How to make a Christmas Charcuterie board
Tis the season to be snacky!
Ah, Christmas – that magical time of year when we open our homes to friends and families, cherish quality time together, and of course, savour seasonal and irresistible food. When it comes to delicious flavours and treats, there’s no better time to indulge then the festive season, and at Loch Leven’s Larder we are proud to supply some of the best local and artisanal products Scotland has to offer. But with so many culinary delights available, it can feel overwhelming and challenging to decide what to serve your guests. Here's our advice: Prepare a Christmas charcuterie board!
These delectable boards are the perfect solution to impressing your friends and family this Christmas, creating a glorious spread they’ll be talking about all year round. It's a festive and artful way to serve a wide variety of flavours and textures, allowing everyone to enjoy their favourite bites. Plus, the lack of cooking makes them super easy to prepare and creates a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere for your gathering.
This is one of our favourite ways to showcase our products and throughout this article, we’ll be talking you through how to assemble your own festive and crowd-pleasing board. We’ll look at how to select your meats and cheeses, delicious accoutrements and ways to garnish and decorate for a Christmas-y feel. Along the way, we'll be sharing invaluable tips and insights from our newest member of the Larder team, Robin, a true connoisseur when it comes to the world of wine, cheese, and delectable deli meats. He’s also very friendly, so if you spot him around the Food Hall, don’t be afraid to say hello and tap into his knowledge.
Charcuterie boards, pronounced shar-KOO-ter-ee, were first coined in 15th century France, pairing the two French terms ‘chair,’ meaning flesh and ‘cuit’ meaning cooked. They were originally invented to display a variety of cured meats and other goods but have since evolved to include a wide array of accoutrements. The more the merrier we say.
From cheeses to fruits, chutneys to jams, crudites to assorted nuts, there’s something for everyone! Many cultures have developed their own take on the traditional spread, such as Italian salumeria, Japan’s ostumami, and the English Ploughman’s lunch, now an everyday pub meal which was once favoured for its portability when working outdoors. In recent years, foodie fanatics have taken to social media to put their own trendy spin on the traditional Charcuterie, creating dessert boards, butter boards, and even sushi boards. This versatile and finger food style of eating has really taken off and honestly we aren’t surprised!
When asked what he thought about this sudden resurrection in popularity, Robin put it down to “a general big push for quality and provenance throughout cheese and meat distribution. Small producers are getting a bigger presence and there’s soooo much about.” Producers are becoming more unique and experimental with their flavours, such as one of our newer cheeses to hit Loch Leven’s Larder, the Zirbenkonigen. This cow’s milk cheese has beautiful hints of pine blossom mixed in as the cheese is made.
Aside from an appreciation for artisanal food products, a Charcuterie board offers a creative outlet and a rustic-yet fancy atmosphere for any gathering. A quick and simple way to enjoy a little luxury in your own home. For this blog, we’ll be keeping it simple and classic, discussing Loch Leven’s Larder’s finest cheeses, meats and picky bits to create a show-stopping Christmas Charcuterie board.
What to include?
First and foremost, you’ll need to select which cheeses and meats you want to include on your board. For those who are unfamiliar with the flavours and intensities of different cheeses, this may feel overwhelming but trust us it doesn't have to be.
“For a general guideline all you need is a little bit of variety. Go for at least two varieties of cured ham (could be prosciutto, could be salami) and at least three types of cheese-one soft, one hard, one blue.”
Yes, blue! You heard Robin right! Whilst some have an adverse reaction to blue mouldy cheese, put off by its pungent, sharp flavours and acidic notes, we encourage everyone to give this creamy and crumbly beauty a chance. Robin has some useful tips that helped turn him from a blue cheese hater to one of its biggest fans.
“Try combining your mouldy cheese with honey, a dessert wine, quince paste, or sweet chutney, basically anything really sweet that will balance out that saltiness and intensity of the blue cheese…I used to really not like blue cheese, you couldn’t pay me to even smell it. But during my wine course, we tasted some samples along with dessert wine and it was incredible… it just softens all of the harshness and brightens up all of the good flavours.”
Stinky cheese aside, it’s important to have some milder options on your board as well. Varying your flavours and textures will ensure there’s something to please every palette. Brie is a great option along with cheddar and stilton. Here’s just some of our favourite cheeses and meats available in the Larder deli, all locally sourced from dairy farms and suppliers across Scotland and the UK. Pop in and visit the Larder deli and ask Robin yourself for recommendations on which cheeses and deli meats will make your Charcuterie board an all round winner!
- Blue Murder and Strathdon Blue by The Highland Fine Dairy, located along the coast of Dornoch Firm and to the west of Tain. Deliciously bold with a creamy texture. For a more complex palette, we’d recommend the Strathdon.
- Lanark Blue by Errington Cheese, produced in the picturesque upper Clyde valley. Made seasonally from February to August from the milk of Lacaune Ewes. This transformative blue number is sweet and fresh in the spring but becomes stronger and can be peppery by Christmas.
- Hebridean Blue by The Isle of Mull, produced in Scotland's inner Hebrides.
- Arran Cheese
- Orkney smoked cheddar by The Island Smokery. Based in the seaside town of Stromness on the Orkney Islands in the far North of Scotland.
- St Andrews Farmhouse cheddar and Red Anster from our most local supplier St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese company just outside Anstruther.
