have a plain cheese and meat board when you can make it special.