The art of charcuterie

Originally written for Quench Mag

In this day and age, the average cheese plate will no longer do. It’s all about the charcuterie boards.

The term charcuterie comes from France, directly translating to ‘delicatessen’ and involves a branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products. Although the term specifically refers to the cooking of meat, the connotations of a charcuterie board have extended well beyond that. A charcuterie board of the 21st century would classically be bursting with cheeses, fruits and breads as well as the cooked meats, offering a diverse and complex meal. They are all the rage right now and we have to wonder why.

Over the past 5 years, you may have noticed a growing trend of artfully designed cheese boards on social media and I believe that it’s because of this that the art of a charcuterie board is the new way forward. Instagram accounts such as @cheeseboardandchill and @cheeseboardqueen have amassed thousands of followers whilst @thatcheeseplate has reached an incredible 260k. Tik tok has also become overrun with cheese board makers as they post quirky videos of the steps they take to create these beautiful boards.

“Cheese plates can be an important form of artistic self-care.”

The founder of @thatcheeseplate, Marissa Mullen has even gone on to releasing her own bestselling book called That cheese plate will change your life which delves into the art of cheese boarding. On their website they’ve even stated that ‘Cheese plates can be an important form of artistic self-care.’ The book also includes the method of ‘cheese by numbers’ which is a simplified formula designed to help an amateur foodie in creating a perfectly well balanced and bursting board.

The key steps are: Cheese, Meat, Produce, Crunch, Dip and Garnish and the idea is that you lay out your board following this order in a step-by-step, fool proof fashion. I decided the best way to test just how easy this method was to simply try it myself! I love cheese and charcuterie a lot and I’ve often enjoyed making up a board for my family, so I was excited to increase my skill level. But most importantly, who doesn’t want a great excuse to use cheeseboard making as a form of artistic self-care?

As I am a student and cheese can be very expensive, I knew this had to be a budget board. So I popped into Tesco in hopes of finding some cheap and tasty goodies and I wasn’t disappointed!

The photos above depict the steps I followed when making my charcuterie board. I started with cheese – Camembert, cheddar and manchego. Followed by meat – chorizo slices. Then produce – grapes. Crunch – The corner deli co’s smoked paprika corn and The artisan bread companies tomato and sweet paprika bruschetta. Dips – caramelised onion chutney. Garnish – sprigs of rosemary.

I was so pleased with the result, it looked almost as decorative as the ones I had seen online. I found that the numbers method worked so well as it offered a clear-cut way of arranging the board and fitting all the food items in. This method is easily applied to any ingredients you want, meaning you can adjust the price point and taste to your preference.

After making this board, I am aware of the things that I felt could be improved on. The colour scheme of my board was extremely orange, saved only by the rosemary, and I believe this is something that could be adjusted by adding to the produce. More colourful items such as cucumbers, figs and strawberries would have added a well needed pop to my board.

Of course we baked the camembert!

The effort involved was definitely worth it due to the impressive reactions of my friends and family, and the board itself was the perfect size for a lunch for two. It offered the variety that a regular cheese board does not, and the idea of produce means you can make it a lot healthier and justifiable.

So. Charcuterie boards… are they the way forward? Many people could have been put off by their complex and boujee look, but Instagram accounts like @thatcheeseplate and their @cheesebynumbers methods have opened this world up to basic foodies like you and me. I would feel confident to present the board I created at a dinner party and would happily bask in my guest’s compliments. They are designed well to offer a perfectly balanced meal/snack with each of the steps bringing something new to the table. I would definitely recommend trying to make one yourself by following this method, don’t be put off by it’s false bravado!

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