DIY Charcuterie for the Time of Coronavirus
May 27, 2020 1:26 PM   Subscribe

In my quest to make myself ever more enticing food to keep away from my cat in my one-bedroom condo, please help me build a great DIY Charcuterie board for myself.

I love charcuterie and after weeks of feeling sorry for myself because I can't go to my favorite place to pig out on meat and cheese and whatever else they put on there, I am starting to make my own. I ordered some basic stuff from Publix this past weekend and I loved it, so I am looking to step my game up. My original effort included a couple of Boar's Head cured meats, probably too many cheeses, some honey (nothing specific or special), and some berries. I have access to our local Fancy Meat Place, the Spotted Trotter, via Zifty, and I will probably get the Charcuterie Slice Pack from there, but if you see anything on their list that seems unmissable, please and thank you, I am taking advice here.

Otherwise, my questions are --

1) Any cheeses I should just not miss? I can get some cheese from the Spotted Trotter as well, and of course I can order from Publix. I might be persuaded to order from Whole Foods, but I'm avoiding personally going to the grocery store right now if I can at all avoid it.

2) THE MAIN EVENT. I am bad at the portion of the charcuterie board that is supposed to be made up of mustards, pickled things, whatever else? I don't know, I just pretty enthusiastically eat what I can get at the Iberian Pig here in Atlanta and I never thought much about doing this myself. So any suggestions for rounding out the experience would be great.

Products I can order locally or get shipped to me, stuff I can make without being in the Bon Apetite Test Kitchen, all fine. This is my version of treating myself at this point, so let's do it up.
posted by Medieval Maven to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Not necessarily "fancy" but to me a basic component of a true charcuterie are cornichons. I haven't looked for them at Publix before but they are a basic of a French charcuterie board and are fantastic after some meats. Here's a link the Maille brand ones from amazon but others may have fancier/nicer suggestions.
posted by raccoon409 at 1:31 PM on May 27, 2020 [8 favorites]

Literally any kind of pickle is fair game. You see cornichons a lot because people know them. But you can have pickled beets, pickles onions, pickles carrots, pickles green beans. I am not going to correct those all back to pickled because autocorrect.

Mustards, I honestly do not bother at home.

Nuts. Trader Joe’s has Marcona almonds with rosemary that I adore. Cashews are also good on a fruit plate. So are almonds. Candied pecans feel very decadent.

Jams. I make mine and this is why I do not usually bother with mustard. I find the jam a nice compliment to tart pickles while mustard is just more tart. My favorite is rhubarb ginger, but get what appeals to you.

Fruits. Grapes are common, so are apple or pear slices. I just get whatever looks good at the store. Sometimes that raw veggies instead of fruit. I used to be limited by why came in the CSA but we decided not to continue this season.

Crackers. This is an amazing place to do it up. Various grains. Vegetable crackers. Toppings like seeds already baked on. Different shapes! I happen to prefer small crackers because I have a very small mouth and eating a cheese and cracker in two bites in not fun or fancy. Again from Trader Joe’s, the rosemary and raisin crackers are very nice. I love them with goat cheese or manchego and also with Brie.

And one cheese I think you should absolutely try if you have not.

Humboldt Fog.
posted by bilabial at 1:37 PM on May 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

I love having plenty of starches on the board, like bagel chips or pita wedges or baguette slices.

Fruit, like grapes, will help cut some of the richness on the board. If you like pate, this is the time to add that. Yes to pickles too. Cornichons and/or dills or pickled asparagus, or sweet pickles if you prefer those.

I'd try to have a mix or hard and soft cheeses, mild and stinky.
posted by hydra77 at 1:37 PM on May 27, 2020

I'm no expert, but since raccoon409 mentioned Maille, I thought I'd just pop in to say their mustards are pretty good. And then I went to their website and looked at their mustard page, and well, even if you're not in the market for a $43 jar of mustard with truffle and chablis, I feel like the page has to be worth a look, from fascination alone.
posted by penguin pie at 1:37 PM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also I'm sure someone will arrive to offer clarification, specificity or clarity but traditional French food has a good number of "rules' to it. I had a foodie friend come visit me in France and when we were buying meats from a farmers market implored me to ask the vendor what cheeses would pair well so we could get those as well. The vendor looked at me with genuine confusion and said that no cheese would pair well with the meats as cheese is at the end of a meal and meats/appertifs come at the beginning.

