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    Southern Living says that Terrapin Ridge Farms Apple Maple Bacon Jam is their favorite jam to use!

    The Ultimate Southern Charcuterie Board

    You've seen them everywhere, from your Instagram feed to your neighborhood restaurant. Charcuterie boards are more popular than ever, and many feature intricate designs, a litany of items, and a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables as accompaniments.

    It might seem intimidating to make one yourself, but you don't need to be a professional food stylist to craft a beautiful cheese board. You can easily design one with a distinct Southern style, wowing guests with artfully arranged bites of delicious cured meats, cheeses, and spreads, if you keep our simple tips in mind.

    Key Components of a Southern Charcuterie Board

    Here are the five basic categories of ingredients you'll need to build a delicious snack board.

    1. Cheese

    The more variety the better when it comes to cheese. The rule of three applies here: Try to find at least three different styles of cheese to use on the board. Offer a mix of some sharper cheeses, as well as a more mild option. Try to include a soft cheese, and one hard or semi-hard cheese for textural contrast. And in terms of presentation, it can be nice to keep one cheese whole (served with a cheese knife), and slice others, to fan out across the board.

    Your local cheesemonger is a great person to consult with about options and will often offer samples to help you select a good mix. One of our crowd-pleasing favorites is Sweet Grass Dairy’s Thomasville Tomme cheese. This semi soft French farmhouse-style cheese is extremely versatile. It has subtle grassy undertones and a lovely buttery texture that pairs well with just about anything.

    2. Spreads

    Spreads are the glue of a cheese platter. Jams, preserves, even a little bowl of honey, can add a touch of fruity sweetness to complement all the salty meats and cheeses.

    One of our favorite spreads to use on charcuterie boards hails from Florida: Apple & Horseradish Jam from Terrapin Ridge Farms. Sweet apple juice is blended with spicy horseradish to create a sweet and savory companion to a wide variety of cured pork products and rich cheeses.

    Pepper jelly is another favorite we like to include, or for a fun Southern twist, you can use local honeycomb on your board.

    3. Pickles

    We don't just mean gherkins when we say pickle. Any pickled vegetable or fruit (like pickled peaches), can lend a charcuterie board an acidic pop of flavor. Pickled items cut through rich meats and cheese, and can act as palate cleanser between bites.

    If you have the time, you can make a pickle from scratch, using our Sweet Heat Garden Pickles recipe, or grab a jar of your favorite pickles from the store. Lowcountry Produce sells some of our favorite pickles, including their spicy pickled okra. Briny and salty olives also fall under this category, just make sure to include a small side bowl for pits.

    4. Cured Meats

    All charcuterie boards include cured meats but they don't have to be European imports, you can turn to options made across the South instead. Lady Edison's thinly-sliced country ham from North Carolina makes an excellent substitute for Italian prosciutto, and smoky andouille sausage slices can add a spicy option for heat seekers. Southern salumi makers offer options made from locally raised pork, like Salume Beddu in Missouri. Their finocchiona salami is an SL favorite that combines fennel, red wine, and pork from heritage-breed hogs for a salami with mild sweetness that plays well with nutty cheeses.

    5. Crackers

    A good cracker can make or break a charcuterie board. You need something sturdy, that can be dipped without breaking and hold under the weight of lots of meat and cheese. It needs to strike the delicate balance of being a blank canvas without being too bland.

    A classic butter cracker always works, but it's nice to give guests options, so we suggest including a few varieties, including one flavored with herbs, and another seedy version for textural contrast. One of our favorite cracker makers is Georgia Sourdough Co., which infuses their crackers with tangy and complex sourdough starter and sells a wide variety of flavors.

    The Extras

    This catch-all section includes sliced fresh fruit, as well dried fruit, crunchy veggies, and seeds or nuts. We use "extras" to beautifully fill in blank spaces on the board, but they're also the ingredients that add an extra level of flavor, crunch, or salt, for the ultimate bite.

    A few of our go-tos are bunches of grapes, dried medjool dates, toasted whole pecans, spiced peanuts, and sliced pears, but feel free to get creative.

    What About The Board?

    While you can of course build a charcuterie board on any large plate, platter, or board, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to selecting your base.

    1. Find something sturdy: Wood, marble, or ceramic boards are perfect for the job. If all else fails, your large kitchen cutting board can serve as a great base.
    2. Bigger isn't always better: The bigger the board, the more stuff you will need to fill it in. Keep that in mind, so you don't break the bank trying to fill out a giant platter, or accidentally over commit yourself to a large board that you don't have enough stuff to fill without too much repetition. The board we used for our Southern charcuterie board (pictured above at the top of the article) is 27" x 14" and is large enough to serve 8 to 10 people comfortably.
    3. Make sure it's food safe: You might have found a great decorative platter at the furniture store, but that doesn't always mean it's food safe, especially if it wasn't designed to be used for food.

     

    Build A Snack Board That Isn't Boring

    Three tricks for making your board look even better.

    • Grab some greenery: If there’s something you don’t want to put directly on the board (such as smoked fish), place it on a bed of leafy greens. This will add visual interest and make the items easier to pick up. This is especially important for wood boards that can absorb the flavors of items placed on them.
    • Add a flourish: Use small bowls to serve dips and jams. This keeps everything neat and contained. For a pretty finishing touch, press the back of a spoon into the dip in a circular motion to form a swirl. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs.
    • Create tons of texture: Include as many contrasting elements as possible, from scattered seeds and nuts to a mixture of soft and hard cheeses to fresh and dried fruits. Try not to lay anything flat against the board. For example, with sliced meats, it's more visually appealing to make tiny bundles, or roll and fold slices so they stand up and add dimension to the board.