How to make the perfect charcuterie board for the holidays
Charcuterie boards are everywhere this year. And who can really blame us? Whether you’re creating a traditional meat and cheese tray or making a tray filled with desserts and candies, a charcuterie board is nothing if not delicious. But when you’re going to choose what to eat first and combining the different items together, how do you make the perfect pairing?
Luckily, I talked to the Director of Charcuterie at Columbus Craft Meats, Evan Inada, and he has a lot of thoughts on how to create the perfect pairing and what to include on your charcuterie board. According to Inada, it needs “cheese, meat, a form of acid, and something that adds crunch.”
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For acidity, he recommends fruits, olives, or pickled vegetables while the crunch can be “in the form of nuts and artisan crackers.” These work together to make your charcuterie board interesting, nice to look at, and delicious!
Acidity and crunch are a must for any good charcuterie board
Let’s move on to how to combine flavors! Most likely, you’re going to start with meat and cheese, you then have to choose other items to, as Inada puts it, “elevate” those and “build the perfect balance. Inada also suggested some specific pairings with a few of Columbus Meats salamis (I may or may not be drooling).
"A mild and salty salami, like our Columbus Genoa Salami, with creamy dense cheese, like brie, with acid and crunch create the perfect combination. For a more rustic pairing, try a parmesan reggiano and slow aged salami, such as our Columbus Italian Dry Salami, paired with marcona almonds. Each bite should be memorable and trigger all taste bud activators (sweet, salty, bitterness from acid, textural crunch)."
I also asked him what a few of his favorite pairings are and he included a couple of drinks those combinations go well with. Not gonna lie, the addition of chocolate with meat and cheese definitely has me intrigued.
"My personal favorite is an aged Mahón, which is a spanish cheese with a paprika rind, paired with our Hot Sopressata Salami and dark chocolate. I like to pair it with a craft beer or cocktail as charcuterie will completely transform the flavors of the drink."
Inada also suggests possibly the most unexpected pairing ever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen salami and caramel together, but now I want to try this! Also, as an olive hater, I guess I need to try this!
"Some of my other personal favorites are a soft brie with a mild salami, fig spread and strawberry. I also love parmesan reggiano with our Columbus Felino Salami, a castelvetrano olive (good for the non-olive lovers!) and a ringed breadstick cracker. An unexpected pairing that I truly enjoy is a blue cheese paired with a dry salami and caramel chocolate — a total flavor bomb."
Now that we know what to put on a charcuterie board and a few pairings to try, is there anything we should steer clear of? According to the Director of Charcuterie, there are a couple of things we should try to stay away from.
"There are a few items I wouldn’t include, for instance candy without chocolate, as it does not add the right texture elements. Also, inedible items are something you should be aware of, especially as they can be dangerous to consume. Make sure you do your research before putting flowers or other elements that might not be safe to eat."
A charcuterie board is also perfect for the holidays even in today’s world where we can’t meet people face-to-face or have parties in our homes. It easy to set up (you don’t have to get too fancy with arranging the meat and cheese) and can be delivered to someone’s doorstep without too much fuss. Inada explains further:
"In today’s world, charcuterie is perfect for any setting whether virtual, as a gift or for a small, intimate social gathering. It is transportable, easy to personalize and a great accompaniment to your meal."
Honestly, could there be a better gift than food? With these charcuterie board tips, you’re friends and family are sure to love what you create. And if anyone wants to send one (or a charcuterie chalet) my way, I am more than happy to accept it.
Will you be having a charcuterie board at your holiday celebration? Let us know in the comments below!