Food is such an important part of my life. Some of the most memorable occasions are attached to the food served. I would like to make similar memories for my kids. Saturday my family gathered to celebrate Daughter Number One’s Master’s Degree completion. I wanted to do something grand, so I made a cheese board.
As you know, I love cheese. That is one reason I love making a beautiful cheese board. My cheese board was so much more than a cheese board. It was a charcuterie board or a sample platter.
This celebration was for family. I had invited family to add to the board. It ended up being so much more than I had imagined. This was the ultimate cheese board.
If you are calling it a cheese board the important part is cheese. Obviously, if it’s a charcuterie board, you want to focus on the charcuterie. If you are not familiar with charcuterie it is a reference to cured or cooked meats, like sausages, hams, or bacons.
Choose a few cheeses to focus on, with some meats to accompany and amplify the flavors of the cheeses. With a cheese board it is all about the cheese flavors. Of course you want the accompaniments, but they should not outshine the cheese. Think of the cheese as the bride. No one should ever outshine the bride at her wedding!
So, pick cheese with different flavors and textures. Choose from hard, semi-hard, and soft cheese. Also serve cheese made from different milks: cow’s milk, goat milk, sheep milk. While you want different flavor profiles steer clear of flavored cheeses, such as fruit flavored blues. Remember, good cheese stands on its flavor.
One of the next steps is selecting the base to serve the cheese on or with. While cheese and crackers go together like peanut butter and jelly this is a cheese board not a kid’s sandwich. Some water crackers, wheat crackers, crostini, and sesame twists all work well. Again choosing different textures is important.
Meat can be important to move from a cheese board to a charcuterie board or an ultimate sample board. Dry salamis, prosciutto, hams, and even smoked salmon are all good choices.
Fruit is the next ingredient. I prefer using fresh fruit, but dried fruit is also good on a cheese board. Grapes, apples, and pears are wonderful choices. The flavors and textures are excellent with cheese; think about apple pie and cheddar cheese or brie and pears. Figs and apricots, fresh or dried, are also good.
I like adding nuts to my cheese board. Raw almonds are one of my favorites. I also like cashews, walnuts, and pecans with a cheese board. Nuts add another texture and flavor profile.
Condiments can make or break a cheese board. The condiments are where you can really add some additional flavor. Stone ground mustard and pickled vegetables are where you can add some vinegary zip. I like using sweet pickles, spicy pickled garlic, and pickled red onions. For some sweetness I add honey in a small dish or jellies that pair with the cheeses you have on your board; apple jelly, jalapeno jelly, raspberry jam.
I also like adding a few bite sized sweets; bite sized brownies or butter tarts work well. Always add some good quality chocolate. I think dark chocolate is a great pairing with cheese.
Last, add some greenery to fill in the spaces. Fresh arugula or other flavorful greens are a good option. Edible garnishes like fresh herbs really add to the look and aroma of a good cheese board.
Lay out your cheese board on a cutting board or two or some platters. Make sure to have toothpicks for cubes of cheese and meat, small knives for each cheese, forks for meats, and little spoons for the condiments.
Then your cheese board / charcuterie board / sample board is ready. It is time to sample away.
Add your own favorites to make a one of a kind awesome cheese board. While these are some very basic guidelines the best part is to enjoy making it and add things that you love.
Share some of your favorite cheese board or charcuterie board ideas with me!
Maybe a cheese board will become a memory for someone you love, too!