Sometimes I want to prepare a charcuterie board beforehand so that it takes the stress out of it, rather than a last-minute rush of activity. I thought I’d share a few tips about how I go about preparing and some tips and tricks in the presentation as well that I have picked up along the way.
Of course, being eat cured meat I’m all about making a few cured meats but I still buy quality, ideally, local products to add to an epic and spectacular charcuterie board (well in my eyes it’s hopefully epic!).
I lean towards a charcuterie board that is little bit more minimalist and highlights quality rather than chockablock full of every imaginable food (but we did that above actually), that’s my approach most of the time.
My inspiration comes from traditional and classic and often from what I’ve seen across Italian antipasti platters over the months and months we have spent in the country.
So I’ll dive into a quick answer, then get into a bit more detail about ideas around prepping to hopefully give you are helping hand.
Maybe some ideas about how to change up your charcuterie board as well!
Can I Prepare a Charcuterie Board Ahead of Time?
Yes, you can either prepare the entire board or prepare the cured meat and cheese ahead of time. Up to 24 hours before, as long as the board is wrapped and refrigerated beforehand.
Charcuterie Board Preparation & Tips
The way you fold the pieces of cured meat makes a little bit of difference when you can prop up and make it a little bit more three-dimensional rather than flat two-dimensional (will get some vids below to show techniques).
Having a few useful little storages and display things can help organize your charcuterie board a bit as well I’ve dived into them below as well.
Wrapped, Cool – Preparation Complete
Two main things you need to do to make sure prepping goes well.
Keep it in a cool environment like you’re fridge (mainly due to the cheese and cured meats). And you need to wrap or stop air or oxygen from drying everything out (kinda obvious I know).
Every fridge runs at around 20 to 30% humidity, which basically will dry out anything very quickly. Apart from your vege box in the fridge, I doubt you’ll fit your charcuterie board in there!
The easiest way to wrap a charcuterie board is using plastic wrap/clingfilm, sadly it’s made out of crude oil a.k.a. plastic which is something I like to try and minimize in the kitchen.
It’s a new thing, but you can get compostable/biodegradable plastic wrap, crazy I know! It’s made from PLA, which is a plant based plastic alternative.
Here is a supplier that ticks all the boxes, if you want to try them click below.
It’s unavoidable sometimes but I’ll throw down some other ideas that are of use depending on how big your charcuterie board is.
Preparing the Night Before
Cutting the cheese ahead of time is something I love to do. Then stored in the below beeswax wraps or container – in the fridge. If I need to slice the cured meat and salami, the same applies.
Then, the next day all I really need to do is put the preserved and pickled bits and pieces together and fold up the meat.
Put on the breed crackers and happy days, it’s ready!
Buying some decent extra-virgin olive oil, and putting a teaspoon of delicious quality balsamic vinegar makes an incredible little acidic dip for the bread.
And then if you want to go to the next level and have a dukkah, you can buy a decent one or…
You can put one together yourself, all I do is use some nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts or cashews. Add some dry cumin and all coriander, and salt to taste and you’ve got the start of a dukkah.
Other things I throw in:
- Smoked paprika
- dried herbs like oregano or thyme
- a little sumac
You can just use plain extra-virgin olive oil and dip the bread into this before the dukkah coating if you haven’t tried this it is sublime.
Better Cheese or Kids Lunch Wrap
Off-topic but related.
One of my favorite eco-products is beeswax wraps. They naturally have antibacterial and antifungal properties they’re made from beeswax and some other natural resins/essential oils.
These are an alternative for salami or cheese – definitely great for vegetables, nuts etc.
Although meat is not so good to have in contact with them, fresh meat is. Salami is better (read the instruction of course).
They are 100% fully compostable just like an apple core, I have had friends that worked in companies that make them. They really have to be made by hand which is kind of cool and in the mass-produced society we live in.
The only issue is that you don’t really get massive wraps to cover a whole medium or large-sized charcuterie board.
I do highly recommend you give them a go. Just an all-around better alternative and they should last 6 to 9 months.
You just rinse them in lukewarm water to keep reusing them. (They make awesome cones for holding popcorn, kids love sandwiches and snacks wrapped in them – because of the yummy beeswax scent!).
After they lose the stickiness, (it’s a nice stickiness, and doesn’t leave residue) – you can scrunch them up and use them for firelighters when camping!
