By Ally Ortolani
I adore cheese. I absolutely love it. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner, I will never say no to cheese. I write this as I am eating Babybel cheese. Despite possibly being lactose-intolerant, the discomfort after consuming cheese is worth it. Cheese is quintessential to my mental health and general well-being.
The word “charcuterie,” originated in France and translates to “pork-butcher shop.” The original French translation refers to pork; however, modern charcuterie boards include a plethora of meats and other ingredients.
I am quite certain you have seen charcuterie boards on virtually every social media platform. My TikTok feed is filled with charcuterie boards which actually sparked my love and passion for making them.
Let me save you from your confusion; it’s pronounced “shahr-kyu-tuh-ree.” I used to botch the correct pronunciation.
Charcuterie is simply the art of preparing and assembling meats and other accompaniments, such as crackers, fruit, spreads, nuts, along with an illustrious list of fancy garnishes. Students can create amazing charcuterie boards too. Here are some tips:
Have a variety of cheeses
You can’t have a charcuterie board without cheese. What kind of board would that be? As a college student on a limited budget, purchasing fancy cheese is usually too expensive; however, some of my favorite inexpensive cheeses come from Trader Joe’s. Most cheeses are under $6 a pound. Considering the affordability of Trader Joe’s cheese, I typically buy two or three cheeses.
I recommend their double cream brie, Tillamook Kosher Cheddar, Parmesan-Reggiano, goat cheese with honey and their manchego cheese. One of my favorite combinations is drizzling honey on top of the Parmesan-Reggiano. I promise it won’t disappoint you.
Simply mixing honey and goat cheese together also makes an amazing spread to put on top of crackers or, my favorite, on top of Granny Smith apples.
Have a variety of meats
Equally as important is having a proper assortment of meats. Trader Joe’s offers a myriad of cured meats for a reasonable price. Growing up in an Italian household, I knew I could always look inside my refrigerator and find prosciutto, salami, capocollo, soppressata and other meats. It’s what was expected. Needless to say, I know the difference between bad and good meat, and Trader Joe’s doesn’t disappoint.
An assortment of cured meats pairs perfectly with cheese and crackers. It also gives dimension and texture to your charcuterie board which is crucial for its aesthetic quality. I usually choose two or three cured meats for my charcuterie board; however, the number is subject to variation, depending on the number of individuals consuming it.
Add fruits and vegetables
Putting fruits on your charcuterie board adds a pop of color and a lot of flavor, when paired with the proper cured meats and cheeses. One of my favorite combinations is inspired by the infamous film “Ratatouille”: a hard cheddar, cracker and a singular grape.
Typically, I prefer to include fruits, such as grapes, strawberries, apples, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and my new favorite, figs. As for vegetables, I typically include cucumbers or carrots.
While I’m in the process of arranging the meats and cheeses, I like to use the fruits as a border to separate certain sections of the charcuterie board. Perhaps that’s just my obsessive need for everything to be organized in a cohesive fashion.
Now, where can you find inexpensive fruits and vegetables? You guessed it; Trader Joe’s. Other grocery stores are completely permissible, but I can’t help advocating for what I consider to be one of my favorite grocery stores. I write this as I am eating Trader Joe’s dried apricots, another fabulous addition for your charcuterie board.
Don’t forget about the crackers
How can you have a charcuterie board without crackers? One could never. If I could recommend a cracker, it would 100% be the Fig & Olive Crisps from Trader Joe’s. I could seriously eat an entire box in one sitting.
Garnishing your charcuterie board is like the cherry on top of the sundae. Without it, it’s incomplete. Garnishes enhance the board’s presentation; it makes it more put together.
My favorite garnishes are sprinklings of fresh rosemary and pomegranate seeds. However, there are many ways one can garnish. Herbs and edible flowers are also great options.
It is absolutely paramount to garnish your charcuterie board, especially if you’re like me and need to post a picture on your Instagram story.