A Beginners Guide to Charcuterie

Wine and cheese. It’s a match made in heaven, and my ideal way to indulge on a weekend night with friends. Well, any day of the week really. I started dabbling in the world of Charcuterie boards last summer, and now it’s my go-to for entertaining. Charcuterie is French for “wicked fancy cheese plate.” Or something like that. It’s like the cheese equivalent of sommelier, which really just means someone who is really good at drinking wine. So charcuterie means you are really good at arranging and eating cheese. And that makes me a pro when it comes to charcuterie boards.

I’ve partnered with Cabot Cheese, Le Creuset and Charles Viancin to spread some cheer this winter as part of their #CheersandCheese campaign. And what better way to spread some cheer than by sharing with you my beginners guide to charcuterie.

The hardest part of charcuterie is figuring out how to pronounce it. After you’ve got that down, you’re golden. Say it with me …. “Shar … coot … errrr … eeee!” Now onto the easy stuff. Variety is the spice of life when it comes to arranging your charcuterie board, and there’s really no right or wrong way to do it. I always strive to find a solid balance of sweet, salty, soft and crunchy flavors. Here are some of my general guidelines for arranging your board of flavors:

  • Start with a variety of hard cheeses (one to three)
  • Add a soft, spreadable cheese, like a goat cheese or brie
  • Include a spreadable sweet such as jam, honey or fig preserves
  • Layer in salty flavors with a combination of meats like sopressata or prosciutto and olives
  • Sprinkle in some crunchy bites like almonds or thinly sliced apples
  • Dress up the board with colorful fruit like grapes, blueberries or strawberries
  • And have one or two types of crackers, or toasted baguette slices to spread the goodness on

I got to try several different varieties of cheese from the Cabot Legacy collection, including the White Oak, Farmhouse Reserve, New York Reserve and Alpine Vintage Cheddar Cheeses. I didn’t know there were so many different flavors and textures of cheddar cheese! They were all delicious, and I used three of them to round out the flavors on my charcuterie board, along with some goat cheese.

The board is another easy way to decorate and organize your charcuterie. I’ve picked up a variety of different wooden boards and some slate cheese trays over the years. If I’m enjoying happy hour on the back patio with friends, I usually take a big tray with handles and use a bunch of smaller plates, trays and bowls inside it to arrange the ingredients. Now, on to the other important part of wine and cheese: the wine.

I love this Le Creuset wine carafe because it fit perfectly on my cheese tray and was easier than balancing a full bottle of wine. The bright blue color was a bold addition to the array of fruits and cheeses on the platter, and really made the arrangement pop. You could also fill this carafe with a delicious sangria if you wanted to let the fruit and wine flavors get all happy together in there during the day.

And just because they’ve thought of everything these days, I loved these little silicon wine markers from Charles Viancin. I picked the daisy design to go along with the silicon wine stopper I got, which kept the wine fresh, and everyone knew who’s glass of wine belong to who … which is often a challenge among my friends after we’ve spent a few hours with wine and cheese. I’m no sommelier, so I can’t tell you what kind of wine goes best with particular cheeses, but in the summer I love refreshing whites like Pinot Gris, Albarino or bubbly Rose. In the winter, I definitely love a good glass (or bottle) of Pinot Noir with my cheese boards.

So if you are looking to spice up your next happy hour or book club (which is a fancy word for “wine club”), take your best shot at pulling together a charcuterie board with some of my guiding principles: Keep it sweet, keep it salty, and keep the wine flowing. Cheers!


*This post is sponsored by Le Creuset, Cabot Cheese and Charles Viancin, but all opinions are my own.