But there are some eco-friendly plastic wrap alternatives that are out there, differently a good move for the planet (random fact, did you know wet wipes are actually made with plastic? Blew my mind hearing about this recently)
A better alternative is Wax Bee Wraps (but you do need a big one for a whole charcuterie board!)
Here are a few of my favorite bees wrap products, official guys supporting environmental protection.
I like ordering stuff from companies with a conscious, (ie, not Amazon if I can).
Here is a link to Bee’s Wrap – Been around a long time, great product.
Using Quality, Home Grown if Possible
Even now I have a super small garden, we try our best to produce carrots, herbs, beetroot, and other bits and pieces throughout the year. Luckily the climate we are in means we can grow things just about all year round, it’s pretty mild.
Whether it’s curing meat or making something from your homegrown backyard. The definitely takes it to the next level when you’ve done it yourself, based on all the positive feedback that I get.
Of course, for some people, this just isn’t possible in the big city, but finding those local produce that are doing it on a small-scale is probably a good place to start as well.
Or if you want to read about the above regular fridge meat curing, it takes 3-4 weeks, and can make some delicious HOMEMADE curing meats – here is a link to the page I wrote.
Color on a charcuterie board is a big thing, using the red shades of the cured meat contrasting with the yellowish and golden colors of the cheese is one way to go. And from an Italian perspective, a little bit of green summer on the board and give nearly got the Italian flag – Salut! Just need the green olives!
There are so many ways you can do this, yourself.
If you buy simple brined olives, there’s nothing stopping you from throwing a few fresh herbs and dried spices and leaving them in the fridge for a day or two. Then, you’ve got a hold new angle of flavor!
Folding Cured Meat Techniques
It’s not hard to do just to slit to the middle of a larger piece of salami and fold it in.
Rolling up or overlapping slices of prosciutto is also pleasing to the eye.
Some people like to stick a whole block of cheese on a board and provided a cheese slicer. Nothing wrong with this, but I preferred to slice my cheese beforehand, making it easier for guests to get stuck in.
Ramakins for Preserved Condiments
Egg cups! – Another little option for a small condiment holder they are but depending on your egg cup style – they can work!
Other ramekins for dipping extra-virgin olive oil, dukkah, or other contrasting chutneys and pickles are a good idea.
Whole Muscle Salumi & Dry Cured Salami
ie. Prosciutto, Braesola, Genoa, Picante (Modern name – Pepperoni)
Here are a few tips on prosciutto, it’s more than likely that you’re buying it from the deli and it’s already sliced up for you.
It’s good for five days, even a week. I’ve found it better to not put it in a container and may develop a slimiest on the outside, just keeping it under-wrapped in the deli paper works well.
Eventually, that dry fridge environment will have an effect on the sliced meat. It’s a bit different if you’ve got a whole bit of muscle, most guys will definitely not have a whole prosciutto leg or whole braesola!
But you might have a whole stick of salami, dry-cured salami quite often is quite fresh. especially the mass-produced one and quite a soft touch to squish.
I like to have my dry-cured salami a bit firmer, basically, it dries out a little bit and the flavor becomes a bit more intense.
You can do this with most dry-cured salami for sale, take it out of the plastic or paper. Let it sit in the fridge (wrapped with beeswax wrap or not.) In its casing, after a few weeks, it will be a little harder. Just try it, as it hardens a little.
If you’re buying from an artisan salami producer then more often than not it’s been drying for several months already.
As opposed to that tangy flavor where they use the acidity to speed up the process, a dry-cured salami made the traditional way does take a few months to put together.
Other Charcuterie Preparation
Rillettes and pates, it’s all a bit different.
The rillette is basically preserved in fat, confit is similar in method.
But pates are a bit different – spreadable offal product, more often than not a pates should be eaten sooner rather than later.
Just like fresh offal should be eaten fresh.
Although sometimes the fat layer on top is used to protect it from oxygen aging and deterioration.
Please note these are huge generalizations since there are people from all over the world reading this blog, I’m trying to give general advice covering what mainly you’ll get in the western world, but please take it with a grain of salt (the means it’s a generalization)
Hope this has helped a little!
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for decades.
I Hunt, Fish, Forage, Buy, Butcher (Wannabe Norcini), Make, Savor (I’m not a Saviour), and love curing and smoking meat.
Learning and consuming in a circular fashion, I am always interested in what is happening around the curing and smoking world
Seeking the passionate behind the passion.