Tis the season… for impressing party guests with a beautiful cheese and charcuterie board.

Christmas Cheesboard

Hay Hampers’ how to guide to creating the ultimate cheese and charcuterie board.

Whether it is a spur of the moment ‘pop over for a drink’ invite, a full blown Christmas party, or a festive family gathering, a meat and cheese board is the fastest, easiest and potentially the most impactful spread to pull together and is always sure to please.

So here are our top tips to making it impactful and delicious!

  1. 1. Choose the biggest board you can, whilst still ensuring you have enough stuff to pack it tight and fill it to the very edge. Wood, quartz or slate are nice materials – we have kept an offcut of kitchen worktop for this specific use.
  2. 2. Gather a well-balanced selection of gourmet ingredients. Like any great meal you want a balance – savoury flavours will dominate but it is good to counter with some sweet, salty, spicy and sour flavours (such as dried fruit like apricots and pickles like cornichons or spicy nuts). A good variety of textures is also important; hard, soft, crunchy and smooth. Use a good mix of fresh, aged, dried, pickled and cured. Consider seasonality of ingredients also.
  3. 3. Source the best hero products you can. The cheeses and the charcuterie are the heroes of the board, with the fruit, vegetables, pickles, relishes, nuts, crackers and biscuits the backing singers. Invest your money in sourcing the best heroes you can. A little of something good is better than a lot of something not.
  4. 4. Ideas for the accoutrement items:
    1.     a. Crunchy – celery, carrot batons, apple, crackers
    2.     b. Hard - walnuts, almonds, breadsticks
    3.     c. Sweet – pear slices, dried apricots, honey, onion marmalade, strawberries
    4.     d. Spiced – chutney, spicy roast nuts, chilli jam, gingerbread, rosemary breadsticks
    5.     e. Sour – cornichons, balsamic mini onions, piccalilli
    6.     f. Soft – bread, sundried tomatoes
    7.     g. Smooth – olives, cherry tomatoes, grapes
    8.     h. Decorative – edible flowers, herb sprigs, salad
    9. 5. Know how much to buy. In terms of portion estimates – 80g of cheese and 50g of meats per person should be enough for a party. To ensure variety we suggest a good board should have a minimum of 5 cheeses and 4 meats/fish options, but the more the merrier. Source at least 1 hard strong cheese, 1 soft cheese, 1 blue, 1 crumbly/mild, 1 flavoured cheese (like with cranberries or caramelised onion or chilli), and maybe consider one of these coming from a sheep or goat’s cheese option. Them at least 2 cured charcuterie meats or fish and 2 pates.
    10. 6. Consider convenience. It may be better for your guests not have to worry about cutting, so consider pre-cutting the cheese into portions – even if not the whole cheese, this also enables you to fan the cheese for greater visual impact.
    11. 7. Start building the board
      1.       a. Build it 1 hour in advance to ensure it reaches room temperature when serving.
      2.       b. Start with the biggest. Such as cheeses, bowls of chutney or items (like pate) in jars.
      3.       c. Fold the meat into flowers and add in groups.
      4.     d. Add the accoutrements, considering colour and shape when you place the items – an ombre effect can be impactful, or rainbow wheel or a balanced placement of a few colours such as red and green for Xmas.
      5.      e. Step back and admire! Provide side plates, napkins and knives and then wait for the ooo’s and ahh’s when you reveal it to your guests!