To me there are two views you could take from this:

1. Do a deep dive a follow the traditional French ways
2. They always have something to critique anyway so do whatever pairings and combos make you happy.

(note: I have no idea how this applies to similar charcuterie plates in other cultures and countries. Charcuterie has come to mean any sort of finger foods served on a board in the USA that doesn't really match with the French version, and that's ok! Just know that as you research/ decide what belongs on it, that may be a bit of a split of approaches).
posted by raccoon409 at 1:38 PM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Cheese by Numbers is very helpful for some inspiration and guidance. Plus they have a very food porn-y Instagram.
posted by Fuego at 1:41 PM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Toro Bravo (Portland, Oregon) is a longtime spanish tapas restaurant that released a cookbook outlining, if memory serves correctly, a guide to building a great charcuterie board, a couple examples and lots of resources for what to get where.

If you're at all interested in making your own shit, Duck 'prosciutto' is real chill and real delicious.

Basically, I like to go rule of threes: 3 meats (think different textures; thin cut salami+terrine+longthin cut pig, 3 cheeses (one soft, one firm, one stinky), 3 starches (cracker, toasted bread, untoasted bread), and 3 pickles (olives, cornichons, more olives, pickled red onions, more olives, kimchi*).
posted by furnace.heart at 1:47 PM on May 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

Pickled okra is really good and not at all slimy. I've found it at the regular grocery store, and my cousin says it's easy to make if you like to can. I like the milder version. I think this is the brand I've had.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:12 PM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

My friend Marcy has a foodie business where she makes incredible spreads and teaches people how to do it as well. She has some fabulous boards on her Instagram, and lists all the components.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 2:15 PM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

IMO no charcuterie plate is complete without a dollop of good mustard and something like jam, membrillo, Marasca cherries, or another fruity note. Also cornichons or something else pickled for a bit of zing.
posted by Lexica at 2:34 PM on May 27, 2020

And this Martha Stewart article just showed up on my Facebook feed. Thanks, creepy algorithm!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:14 PM on May 27, 2020

I've never tasted a mustard that's better on a charcuterie board than Zatarain's. Readily available by mail order from many vendors.

Quick-pickling at home is incredibly easy, at least for sturdy things like onions, okra, green beans, cucumbers, etc. Bur ordering online is also fun! I love big caperberries on a board --- the kind with the stem.

Fig jam!
posted by slenderloris at 3:28 PM on May 27, 2020

See if you can find mango jam! The store by my work that calls itself a persian grocery carries it and it's deeelicious paired with a jalapeno cheese of some kind. I like a soft cheese and a firm-ish fruit (like brie and pear or something).

I like a few mustards on mine, a grainy and a horseradishy one usually!

A selection of olives is also a nice addition, I usually get a nice marinated olive (I like the green ones with lemon a lot) and some kind of smoked or tamari almond!

I like a pate of some kind sometimes! I've never met a cheese I didn't like, so I just add random ones - we do a charcuterie plate every friday night, so we add like one new cheese a week and it creates an endless cheese cycle!
posted by euphoria066 at 3:32 PM on May 27, 2020

Seconding Humbolt Fog (yummmm) and adding this Guilloteau Saint Angel Triple Creme (recently received as a gift, quickly finished, and am still thinking about it).

I like a good Manchego on my personal charcuterie plates as well as a nice juicy d'Anjou pear and cheese-stuffed olives.

My favorite crackers are what I am pretty sure are just Trader Joe's version of Ritz. Don't overthink it even if you're wanting to be fancy--Ritz are freakin' delicious.

