Making a Charcuterie Board, Austin-style

by Chef Wards

Charcuterie boards (pronounced shahr-cute-uh-ree) are all the rage, from whimsical holiday-themed charcuterie boards to super fancy ones featuring chateaubriand. Even Julia Childs would approve of this culinary choice for any type of event. 

Of course, you could go for charcuterie board delivery. Austin offers tons of vendors that will put together a spread of meats, cheeses, and more. But there’s nothing like creating a masterpiece all your own. That’s why we’re going to tell you everything you need to know to make the DIY charcuterie plate of your dreams. 

The best part? We’re making it easy (and yummier) to #shoplocal for all of the artisanal cheese, meats, and other ingredients you’ll need. Austin offers the best of the best when it comes to delicious cured meats, cheeses, nuts, and fresh jams and jellies. 

So gather up your toothpicks and mini-forks. It’s time to dive into making your first charcuterie board, Austin-style! 

Guests clink glasses over a beautiful charcuterie board.

First things first. Buy a charcuterie board. 

When purchasing a board to use for presenting all those delicious ingredients you have hand-selected, you’ll want to keep a couple of things in mind. First of all, the size of the charcuterie board, and secondly, its material. 

The standard board is around 9×13 inches, but you can find some that are far larger than that. Depending on what you place on the board, a larger one can serve upwards of 20 people. 

What is the best material for a charcuterie board? 

According to our favorite home repair guy, Bob Vila (who it turns out knows his food-grade woods as well as his home remodels): non-porous, food-grade woods (or other non-porous materials) are best when it comes to serving and displaying foods. You’ll want to choose one that is sustainably sourced and doesn’t pick up all of those flavors that are delectable when served at a party but don’t age well if they creep into cracks and crevices. 

Vila recommends teak and hard maple, among others. If you haven’t heard about them yet, live-edge charcuterie boards (where the natural edge of the wood is incorporated into the design of the piece) are exceptionally gorgeous and on-trend right now. 

If you are looking for an easy storage option for your charcuterie board? Austin-based Petrified Design should definitely be on your shopping list. Their cutting boards come with a handle to stow your board on a wall. I love that these charcuterie boards offer equal parts functionality and decoration. 

McGary Wood Works is another local Austin vendor, and their patterns are a bit more intricate. Their cutting boards come in American black walnut, maple, and cherry.

DIY Your Charcuterie Board (Austin-Focused Ideas and Ingredients)

In general, you will want to include the following on your DIY charcuterie board: 

  • Artisan Cheeses
  • Meats
  • Crackers 
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruits, pickles, olives, and other accents 
  • Sauces

Let’s dive into these, one by one. 

This charcuterie board features pecans, toasted bread, and dried fruits.

Charcuterie Board Artisan Cheeses

There are so many cheese options; where does one even begin? I like to select at least one from each of the standard cheese types, namely: 

Firm and/or Hard: Examples include Cheddar, Gouda, and Parmesan

Semi-Soft: Examples include Mozzarella, Havarti

Soft/creamy: Examples include Brie, Camembert

Blue-veined: Examples include Roquefort, gorgonzola

Delicious array of cheeses.

You can find all of these plus more at Antonelli’s Cheese in Hyde Park. As of this writing, they offer curbside pickup, and you are sure to find all of your tried-and-true favorites plus a few unique ones to give your cheese and charcuterie board a standout flavor.  They make it easy, too, by breaking down their artisanal cheeses into categories, making it easier for you to make sure you have all the bases covered. 

Estimate a few ounces of cheese for each guest at your party. You will generally want to take these cheeses out of the fridge about one hour before serving. It is always wise to check the specific cheese for serving instructions and food safety considerations. Don’t forget to set aside any leftover cheese and place it back in the fridge to avoid food spoilage. 

Charcuterie Board Meats

The selection of meats to include on your charcuterie board is long, but I would pick at least three from the following: 

Something smooth: Pate, for example

Traditional favorites: Prosciutto, salami, bologna, and ham are popular choices

Something unique: Texas dried sausage is a great go-to and keeps things local. Chorizo is another favorite, or what about including something a bit more untraditional, such as a wild boar soppressata? 

One of my favorite go-to local Austin butcher shop is Salt and Time. You can find everything there, from Lone Star State-inspired Salumi de Tejas to Wagyu Bacon. 

Delicious array of cured meats.

Don’t Forget These Charcuterie Bord Ingredients

When it comes to charcuterie boards, everything shouldn’t be meat and cheese. You will want other items to help cleanse the palate and balance the overall flavor profile of your presentation. 

