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No matter the season, whether you’re hunkering down for winter meetups with friends or enjoying a sizzling summer evening of drinks and nibbles, a charcuterie board is a sure-fire way to way to impress guests.
As a party centrepiece or a luxurious weekend lunch, they’re a must-have for fine food retail customers, and showing off a fantastic charcuterie display at your deli is a great way to get your tills ringing.
Cured meats are a staple for any good delicatessen, and combining them with cheeses and accompaniments, like jars of chutneys, artisan crackers and even cheese boards and knives, in order to upsell is a no brainer.
Fantastic for large gatherings or intimate get-togethers, charcuterie boards might look intimidating, but they’re actually relatively simple to put together.
The most important factor is the meat. You can centre your display around what your shop sells best, whether that is classic Continental-style coppa and lomo or a British variety. Read our guide to the top types of charcuterie to know.
British charcuterie has become more and more popular in recent years. Many makers are basing their cured meats on Mediterranean-style favourites, but with a unique British spin. Others are leaning even further into their homeland’s heritage.
From how to assemble your display to what to include on a charcuterie board, the beauty of the charcuterie display is its flexibility. Technically speaking, a charcuterie platter is meat only, but today they’re often combined with cheeses and other accompaniments. You can create a charcuterie display to suit any preference – including, thanks to the growing plant-based meat alternative movement, a vegan version.
We asked Phil Bartley of The Great British Charcuterie Company to share his tips on creating a platter of tasty delights.
We’ve all heard criticisms of style over substance with products that look mouth-watering but can’t live up to the hype where it really counts: flavour. But to create a charcuterie display that will wow others, it’s important to have both.
“When creating a charcuterie display it’s important to not only focus on the quality of the products (needless to say this is still super important) but also the colours, shapes and sizes,” Phil advises.
From deep-red bresaola to bright orange ‘nduja or swirls of white and pink pancetta, you can find types of charcuterie in various shades of orange, red, white and brown. Cheeses add another burst of white, cream or orange, while fresh or dried fruits and accompaniments like olives or gherkins give splashes of anywhere from green to deep purple.
Whether we’re talking cheese, cured meats or accompaniments, variety is the spice of life for charcuterie displays. “Make sure you mix things up,” Phil says. However, remind customers to choose quality over quantity.
Customers will want to be able to select the traditional elements as well as have some fun options to choose from. While the meat should be your focus, don’t forget accompaniments that sit beyond the deli counter, like chutneys or a good selection of nuts, as they can be the making of a great platter.
As Candi Robertson of Candi’s Chutney recently told Speciality Food, “People want to sit down with sharing platters and charcuterie and grazing boards, and pickles and chutneys are a key part of those.”
Artisanal charcuterie is an occasional luxury, not an everyday indulgence. Your customers are likely splurging on these products because of the high-quality meat used and the time-honoured methods that go into crafting them. So make sure they’re handling their meats correctly, right up to the moment they’re eaten.
“It’s super important to slice your products properly,” Phil says. “There’s nothing worse in my eyes than a wafer-thin slice of salami. You miss the texture and flavour that the producer has spent time creating. On the flip side, an aged, air-dried ham cut too thick can be chewy, tough and hard to swallow.”
If you’re selling products that aren’t pre-sliced, be sure to share serving advice with your customers, and remind them that room temperature meats will have the best flavour.
When it comes to assembling a charcuterie platter, there’s a simple formula you can follow. First, add any accompaniments that are in small bowls or dishes – your olives, nuts, honey, chutneys and pickles.
Then, add your cheeses and meats. Pop the cheeses on first since they have more structure, then arrange the meats around them. After that, you can go wild adding crackers, fresh or dried fruits and vegetables. You can even add a few sprigs of fresh herbs, like rosemary or thyme. And don’t forget the cheese knives.
Charcuterie boards are all about exploration, so make it your own and don’t take it too seriously. As Phil says, “Don’t be scared to experiment with different slices and shapes, you’ll know when you get it right!”