IN FRENCH, a charcuterie is a butcher shop dealing with pork, but in this country we use the term nowadays to refer to most smoked and cured meats, and even more recently to an antipasto or appetizer board arranged with meats, cheeses, fruits and crackers. These boards are all the rage right now, and for good reason. Unless you have particularly picky eaters, there will be something on every board for every guest—even vegetarians and vegans—though the real fans are usually those who enjoy meats and cheeses. This can be a starter or the whole meal, served with a selection of wines, beers, ciders or soft drinks.
The boards themselves can be as plain or as fancy as you like. We have a wide selection of boards at Now You’re Cooking, in teak, maple, walnut, marble, or you can just use a piece of parchment on the ol’ kitchen counter! Lumberyards will probably sell you a piece of scrap you can take home, sand and oil.
In order to please everyone, it’s important to think about your choices. For cheeses, choose at least three—a hard, a soft and something in between; also something mild, something sharp, something in between. Same for meats—try a pâté, a salami, smoked salmon and some thin-sliced rare beef. Fill in the gaps with fresh or dried fruit (berries, cherries, dried apricots) and nuts—salted or not, roasted or not, flavored or not—olives, cornichon … the list goes on. Dips and spreads.
And for goodness sake, don’t forget the crackers and/or thinly sliced baguette, bagel chips or crostini!
You can build a beautiful charcuterie board using almost any kind of nibbly finger food, often things you already have in your pantry. You can spend a lot on exotic meats and cheeses, or use what you can find precut at your local grocer.
Here is a recipe for chutney and pickled onions (at Now You’re Cooking we have a lovely fig jam and a selection of Stonewall Kitchen jams and jellies), but whether you make your own, or buy it ready-made, your board is going to be a hit!
Eat with meats, cheeses, burgers and sandwiches, but also try it with your next curry!
8 ounces apples, peeled, cored and cubed
8 ounces red or yellow onions, peeled and sliced
3 ounces raisins, yellow or brown
3 ounces apple cider vinegar
3 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons ginger, orange zest, anise, cardamom (alone or in combination)
Place all ingredients together in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil, stirring to avoid burning.
Reduce heat to a light simmer and cook for 90–120 minutes.
Transfer immediately to sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch at the top. Screw on the lids, but not too tightly.
When the tops pop, tighten the lids and store in a cool dry place.
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