Creating the Perfect Platter
Charcuterie boards have become synonymous with artisanal meats, cheeses, preserves and bread. But choosing the elements for your boards can be overwhelming when you visit the store. Let us guide you in the art of creating these enticing platters.
When it comes to creating a cheese or charcuterie plate, you’re only limited by your imagination. Just about anything will work as a platter: cutting boards, baking or serving trays, large plates, marble or slate tiles. Don’t worry about having a matching set. Mix up the shapes, sizes and materials of the platters for visual interest.
Creating a Platter
- Keep it interesting on top of the platter by combining lots of colours and shapes. Cheeses can be set out in chunks or wedges or you can slice them up for easier grabbing. Fan out slices of deli meats, roll them up into cones or fold into triangles.
- Separate meats and cheeses with some of the accompaniments. Jams, jellies, relishes and honey can be placed in small dishes around the board. Handfuls of nuts and arrangements of fresh or dried fruit placed right on the platter add lots of colour and texture. Personalize your platter by including a few homemade items, such as crackers, pickles, savoury jams, relish, antipasto or a cheeseball.
- It’s up to you if you want to create a neat platter, with tidy rows of meat, cheeses and additions. Or, go for something artfully chaotic, letting colours be your guide.
- There’s no need to break the bank when it comes to charcuterie and cheese plates. Start by figuring out the quantity you need and then plan your grocery list accordingly, keeping your budget in mind. If you want to splurge a bit, pick just one or two items.
- Start by shopping from your own cupboards first! You might already have items in your fridge or pantry you can use.
- Make it a potluck and give your guests a chance to show off their own favourite meats and cheeses. This is a great way to try something new!
- With your platter built, there are just a few other things you’ll need to have on hand. Make sure there are enough knives for each of the cheeses. Include tongs or forks for serving, along with appetizer forks or spoons for guests to spoon chutneys, relishes and other things onto their plates. Make sure to have lots of napkins on hand —after all, we all love to nibble on cheese and cured meats with our hands!
If you’re making a charcuterie plate that is the centre of the party, plan on having about 1/3 pound (150 g) of different meats for each person. For parties where charcuterie is only part of the spread, your guests will eat about 2 ounces (50 g) each. We find that 4 or 5 types of meats are plenty, no matter how many guests
Choose meats with different textures: coarse or fine sausages or salamis, whole-muscle cuts —such as prosciutto — and spreadable options, like pate. Here are some cured meats you can include on your platters:
- Hot Capocollo
- German Salami
- Landjäger Sausage
There’s so much more to a grocery store cheese counter than classic cheddar or a chunk of Parmesan. Most large stores offer a wide selection of standard cheeses, along with more unusual cheeses to help create the perfect cheese plate. If you’re looking for something local, from a small producer, or a rarer type of cheese, try a cheesemonger. No matter what type of store you go to, ask questions and request samples, so you know exactly the cheese plate you’re building.
Try to include aged cheese, a soft, a firm, and blue cheese for a well-rounded cheeseboard. Feel free to also switch up the types of milk — cow, goat or sheep. Make sure there’s at least one familiar cheese on the board so all your guests can find something they like.
Resist the urge to put a lot of different cheeses on your platter. Three to five is enough — especially as your guests will want to try them with the different accompaniments.
Plan on each guest nibbling on about 1/4 pound of cheese (125 g), if there are other foods being served. Otherwise, you’ll want to offer about 1/3 pound (150 g) per person.
Cheese is best at room temperature, so give them time to warm up from the fridge. Hard cheeses will take longer, while soft ones should go on the platter just before serving.
Below are examples of soft and firm cheeses you can include on your boards. Remember to separate strong cheeses from the mild and have a knife for each type to keep their flavours from mixing.
Named for a small town in France’s Loire Valley, this full-fat goat cheese is easily identified by its log shape, grey rind and ash coating. This soft cheese has a mildly salty, nutty flavour.
Aged White Cheddar
Cheddar is one of the most common and readily available types of cheese. Made from cow’s milk, it will vary in flavour depending on how long it has been aged. Mild cheddars are aged for a shorter time than ones we call ‘sharp.’ Aging has a huge influence on the flavour, going from that standard mild cheese to one that is tangier. It also becomes harder and tends to crumble a bit when slicing.
White with distinct blue veins, Roquefort is known for its tangy flavour and notable odour. Originally from the south of France, this sheep’s milk cheese can only be called Roquefort if it is aged in that region’s caves.
Port Wine Derby
This cheese gets its signature marbled look from the addition of port wine. The ruby-red fortified wine blends with the smooth and creamy cheese, giving it a hint of blackcurrant and sweet berry flavours.
A creamy cow’s milk cheese, it is often compared to—or confused with—Brie. Once you cut through the soft, edible rind, you’ll find camembert is a little more pungent and has a stronger flavour. It’s typically packaged in small, circular wooden boxes.
Not to be confused with cheeses labelled Parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano is the real Italian deal. This cheese is hard and crumbly with a gritty texture and salty, nutty flavour. Most often used with Italian dishes, it’s delicious on its own—especially with a bit of honey.
Below the yellow wax rind, you’ll find that Norwegian Jarlsberg is a mild, slightly sweet cheese with butter-like colouring and plenty of large round holes. Aged for a minimum of three months, the massive wheels can be left for up to 15 months before going to market.
Although meat and cheese tend to make up much of any charcuterie board, they aren’t your only options. Various pickles, jams and crackers can help to create an endless combination of flavours and textures. Accompaniments can add visual interest and allow you to be creative with your pairings.
Here are some ideas of what else you can serve with your cheese or charcuterie boards:
- Bread and crackers
- Pickled vegetables, such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, onions or beets
- Candied or regular nuts
- Jams or jellies
- Fresh and dried fruits
Charcuterie can be more than a meat and cheese platter. Dessert charcuterie is a great way to offer a wide choice of desserts to your guests. Here are some of our tips to help guide you.
- Keep things small. Try to keep your desserts to one to two bites.
- Most people tend to have 4 –6 pieces at any event.
- Many cookies, squares, cakes and truffles can be made ahead of time and frozen. For best quality, we suggest you make your desserts no more than 1 month ahead.
- Having a variety of flavours, textures and colours on your charcuterie can help draw attention to your desserts. Try adding some fruit, candied nuts or flavoured popcorn.
- Having a mousse or a pudding in shot glasses can give your board more depth.
- Know your crowd. Play to their favourites but have at least one new dessert.