"Charcuterie is a classic culinary tradition, but the concept can be revamped with cleaner, healthier, better-for-you bites -- perfect for the holidays and beyond!
A ‘charcuterie’ board doesn’t need to center around the typical meat products. Instead, it can feature better-for-you meat snacks and goodies from local brands you love. Did someone say “chicken”?
A charcuterie or cheese board is the perfect way to kick off a party! Why not celebrate AND feel good about what you eat?"
Charcuterie: What and Why
Charcuterie (shahr-kyut-uh-ree) dates back generations and has been considered a part of the French culinary playbook since the 15th century.
The French word ‘charcuterie’ is derived from the word ‘chair,’ which translates to ‘flesh,’ and ‘cuit,’ which translates to ‘cooked.’
Think about it: charcuterie boards bring to mind cooked, cured, or smoked meat like sausage, ham, and pâté. In America, the boards often include varieties of prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, and other pork products, heavily influenced by Italian culture. Other cultures have their own riffs on charcuterie, but there’s no rule that a board of delicious snacks has to have tons of pig products. In fact, the only rules are having fun and eating well!
Olivia Carney, owner of Instagram account "That Charcuterie Chick"said the best thing about charcuterie is its versatility.
“There is something for everyone! I also love that they create the incredible opportunity to be creative with your food. What's more fun than playing with your food?!” she said.
According to Carney, it’s the time of the year for “seasonal flair” to hit the charcuterie board: think mini pumpkins or gourds for Fall and Thanksgiving and frosted rosemary and cranberries for the Winter holidays.
Some people take it a step further, fully leaning into the seasonal vibes with themed boards, she said. Think: a hot cocoa board with tons of toppings and spices or a holiday cookie board. Don’t forget to invite the gingerbread people to the table! Whether sweet, savory, or somewhere in between, it’s the best season to get creative.
A Better-for-You Board?
It’s the holidays: the ultimate time to indulge. So is a ‘better-for-you board’ too much of a stretch? Not if it can be done tastefully and elegantly, the experts said. Alaura Berry, founder and owner of Berry & the Boards, which makes custom cheese and charcuterie boards, said that people love picking and nibbling from boards, so it’s a great way to introduce them to healthier snacks. They might find something new and healthy that they love -- whether that’s their intention or not.
“People don't realize that food that is good for you can be beautiful as well -- and displayed on a charcuterie/cheese board shows people that option!“ she said.
Carney agrees. She says it all goes back to the versatility of charcuterie and cheese boards: it’s the perfect way to explore new foods and flavors. Keep in mind that after many months not seeing friends and family, their food preferences and dietary restrictions may have changed, so having a variety of foods is key.
“It's all about balance and feeding your body what it craves!” Carney said. “Swap a salty, cured meat for high-protein, tender chicken bites from Brave Good Kind, or opt to include extra veggies and a yogurt dip! There are so many ways you can make your board to meet your needs.”
There are endless ways to build holiday charcuterie and cheese boards. A great way to start is to look locally for high-quality, clean products. By supporting local brands, you help your local economy and reduce the carbon footprint of your purchases. Plus, buying from a local store ensures you’ll have everything in time for your festivities!
First you’ll need protein. Trade the fatty meats for Brave Good Kind’s tender chicken bites! BGK’s Original, Teriyaki, and Hot Honey Bites contain no antibiotics, nitrites, or nitrates and are gluten-free. They make the perfect protein for a healthier charcuterie board. Jerky products are often tough to chew, but BGK bites are deliciously tender and have a clean, elegant taste. No embarrassing chewing moments here!
Bring even more positive energy to the party with lots of local love! Find our locally-sourced faves below, some of which are sold all over the U.S.
Curds Co Cheese
To start, the shop’s co-founder, Jenn Mason, loves picking a theme: “It could be as simple as a mix of milks (goat, cow, sheep) or a region (France) or all one type -- like a cheddar tasting board. This can make choosing pairings really fun.”
A mix of textures and intensities will keep it interesting, she noted. Think sweet, salty, sour, spicy, nutty, and umami.
Not in Boston? Find your local cheese shop!
When Pigs Fly sourdough bread and Savory Triple Ale Onion Spread
Always serve the freshest bread for your guests. When Pigs Fly has an amazing variety, including fantastic sourdough and seasonal selections like Pumpkin Cranberry Apple.
Plus they sell jams and spreads! A savory and sweet spread is a great choice. Find in grocery stores throughout the Northeast, or support your own local bread artisans.
Brewer’s Chips - Sea Salt
We love supporting the upcycled movement and seeing the amazing creations that come from using every last ingredient. These chips (plus crackers and flatbreads) are made using “spent” grain from brewing craft beer.
Q’s Nuts Rosemary Sea Salt Mixed, Lemongrass Almonds
Having a local nut store is so helpful with holiday entertaining. Q’s Nuts make fantastic gifts and are such a fun way to explore unique flavors on a charcuterie board.
Grillo’s Hot Dill Pickle Spears
There’s really nothing more refreshing than a pickle. Having a sour note helps the board have a balanced array of flavors. Grillo’s Hot Dill Pickle Spears add some nice spice too from fresh habanero and jalapeño peppers!
Find in stores (in the refrigerated section!) or via online retailers.
Fruit, Veggies, and More Adorn the board with fresh local fruit, vegetables, and other local products you love!
Assemble, Snap, Serve
Grab a dash of inspo from Olivia at That Charcuterie Chick and Alaura at Berry and the Boards to envision your board. Then grab all your products, and let the fun begin!
Assemble the board right before guests are arriving so that the products are as fresh as possible. You don’t want anything to be too dry, soggy, or unsafe to eat. Ask your cheesemonger which cheeses should be served at room temperature, and plan accordingly.
Snap a pic of your board for Instagram before guests dig in! Post and tag us with your creations!
Serve and replenish items as needed.
That’s it! Pat yourself on the back for boosting your celebrations with beautifully served, better-for-you food.
Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday season! Happy Holidays!