This holiday season may look a little different. Our gatherings may be smaller. But we can still make our celebrations special and this Holiday Charcuterie Board is a perfect way to do that. When our family gets together, charcuterie is always involved.
What Exactly is Charcuterie?
Originally the word charcuterie (pronounced "shahr-ku-tuh-ree") referred to cured meats. But it has evolved to mean an array of cured meats along with cheese and other finger foods that people can gather around to help themselves.
Charcuterie is a fun, casual (not to mention, delicious) way to entertain, or just to come together as a family.
My theme for this board is a winter Holiday one. I'm using winter fruits like pears, clementines, figs, and cranberries to give my board that festive, seasonal vibe. You can play around with endless themes for seasonal or special occasion boards. Think Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentines, Easter, and so on.
Besides a seasonal board, you ou can even do boards around specific meals or foods. A breakfast board, sandwich board, or dessert board are just a few possibilities.
The Board Itself
Although you typically think of wood when you think of a board for charcuterie, any material will work, just as long as it's food safe. Other natural materials like marble, slate, enamelled terra-cotta, bamboo or stone are beautiful and durable options. You can also use metal, plastic or ceramic trays. Even a baking sheet pan will work.
If you do decide to go with a wood board, there are endless options. I love the olive wood boards that I used here for this holiday board. They're beautiful and interesting. You can spend as much or as little as you like on a wood board. However, keep in mind that softwoods like cedar, pine, or birch can impart their flavours to food, especially cheese and fruits. It's best to look for hardwoods, such as olive, maple, cherry, or walnut.
What size board to use depends on a couple of factors: First, how many people are you serving? Obviously, a smaller crowd requires a smaller board than a larger one. Secondly, Is the board intended as an appetizer? If so, it should be smaller than one that's meant to be the main meal.
The board I'm using here is meant to be the main meal for 4-6 people. It's about 18" x 8". I also have a small 10" x 5" board for when it's just for two (date night board, anyone?), and a large 20" x 15" for a larger group. Having a variety of sizes means that you can cater to any size group.
And you don't have to stop at just one board. In fact, if you're serving any hot elements, like the baked brie I have here, it's a good idea to have a separate board for that. You may also want one board for meat and cheese, and another for fruit and vegetables. Even another for dessert!
Boards can be round, rectangular, square, triangular, or irregular (like the one I'm using here).
A few other essential items for a successful charcuterie:
- Small serving dishes or ramekins for spreads, dips, olives, pickles or nuts
- Cocktail spoons and forks for the above
- Spreaders for soft cheeses
- Cheese forks and knives for hard cheeses
- Cocktail napkins for everyone
The Elements of a Charcuterie Board
Lots of variety in textures and flavours are keys to a perfect board. Look for some salty, smoky, creamy, sharp, crunchy, sweet and sour elements for interest and balance. Keep colours in mind, too. At least a few pops of colour make the spread more appealing.
Choose 2-3 different varieties of meat for a smaller board and 4-5 for a larger one.
For my traditional holiday charcuterie board, I always choose Mastro & San Daniele specialty deli meats. They are my go-to because I can always count on their quality and authentic flavour. For this board, I am featuring Mastro® Genoa Salami, Mastro® Salami w/ Prosciutto, and San Daniele® Prosciutto. All of them are delicious and perfect for a holiday charcuterie board. Check out sharemastro.com for more info on these and other great products, plus all kinds of recipe inspiration.
As with Meats, 2-3 varieties of cheese work best for a small board, and 4-5 for a larger one. Try to use both hard and soft cheeses and both orange and white kinds of cheese for variety and visual appeal.
Spreads and dips are an essential element to any charcuterie board. It's nice to have at least a couple of them to compliment the other ingredients. I always include my homemade Pepper Jelly whenever I serve soft cheeses, like goat cheese or brie. Grainy mustard or creamy horseradish are perfect complements for cured meats. Finally, hummus or ranch dressing works well if there are vegetables included.
Other options are honey, chutneys, relishes, tapenade, or fruit preserves.
