"Who needs to sweat when ... preparing food for your guests?"
When wiping down the outdoor table and chairs and pulling the unbreakable wine and beer glasses out of the back of the cupboard causes you to begin to perspire, who needs to sweat it when it comes to preparing food for your guests? Not you! So break out some of your nice platters and serving plates as the perfect way to dish up tapas (sharable food) in the form of cheese and charcuterie boards.
Knowing what cheeses and charcuterie ingredients to serve together can be tricky but Rick Peori, owner of All ‘Bout Cheese, has some advice. “If you are having five to eight guests, start with three or four cheeses.” Add another variety of cheese with every one or two guests you add to the list.
To ensure there are choices to please every palate, he recommends offering cheeses that contrast in their flavours, ages and types of milk they are made from: sheep, goat, cow and water buffalo. Pair them with complementary condiments, like spicy jellies, berries, honey, colourful peppers and/or premium olives, like those from The Pristine Olive.
Peori says to start building your selection with universal pleaser Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers. This Swiss/Gouda cross is produced by the award-winning artisanal cheesemaker, located outside Woodstock.
“It’s the number one go-to recommended as a perfect companion to both wine and beer. It’s also great with fruit, so it’s a hit with kids, too,” says Peori.
Next add a smoky cheese, like Applewood Smoked Cheddar from Britain or a smoked goat cheese from Blyth Farm Cheese.
Then add a fresh goat cheese that is “soft and applies nicely to a cracker,” like C'estbon Chevre from St. Marys. “Serve it with olive tapenade or a tart jelly,” says Peori.
"Don't make the mistake of adding salted ... crackers to your boards..."
Don’t make the mistake of adding salted or strongly flavoured crackers to your boards, as they will take away from the flavours of the cheeses, he added, recommending bread sticks or baguettes.
Contrast your cheese board with charcuterie, created from both smoked, preserved salamis and hams and fresh sausages that you pre-cook and allow to cool before slicing onto your serving platter.
Miki Hambalek, The Hungary Butcher in London, makes and sells 54 international styles of sausage.
He, too, recommends serving a variety of meats to be sure to please all your guests.
“Andouille sausage, from Louisiana, is a spicy variety that pairs nicely with a fermented sauerkraut and Applewood Smoked Gouda,” advises Hambalek.
Contrast that with a sweeter sausage, like Hawaiian with bacon, and serve with a dry white wine. He suggested that serving chorizo or steak-andonion sausage with hearty craft beers works well.
Purchasing your hard sausages – German or Genoa salami, prosciutto, soppressata or capicola – pre-sliced will save you time but slicing them yourself, arranging your cheese choices just right and sprinkling colour and texture throughout your plates and boards – in the form of condiments and fruit – will ensure your platters are true works of art created by you, the host or hostess who cares.