Charcuterie boards are not only delicious, nutritious, and artistic; they’re an opportunity to discover and rediscover a variety of meats and cheeses.
What’s the difference between pepperoni and salami? What gives Manchego cheese its defining sweetness? Each meat and cheese has a story to tell, and flavorful gifts to give.
Meats that make the board — from light and delicate to bold and spicy
It may appear delicate — it’s nearly transparent, after all— but prosciutto is deeply nourishing and flavorful. This buttery, dry-cured Italian ham melts in your mouth, producing sweet and salty porcine flavors.
Hearty appetites, get in line. Salami is made from a robust blend of ground pork (beef and poultry are sometimes used) and cubes of fat, with seasonings like red peppers, wine, garlic, and coarse black pepper.
Seasoned with myrtle berries, salt, and pepper, mortadella, like salami, is a satiating combo of pork and cubes of fat. There is no shortage of varieties, including Spanish versions made with olives and Puerto Rican smoked mortadella.
Like pepperoni, soppressata is also a type of salami. Seasoned with salt, dried chili peppers, black peppercorns, soppressata gets its striking color from red wine, which only adds to each board’s visual appeal.
America’s chief contribution to charcuterie is in fact a type of salami made from ground beef and pork. Both are spicy but salami’s heat normally comes from garlic while pepperoni gets seasoned with various chili pepper varieties.
Soft and hard cheeses, from mild to robust and creamy to compact
Encased in a chewy, edible rind, brie carries notes of woodsy mushrooms and caramelized butter. Of French origin, brie will always have a home on the charcuterie board, thanks to its mild flavor and easy spread-ability.
Also called chèvre, goat cheese ranges from crumbly to creamy in texture with intense earthy and tangy flavors. But don’t let the creaminess fool you; goat cheese is a delicious low-fat alternative to some denser cheeses.
It’s one of history’s happy accidents: cheeses stored in caves during ancient times developed edible blue and green molds, and soon became known as blue cheese. Crumbly, sometimes creamy, it has a distinct aroma and sharp, salty flavor.
This rich and velvety cheese of Italian origin needs no introduction. Its bold, sweet flavor and springy texture is known as the white gold of Italy.
Hard, semi-hard, and semi-soft cheeses
What’s in a name? Manchego cheese is made from the milk of Manchego sheep, whose prolific grass grazing yields a distinctive sweetness. Manchego’s flavor profile deepens and its texture becomes more granular over time.
You know it. You love it. You can’t get enough of it. Cheddar, the world’s most popular cheese, brings a distinctive tang and can be mild, sharp, or extra sharp. Compact and dense, it makes a scrumptious cracker sandwich.
Monterey Jack (semi-hard)
Exceptionally creamy and supple, Monterey Jack gets its name from the Franciscan friars of Monterey, California, who created it for their own use. Monterey is similar to cheddar and colby yet milder in flavor.
Made from cow or goat’s milk, gouda is one of the oldest cheeses in the world (originating in Gouda, South Holland in the 1100s) and one of the most popular. Rich and pungent, it runs the spectrum from creamy to compact, nutty to sweet.
It’s easy to think of Colby as simply a milder version of cheddar but the differences run deeper. Colby, which gets its name from its town of origin, Colby, Wisconsin, is also sweeter with a more open texture and buttery finish.