- The Lady Mary by Strathearn Cheese Co. Flavoured with locally forged wild garlic and truffled rapeseed oil.
Finally, Robin’s personal favourite from the deli:
- Vacherin Mont d’Or, made from rich, unpasteurised cow’s milk, this cheese has a Brie-like, voluptuous melting texture.
“Its creamy buttery richness is just lush. Plus it’s only available seasonally at this time of year, so makes a great addition to a Christmas themed feast.”
How to arrange your board
This is where your creativity and personal flair can truly shine. Crafting a stunning display is an art, and there's no rigid template; just a few helpful guidelines to ensure it looks bountiful and aesthetically pleasing. One of the most fundamental parts of a beautiful party platter is the board you present it on. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or elaborate, but should be large enough to hold the amount of food needed for your party size.
A wooden chopping board will do well, especially if it has a raised rim to stop any elements spilling off the edge. Slate boards also look fantastic and can really elevate the overall look of your spread. Whether you’re after something wooden and rustic or sleek and elegant, Loch Leven’s Larder has a wide range of serving boards, beautifully crafted by the Scottish design company, Just Slate. For a Christmas themed board, utilising a wreath or tree shaped display will have a huge visual impact and is super simple! Just present your meats and cheeses in a circular shape with a hole in the middle, which you can choose to leave empty or filled with a cheese centrepiece. Now onto the fun bit…
Start by laying out your cheeses.
“You want your cheeses to be roughly the same size and shape, which if you go by weight is pretty easy to do. If you’re visiting the Larder deli, we can cut our cheeses up to similar weights for our customers to make this process easy.”
Then add your jams, jellIes or chutneys. Either dollop these straight onto your board or use little ramekins/small bowls for less mess. You can use star shaped dishes for your dips to make the spread more festive!
“Loch Leven’s Larder has its very own branded fig chutney, made by the award - winning, Galloway Lodge Preserves and is my absolute go to for cheese boards. It compliments the vast majority of our cheese selection and is a great way to tie in some Christmas flavours.”
Our heavenly range of preserves, jams and chutneys are also perfect accompaniments for a variety of cheeses. Whether you’re after something sweet or savoury, these products are guaranteed to elevate the flavours on your board. Here’s a few of our favourites:
- Cottage Delight caramelised Red Onion Chutney - pairs well with stronger cheeses such as mature cheddar or stilton
- LLL Fig Chutney
- Quince paste/Membrillo (from our deli)
- Tomato Chutney-pairs well with hard cheese
- Trotters Mostarda (Italian condiment, Scottish made)
- Fresh figs
Next, slot in your cured meats, presenting and folding them in neat patterns. Layering them on top of one another rather than laying them flat will be more visually appealing and make the board appear fuller. Similarly with your crackers, lay these staggered on top of one another.
Finally, fill any gaps using garnishes, decoration and space stealing features. Pick green and red finishing touches that’ll bring the Christmas theme to life, things like grapes, holly, olives, pomegranates, rosemary or cranberries.
“If you’re planning on mixing sweet and savoury flavours, just make sure to do it deliberately. Things like honey and apples will always go well with the cheese but it’s not necessarily needed to make a good charcuterie. For something fresh and light to cut through the fatness of the meat, you’re better off with grapes. Stay away from pears, unless it’s specifically going with a blue cheese. For example pear and Stilton is a popular and classic…pairing (excuse the pun) but the pear won’t go as well with the other cheeses and meats so not quite as versatile.”
Before you present
“Start prepping your board outside of the fridge at least 15 minutes before you want to enjoy your beautiful feast. Allowing the components to reach room temperature enhances their flavours and textures, bringing out the best in each element. If you’re not through with your board within 2 hours, I would recommend at that point cling filming any leftovers you want to keep and popping it back in the fridge.”
If serving your board alongside a glass of red wine, open the bottle and leave it for the same 15 minutes. “Most of the time when I've heard people finding red wine too astringent, it’s almost always solved by letting the wine breathe a bit. If you’ve never done so before, try having a sip of your wine when you first open the bottle, then again 15 minutes later and see if you notice the difference.”
When it comes to wine and food pairings, the food is always the dominant flavour, so reds which tend to be bigger and bolder hold up better when served alongside cheese and meats. Our top pick in the Larder has to be the:
Chateau Videau bordeaux - a well-structured and medium bodied claret with black plum fruit.
Similar to the way sweet honey and chutney helps with the strong flavours of blue cheese, this bordeaux contains botanics and elements to balance out their harsh notes. White wines, though slightly more diminished in comparison, can also cut through the richness of the cheese, with full-bodied and fruity whites offering weight and texture to match the cheese’s richness.
“If customers would like to come in, I'm more than happy to help them personalise their own board and suggest which of our cheeses, meats and wines would suit their flavour preferences.”
All in all, remember to have fun when making your Charcuterie Board, there’s really no right or wrong way to go about it! The most crucial part is that you pick what you like. “It sounds really basic and simple to say but whatever flavours you enjoy and get the most excited for - go for those!”
We hope you found this article helpful and have been inspired for your next Christmas gathering. Stop by Larder Food Hall this month for all your seasonal products and goodies and make sure to say hello to Robin at the deli while you're in!
Merry Christmas from us all at Loch Leven’s Larder and happy snacking!