10 Tips for the Perfect Charcuterie Board

Meat and cheese might be standard shin-dig fare, but that doesn’t mean it has to be your party’s meat and potatoes. Your brews are craft, your cocktails artisanal — your charcuterie should be made to match. Pep up that platter with these goodies:

1. Whiskey Salami // Creminelli // Salt Lake City, UT

From a family with 400 years of sausage making prowess — legend has it they cured meat for General Badoglio, Mussolini’s replacement — comes this Yankee twist on a Piedmont classic. Inspired by their neighbors at High West Distillery (and perhaps a tipple or two of their product) the guys at Creminelli marinated heritage pork in High West’s spicy-sweet Son of Bourye bourbon-rye blend.

2. Porter Crackers // Beer Flats // Cincinnati, OH

If beer is liquid bread, and crackers crunchy beer, these take the connection literally. A hearty mix of whole grains, butter, and, of course, a rich malty brew gives these crisps enough strength to support serious slabs of sausage, or sate your beer-munchies all on their own with notes of dark rye, molasses, and a touch of cocoa.

3. Raw Honeycomb // Savannah Bee Co. // Savannah, GA

Take 550 bees and 2 million flower blossoms and you get this: a gleaming golden ingot of pure Georgia honey, nothing added — not even air, since it’s still sealed wax-tight in the comb. (It’s edible, by the way, and good for allergies.) This is the good stuff, what the bees save for themselves. They’d gorge straight; we prefer a drizzle over your meat and cheese to balance their salt with a tangy floral buzz.

4. FDA Chocolate Salami // Dude, Sweet Chocolate // Dallas, TX

Take your dinner party full circle — with a twist. Deke your stuffed-to-the-gills guests (by now tipsy enough to fall for it) with a show-stopping salami log. More meat? they’ll whine, as you slice off a hunk. Not quite: Here’s richness of another sort, a decadent roll of dried figs and dates in dark French chocolate and almond marzipan. An idea born in a Dallas dive bar — as all such monstrous hybrids must be — the chocolate salami is so wrong, it’s just right.

5. Garlic & Cracked Pepper Cervelat // Schaller & Weber // Long Island City, NY

This century-old, family-run charcutier is the real deal — the best of the wurst. When you picture a classic German sausage shop — plump, meaty butchers smiling behind the counter; plump, meaty links swaying in the window — you’re salivating over this: a traditional, slightly smoky dry-cured salami, studded with tangy garlic and pepper. A taste of the old country, no time-change, or time travel, required.

6. Green Chile Cheddar Brew Bread // Soberdough // Nashville, TN

It’s easy to get mystified by baking, but Soberdough has simplified the process to three steps (on the bag) and you get creative control over the beer. Jordan at Soberdough recommends a Pale Ale or American Lager. We recommend the near bulletproof plan of getting a 6-pack, drinking five and putting one in the bread. Fresh out of the oven, smother it in butter and honey or Fuego Salsa.

7. Olli Salumeria // Calabrese Salami // Mechanicsville, Virginia

A fourth generation salumi maker slow curing world-class salami in small town Virginia? Believe it. It might not be the rolling foothills of Italy by Olli Comlignoli has a foothold on building an Artisan empire stateside. Based on 160 year old family recipes this salami gets a healthy pour of Sangiovese and a light smoking over Applewood. No need to reinvent the wheel here, your favorite bottle of red, good cheese and crusty bread.

8. Vermont Smoke & Cure // Pepperoni // Hinesburg, Vermont

With origins in a 250 year old woodland town literally chiseled from stone (immigrant Italian granite workers built the community) Vermont Smoke & Cure’s pepperoni recipe was able to satisfy some lofty expectations. Using age old techniques (Like smoking over corn cobs and maple wood) along with all natural ingredients the 50 year old smokehouse churns out Pepperoni that belongs more on a charcuterie plate rather than jammed beside a piece of cheddar at the gas station.

9. Hatch Chile Pesto // Gracious Gourmet // Bridgewater, CT

It’s a long way from Genoa to New Mexico, but the birthplace of Pesto meets it’s hatch in this American take on the Italian staple. You know a chile has a rabid following when it’s national festival manages to attract 30,000 visitors to the stifling sands of Hatch Valley, NM each August. Nancy Wekselbaum is graciously drinking the Kool-Aid of these chile-heads and has developed a unique hatchling spun off from traditional pesto that showcases southwestern flavours. We would go goat cheese and hatch chile panino or simply tossed with some spaghettini and pecorino.

10. Acorn Borsellino Salami // La Querica // Norwalk, IA

Paul Kahan, a five time James Beard Outstanding Chef nominee and the man behind the likes of Chicago’s Avec, Blackbird and The Publican shares one of his favorite artisan meat producers in America.

“La Quercia is simply the best American cured ham. I met Herb Eckhouse before he was selling commercially at a farmers market in Iowa and have been supporting him ever since. He uses the finest raw ingredients to make the best cured ham.”

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