From the pastel shores of Amalfi to the sun-soaked streets of Paris, there’s one style of European cuisine that everyone enjoys in the summertime: the charcuterie board. This classic appetizer has its origins in France, named after the process of curing and salting meats. Once you combine these with a mouth-watering assortment of cheeses, breads and bite-sized finger foods, you have your charcuterie board — plus a gaggle of happy guests around your dining table.
The composition of the board varies between European countries, as connoisseurs in each land make use of their regional ingredients. So, if you’re looking to add some European flair to your dinner parties this summer, here are three of our favorite boards from around the world.
Italian mealtimes are a celebration. Sometimes, they can last for up to eight courses — and charcuterie comes right at the start as part of the antipasti. To prepare diners for the rich flavor profile of Italian cuisine, charcuterie boards are usually centered around one of Italy’s greatest exports: cheese.
According to the experts at Pasta Evangelists, “Italy produces over 400 cheese varieties, and many regions have their own unique specialities”. These don’t go to waste, as they explain: “charcuterie boards are also common in Italy, incorporating a variety of dried meats and cheeses, from gorgonzola to pecorino.”
As well as cheese, Italian charcuterie features regional salumi. Yes, you read that right: salumi, not salami. The name in fact refers to the craft of preserving cured meat, and salami is just one example. For a varied selection, you’ll want to use a range of meats with different amounts of spice, fattiness, and thickness — consider choices like prosciutto, mortadella and ‘nduja. Once you’ve got your essentials, provide some ciabatta and olive oil to balance out the bold flavors that anchor your board — plus veggies like roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts.
France is the birthplace of the charcuterie board, the term stemming quite literally from the French words for ‘flesh’ and ‘cooked’. So, you’ll want to make the French proud by going as traditional as possible when you prepare your own. Once again, provide a generous range of cheeses: consider creamy options like brie and comté, plus firmer selections like fruity sancerre or beaufort, which is salt-rubbed every day of its maturation for maximum moreishness.
Next, source some fine and French cured meat cuts. Authentic options like Coppa de Corse are best, providing a rich flavor profile with notes of hazelnut, mushroom and pepper. You can also use mousses and soft pâté — a true French classic — and if you’re feeling adventurous, why not attempt to make your own?
To accompany the heavier meats and cheeses, add a pop of palate-cleansing sweetness with grapes, sliced apple and chutney. Cut some fresh baguette, sourdough or olive bread to fill in the gaps, and voilà! You’ve made your very own fabulously French charcuterie board.
The Greek take on the charcuterie board is a bit of a departure from what we’ve discussed so far, as it incorporates more of the classic Aegean flavors that aren’t so common on the rest of the continent. Across the islands, dips are a big deal — so prepare some hummus, tzatziki, taramasalata, artichoke spread or honey and let these bowls take center board in your Greek charcuterie. As for cheese, consider marinated feta with red pepper flakes and thyme.
Extending out from this colorful core, pile swathes of rustic village bread, pita and lagana. Next, add some veggies — think carrot batons, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and peppers. To fill in any leftover gaps on your board, Kalamata olives and dried fruit work a treat — while pistachios and walnuts incorporate some welcome crunch to the mix.
While the Greeks don’t tend to worship cured meats quite like their French and Italian counterparts, there are some great delicatessen products on the market, such as smoked salami and pancetta. One popular choice is the traditional Corfiot delicatessen Noumboulo, which E-Corfu explains is “made of a whole piece of pork filet which is marinated in local wine and seasonings, put inside a natural intestine, slightly smoked by burning of aromatic branches.”
Once you’ve put together your board, take one last look before serving — ensure your creation looks colorful, appetizing and full. Lastly, all that’s left to do is pour a glass of regional wine and enjoy — it practically feels like you’re on a European getaway.