I also like a scattering of trail mix--again Trader Joe's has a good one (which I am sure you could find a version of elsewhere) that has almonds, cashews, pistachios, craisins, and chocolate chips, and it's really tasty with all of the above items.
posted by lovableiago at 3:51 PM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

In terms of easily obtainable grocery store cheese: Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago is great as is blue cheese. Besides crackers, slices of apple work well too even if it's nontraditional.
posted by typecloud at 3:58 PM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

For mustards, my absolute favorite of all time is Edmond Fallot whole grains / "seed style." My wife and I went to the... mustard-ery? in France (it's a word in French! "Moutarderie." Anyway, the mustard-making-place) and I thought I would never see it again after we left. Fortunately it's showing up all over the place near us, even the not very fancy grocery stores. Give it a try if you find some. It's pretty spicy but not too spicy.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 4:06 PM on May 27, 2020

Quince paste
Marconda almonds
The best crusty bread you can make or buy
The best butter you can find
posted by calgirl at 4:23 PM on May 27, 2020

Oh my, I likes that menu. I'd go for some andouille and duck prosciutto. Drunken tomatoes can be fun.

Marcona almonds and a strong blue cheese make a good pair.

(I just made us a board with deli ham, shelf-stable bacon, lime-pickled onions and Flamin' Hot Cheetos so obviously I know my stuff)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:21 PM on May 27, 2020

To me mustard is a key component to any spread. Woeber's Sweet and Spicy is my favorite daily mustard. You can't go wrong with a Dijon. Assuming you have access to mustard seeds, making your own mustard is not hot hard. There are tons of recipes and techniques to explore. My advice is to watch out on yields and halve any recipes that make a lot so that you have more opportunities to experiment.

Candied nuts are always a nice treat.

On the cheese fronts, one of my favorite special occasion cheeses is Maytag Blue. It is a well balanced, creamy blue cheese.
posted by mmascolino at 6:03 PM on May 27, 2020

I would like to recommend following Cheesesexdeath for inspiration. I like the boards she builds because they are mostly sensibly sized for a single person, as opposed to the crazy Rabelaisian ones you see most often. She builds hers around a variety of texture and flavor contrasts and since they're compact, you can really see how the various contrasts of savory/sweet/salty/soft/crunchy/bitter/toothsome play out in miniature. And if you'd like to go all out, you can just combine two of her suggested boards for a feast!
posted by merriment at 7:34 PM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

A few cheeses worth seeking out:
Cypress Grove (misspelled as Cove on Zifty) - Purple Haze is tasty
Cowgirl Creamery - Spotted Trotter has the classic Mt Tam, but the seasonal St Pat, Devil’s Gulch, and Pt Pierce are my faves. Go for Red Hawk if you like washed rind cheeses.
Pt Reyes Farmstead Cheese - Bay Blue
Uplands Cheese - Pleasant Ridge Reserve

In terms of other ways to dress up the board, I’m a fan of mostarda - fruit mustards which bridge the sweet vs sharp dilemma. You can make your own by simply stirring together a bit of nice jam with a dollop of whole grain dijon mustard. Let your palate be your guide. Intense jams like blackberry might want an equal part of mustard, but a tangy and bright apricot might only need a bit of mustard to highlight the flavors and push it from toast and jam to compelling addition to your charcuterie board.

A drizzle of honey over some blue cheese or chèvre can be lovely.

Well toasted and seasoned almonds - toast at 350 until fragrant and 1-2 shades darker when you bite into one (they will crisp as they cool). Dress with a tiny bit of olive oil - just enough so that the nuts are coated/shiny, then a surprising amount of Kosher salt. Sub your favorite nut.

Fresh fruit - whatever is in season and tasty

Warm dates - Coat the bottom of a small pan with extra virgin olive oil and put over low heat. Add a small handful of dates and stir to coat. Once the fruit is warm, pour into a small dish, along with the olive oil and garnish with flaky salt (Maldon or Jacobsen).
posted by jenquat at 11:41 PM on May 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

Fresh cherries and berries (especially raspberries) are great additions, especially when they're in season. A pate or two also fits in really well.

It's nice to have a good variety of very different cheeses - e.g. a fresh one like goat cheese or cheese curds, a sharp one like well-aged cheddar, and some more mellow ones in between. It's also nice to have some cheeses you know you like and also some new ones. I try as many new cheeses as I reasonably can and my absolute favourite (so far) is BellaVitano. Of course this greatly depends on your taste, though!
posted by randomnity at 12:55 PM on May 28, 2020

Response by poster: Ugh, you guys, this is all so great, I don't even know where to start on marking best answers. I'm going to be looking at stuff and I can't wait to do it up! Thank you!
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:05 PM on May 28, 2020

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