  • Fruits – Fresh fruit is always a welcome addition to any charcuterie plate. Austin has a ton of farmer’s markets where you can find a bounty of seasonal fruits. You can also opt for sprinkling dried apricots, figs, and mangos around your board. 
  • Pickles – Pickles are a tried-and-true palate cleanser. From sweet to dill to tiny gherkins, pickles pair beautifully with dried meats and crackers. You can go beyond traditional pickles and include pickled mushrooms, radish, carrots, and more. 
  • Veggies – Fresh cucumbers, celery, snap peas, pepper slices, and other fresh veggies add nutritional value and a bit of color to your board. 
  • Seeds – Pumpkin, sunflower, or even pomegranate seeds are great additions to any board. Sesame seeds are a fun garnish that guests can sprinkle on top of their already perfect bite for a bit of extra flavor. 

Delicious array of seasonal fruits including oranges and banana.

Nuts and Crackers 

Nuts

You will want add a variety of nuts to your line-up. Some of my favorite choices nuts to include on any charcuterie board include: 

  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts

For locally sourced Austin nuts (not to be confused with nutty Austinites!) I love the selection at austiNuts.

Crackers 

Crackers are the foundation for your charcuterie board, so choose wisely. Consider including high-grain crackers, crackers that are more thin and easy on the palate, a flaky cracker, and don’t forget baguette toasts either. 

I like to introduce people to new crackers they may not know about and help them discover something new. But I also like to include a couple of choices from popular favorites because they appeal to picky eaters. Yes, we are talking about your run-of-the-mill, mass-produced store brands. 

The top-selling, most popular crackers in the United States, according to Statista, are: 

  1. Sunshine Cheez-its
  2. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish
  3. Nabisco Ritz
  4. Nabisco Wheat-Thins
  5. Nabisco Triscuits

Including a mix of tried-and-true favorites alongside a few types of crackers your guests might not have tried before is sure to keep everybody happy. 

Local Austin Jams and Jellies Add a Bit of Sweetness

Jams and jellies add texture and color to any charcuterie board. Austin has a number of vendors that make absolutely divine jams and jellies you should add to your lineup. Here are just a couple you should consider: 

Confitura’s Orange Chile de Arbol

Confituras is a local Austin store that makes its jams and jellies in small batches. Their orange chile de arbol jelly is a bestseller and will add both a distinctive flavor and a bit of color to your charcuterie board. 

Austin Jam Company’s “Fig Deal” 

Fig is pretty much a must on any charcuterie board. Austin Jam Company’s “Fig Deal” is both aptly named and delicious, and they throw a bit of apple in to boot. And the company works with local Texas farmers, another reason to love their products. 

Raspberry jam in a small bowl.

I always love to make my charcuterie boards a little saucy. Literally. Adding compotes, mustards, pesto sauces, and all sorts of other delectable ingredients are (shamefully) often left off the list. Here are a few of my favorite local Austin sauces. 

Dai Du’s Fireman’s #4 Mustard

Mustard adds XYZ. This whale grain mustard is made with local Austin brewery Real Ale Brewing Company’s “Fireman #4” beer. Even more to love! 

TexaFrance Pesto Sauces

Pesto sauce is a perennial flavor favorite. But these pestos from TexaFrance give things a twist. Roasted poblano pesto? Wild mushroom pesto? I’ll bite. 

Mustard in a small bowl.

How To Assemble A Charcuterie Board

In general, the best charcuterie boards look like beautiful chaos. But here are a few best practices for keeping that chaos looking beautiful, not gross.  

  • Keep sauces and in bowls, and don’t forget to include a spreading knife. 
  • Keep cheeses separated and pre-sliced.
  • Include toothpicks for picking up gherkins and other smaller objects.
  • Have plenty of tongs at hand for serving food safely. 

Food-safe garnishes offer the perfect finish to your charcuterie board. Honeycomb is one of my favorites; I love supporting Texas bee farmers. I also add fresh herbs (thyme, dill, rosemary, etc.) or edible flowers to my charcuterie boards. Austin has a ton of edible, native plants you can add to your array. 

Time for a dinner party? 

There are tons of ingredients you can include on your DIY charcuterie board. Austin offers so many locally sourced or made ingredients, so take advantage of the feast at your fingertips! We’ve given you a solid foundation so you can cater the specifics to a specific theme. From Mediterranean-themed to even dessert-themed charcuterie boards, there are so many variations to take your creativity to new and delicious heights!

The Austin Artisan Chef Michael Wards interacts with guests at a dinner party.

One thing is for sure; a dinner party is in order. If you live in the Austin area, we would be happy to host for you, whether it be for your next birthday soiree, executive retreat, or perhaps just a get-together with friends. Contact The Austin Artisan and let us know what you have in mind, and we will put our culinary wizardry to work.

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