For beauty and freshness, always add some fruit to the board. I like to use both dried and fresh fruit. The choices are endless, but it's great to keep it seasonal, and based on your board's theme. For example, this holiday charcuterie board has winter fruit: red Anjou pears, sugared cranberries, dried figs, and clementines.
Crackers & Bread
Something that you can dip or top with meat, cheese or spreads is essential for your board. Use a variety of crackers and/or a sliced baguette, which can be toasted or not. Pretzels or breadsticks are other great options.
Nuts, Olives, Pickles
One or two types of nuts, especially interestingly spiced ones, are a great way to round out a board. And olives and/or pickles are a perfect salty-sour contrast to the meat, cheese and fruit. Pistachios were a natural choice for me here, and I used spiced olives and some pretty pickled beets for this board.
I love to add a tiny bit of dark chocolate or in this case those festive chocolates in gold foil. It's a nice touch to have a little sweet offering for everyone to finish up with. You can also add mints, or any festive candy to your board.
How Much Meat and Cheese Per Person?
The meat and cheese are the "weighty" foods on the charcuterie board, so it's best to plan on quantities per person for those items. As a rule of thumb, plan on three ounces of meat and cheese total per person for an appetizer board, and six ounces per person if the board is the main meal. However, this is simply a guideline. A lot depends on everyone's appetites!
How to Arrange Your Board
First, put anything in serving bowls on the board. Then start with meats and cheeses. It's a good idea to balance these on the board with one type of cheese next to one variety of meat. Finally, tuck berries and slices of fruit into any empty spots. Fill in all the nooks and crannies for a feeling of abundance. Be sure to keep crackers, bread, pretzels or any dry items separate from things like olives and pickles that contain a lot of moisture.
It's a good idea to have both white and red wine on hand, and I also like to include a rosé, as well as cranberry or grape juice for children and non-imbibers. Alternatively, try a big jug of sangria. This one: Winter White Sangria is a perfect choice to accompany a holiday charcuterie board.
Tips For a Perfect Charcuterie
- Prep your ingredients ahead of time. Slice or cube cheese, vegetables and fruit and store them in airtight containers until it's time to assemble the board. Even apples and pears can be sliced ahead of time. Just toss them in some lemon juice so they don't brown.
- Take your cheeses out of the fridge for 20-30 minutes before serving for the best flavour.
- When prepping prepare extra so that you can refill as needed.
- Perishable foods shouldn't sit out of the fridge for more than a couple of hours, so if your gathering will last longer, use those extras that are prepped and stored in the fridge.
- Keep in mind any food allergies, and try to include something for everyone. Nuts, wheat, and dairy are common allergens. It's easy to find gluten-free bread and crackers, and check the label on your cured meats as many of them contain wheat. The Mastro & San Daniele products that I'm using here are all gluten-free. If there are nut or dairy allergies, keep those items separate, or choose alternatives.
Disclosure: I have participated in a paid partnership with Mastro/San Daniele. Opinions in this post are my own
Holiday Charcuterie Board
- 3 oz Mastro Genoa Salami hot or mild
- 3 oz Mastro Salami with Prosciutto
- 3 oz San Daniele Prosciutto
- 3 oz aged cheddar cubed or sliced
- 4 oz log of flavoured or plain goat cheese I used black pepper
- 4 oz wheel of brie cheese oven warmed
Spreads and Condiments
- pepper jelly
- 2 Anjou pears cored and sliced
- ¼ cup dried figs
- 4 clementines
- 1 bunch of red grapes
- ½ cup sugared cranberries see how to in recipe notes
Bread and Crackers
- 1 baguette sliced
- 12 rice crackers
- 12 seedy crackers
Pickles & Olives
- ½ cup spiced olives
- ½ cup pickled beets
- Fill serving dishes and put them on the board first
- Arrange one of the meats and one of the cheese together in three groups, spaced around the board
- Tuck fruit in the empty gaps
- Arrange crackers and bread around the outside
- Serve with spreaders and cheese forks