HOW TO: Build A Better Butcher’s Board

charcuterie-board-butcher-boardWe’ve come a long way since sliced cheddar, garlic sausage and some saltines– a nostalgic classic that lacks some of the refinement and adventure offered by a well-curated butcher’s board. Whether you call it charcuterie, ploughman’s lunch or a plain old deli tray, there is an art to setting out an attractive and appetizing spread. Keep reading for D’Arcy’s quick reference guide to building a better butcher’s board!

VARIETY

When choosing the components of your butcher’s board, consider the flavour profile and serving style of each item. Rather than four different “hard” meats like salami or capicola– choose one and compliment it with a softer option like a terrine or pate. Round out the selection with different textures like a smoked ham or prosciutto, along with something more dense like a grilled kielbasa or chorizo.

PORTION

When considering variety, do not overlook portion size! Less is more when it comes to richer meats, cheeses and spreads. On the other hand, having too many crackers or bread slices is rarely ever a problem. Two to three ounces or 50 to 100 grams per guest is a good rule of thumb for an appetizer or a smaller crowd– consider doubling it if the charcuterie is the only food provided.

TEXTURE

As stated above, a good charcutier always provides different textures on their board. Not just with meats or cheeses– but also by adding nuts, dried fruits, sweet or savoury jellies and jams, fragrant or flavoured oils, crisp greens, olives and all manner of pickled delicacies. Remember the rule of variety and avoid including too many items with the similar textures. Same goes for the bread or crackers: choose a crusty, grainy option and a more plain variety for the best possible selection.

There you have it! Simply pair the info above with a good bottle of wine and some advice from the pros here at D’Arcy’s— you will be well on your way to gourmet stardom, whether you’re serving a small gathering… or a small army! A well planned, prepared and executed butcher’s board is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

ALL ABOARD: Serving Charcuterie At Home

So you’ve got your favourite meats and cheeses picked out. You have ripe and dried fruit of all varieties; pickles and other condiments abound; bakery fresh bread and even gluten-free crackers– So… Now what do you do?

Not sure? Don’t worry! We’re here to help. Read on for our tips to serving a gourmet charcuterie spread in your very own home.

SELECTION

Vary your selection. Mix and match textures and flavours, without bunching together tastes that are too similar. Consider staggering the selection throughout cocktail or appetizer courses for optimal freshness and diversity.

PRESENTATION

Charcuterie items are most often served directly on cutting boards, arranged loosely but deliberately. Items should not be crowded together or too sparse; make it is easy for guests to help themselves. Labels can be helpful, especially when serving strongly flavoured foods such as blue cheese, aged salami or spicy mustard.

PORTION

Encourage guests to be adventurous by offering smaller amounts in a wider variety. Split up charcuterie items into different arrangements so guests can attempt unique blends of flavours and textures. Portioning 100g of meat per guest is a good rule of thumb, but cater to your crowd’s tastes and appetites accordingly.

PREPARATION

Most charcuterie items are best served lightly chilled, but should not be left standing at room temperature for more than a couple hours. Prepare smaller boards or platters that can be rotated out of a fridge or cooler to keep them fresh and delicious for your guests.

PARTICIPATION

No matter the flavours or the culture, charcuterie is first and foremost about the eater. Let your guests go wild with a wide variety of foods, utensils and dishware. Labeled cheese knives, slate boards with items identified in chalk and exotic, rarely seen condiments are just a few ways to liven up your experience.

INEBRIATION

The subtle, curated tastes of a charcuterie board often lend themselves to enjoying them with wine, beer or cocktails. Do not over serve alcohol with your selection, instead: pick complimentary pairings and serve modest portions. This will help prevent your guests from overpowering the flavours of the board you created. Always drink responsibly and never let your guests drink and drive.

Have more questions about preparing, arranging and serving a charcuterie board or platter? D’Arcy’s experts are happy to help. We can provide you with the high quality items and gourmet guidance to cater to a group of any size or taste. Consider our local and handmade charcuterie options to add another level of authenticity to your next wine night, dinner party or any other gastronomic event!

ALL ABOARD: Charcuterie Explained

Charcuterie (shar-KOO-ta-REE) is a specific term with origins reaching as far back as 15th century France; literally translated, it means the products of a fancy pork butcher. Modern charcuterie does often include pork, but the definition has widened to reflect a dish served throughout many cultures.

Known in Britain as a ploughman’s lunch, served in Italy as antipasto and familiar to many North Americans as the humble meat-and-cheese plate– these days, charcuterie can be found in any number of variations and is served everywhere from pubs to high end restaurants.

ORIGINS

So how did people get in the habit of sitting down to a cutting board of sliced meats, cheeses, fruits and condiments served with bread or crackers? Besides the delicious results, cured and preserved meats like sausages and pates were created to extend the life of less-desired cuts and byproducts of meat. Long shelf stability, easy preparation and low cost led to its popularity among working classes. Fermentation, seasoning and other processes eventually gave way to deeper and more complex flavours. Like many other “peasant” dishes, the simplicity of characuterie hides an art form that is practiced by even the most accomplished chefs.

VARIATIONS

Whether you are in your local deli or at a fine dining establishment, picking and choosing what to include on your charcuterie board can be intimidating. Here are a few, short explanations of some of the more common options:

  • Meat: Consider sliced classics like ham, headcheese, salami or soppressata. Find a pate, terrine or roulade that suits your tastes– those are fancy terms for fine, ground meat served like a spread. Most are typically made with pork or beef, yet almost all items can be made with meat or game of any variety (venison, bison and boar are just some of the more exotic options available).
  • Cheese: Almost any kind works, from a mild cheddar to a potent blue cheese. Mix and match hard and soft cheeses, as well as sweet and savoury varieties.
  • Bread: Sliced baguette is very common, but consider alternatives such as fruit bread, rice crackers or hearty rye crisps for different tastes and textures.
  • Fruit: Choose whatever is in season for fresh fruits like apples and grapes, but also consider preserved fruit like dates or figs for added sweetness.
  • Condiments: Select a few favourites like grainy mustard or sweet pickles and mix in any number of the following in small amounts: aioli, bruschetta, cocktail onions, jams or jellies, marmalades, relishes, wasabi– the only limit is your imagination. Compliment and contrast the flavours you already have on your charcuterie board.

Remember, charcuterie boards can feature many samples of a wide variety or even just large portions of your favourite items. Why not strike a balance between the two and create your own blend? Familiar and far out, bold and mild, sweet and savoury– the choice is yours! Charcuterie works best when it presents diverse tastes and textures that create unique experiences when eaten together.

Come in to D’Arcy’s and we will help you build a charcuterie board customized to your personal taste. With our guidance and willingness to help, we can answer any question or concern you might have about the history, ingredients and flavours of our products. We can offer advice and expertise when it comes to creating, preparing and serving your perfect charcuterie experience!