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Okay, so maybe you’ll never become a master charcutier, but you can be sure to dazzle your guests with your amazing meat displays.

And, yes, meat.

Keep in mind that, traditionally speaking, a charcuterie board is primarily an assortment of dried and cured meats. A cheese platter is properly thought of as a varied selection of cheeses. And according to the experts at Pediaa.com,

“The main difference between charcuterie and cheese board is their ingredients; charcuterie basically refers to various meat products, while the cheese board refers to a selection of cheeses served together. … Both charcuterie and cheese board refer to an assortment of finger food arranged on a slate or tray.”

In fact, a strictly traditional charcuterie would consist only of meats.

As one news story noted,

“Charcuterie is just a fancy word for cured meat. The word derives from French origins in the 15th century, when people used every last bit of the meat and left nothing to waste. The meat was then put through a preservation process of curing and often formed into some sort of sausage or dry-aged meat.”

However, this certainly doesn’t mean that your spectacular meat tray cannot include a selection of charcuterie board cheeses and other complementary food items.

Such as?

Such as dried fruits, raw vegetables, fancy breads, crackers, and even sauces.

In fact, there are plenty of meat tray ideas that include much more than simply traditional charcuterie board meats.


Some Great Charcuterie Board Ideas for ‘Expert’ Meat TraysSome Great Charcuterie Board Ideas for ‘Expert’ Meat Trays

Historically, traditional charcuterie board meats – and the term “charcuterie” – meant specifically French meats, and “salumi” is the general term for most any Italian cured meats.

And according to Larousse Gastronomique, the foremost resource of culinary knowledge since 1938, charcuterie meats are,

“[P]roducts based on pork meat or offal…The numerous preparations of charcuterie include cured meats, fresh and smoked sausages, pâté, andouilles, andouillettes, black puddings (blood sausage), boudins blancs, sausagemeat, hams, galantines, pâté en croûte, ready cooked dishes and foremeats.”

As one blog author explains,

“Charcuterie is a mixture of cured meats which highlight forms of preservation or flavor enhancement. Ideally, flavors are contrasted or paired to magnify enjoyment, a combination of texture and color are also used. It offers variety and is visually appealing when displayed on a platter.”

For an easy charcuterie board that still tantalizes and reflects your “expert” charcutier status, it is far simpler to stick with cured meats, fresh and smoked sausages, and hams. These can include, however, a wide variety of specialty meats such as:

  • Prosciutto, that classic salami served sliced paper-thin
  • Saucisson Sec, a thick, hard dry-cured salami seasoned with fresh garlic and black peppercorns, is a classic French sausage
  • Sopressata, a coarsely ground, very fatty, dry-cured pork salami made with black pepper and garlic
  • Genoa Salami – dry, spiced, cured, uncooked salami made from pork
  • Mortadella, that distinctive cooked, cured pork emulsified into a purée combined with cubes of fat, peppercorns, pistachios, and other spices
  • Spanish chorizo – a hard salami made from spiced pork quite different from soft Mexican pork chorizo

Of course, these are simply the traditional building blocks of a classic charcuterie board. Today, tradition serves to provide a platform for experimentation, creativity, and unique, Napa Valley combinations.


And Don’t Forget the Cheese!

While you can certainly include gourmet cheese and specialty cheese into your expertly arranged charcuterie platter, another approach is to create a separate, simple cheese platter to complement your meat tray.

There are dozens upon dozens of simple cheese board ideas that can be incorporated into your entertainment menu along with your delectable charcuterie creation. And one of the best parts is that you can dress up your cheese platter with complimentary fruits, nuts, and crackers that pair nicely with the selection you have on your meat tray.

Ideally, the cheeses you choose to use should pair well with the meats you have on your charcuterie board.

For example, gouda goes well with many salamis, while parmesan pairs nicely with prosciutto, and Havarti is a great match for soppressata. Offering a mix of soft, hard, smooth, and dry cheeses is also a wonderful way to add a variety of textures as well as flavors.

And if you have meats and cheeses, you really should consider some great Napa Valley wines to pair with these tasty treats!


Beyond Traditional: It Doesn’t Have to Be All About the MeatBeyond Traditional It Doesn’t Have to Be All About the Meat

And when we talk of building on tradition, this also means taking a completely total “makeover” approach to your “meat” platter with a fully vegan charcuterie board.

This can, of course, include a variety of “vegan meat” products. These do not contain any animal ingredients at all, unlike many “meatless” products. These can come in completely vegan versions, often called meat analogs or faux meats, like bologna, turkey, ham, salami, pepperoni, and other sausages.

However, a vegan charcuterie board can also simply host a delicious selection of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, breads and hummus, as well as dried peas. Keep in mind that other beans and lentils must be cooked. However, these can be served chilled or at room temperature, as well.

But what about the cheeses?

Not to worry there, either! Vegan cheeses such as cheddar, gouda, parmesan, mozzarella, and cream cheese can be found in non-dairy forms.

So, whether you go for a traditional, dried, and cured meat platter, a meatless vegetarian approach, or a strictly vegan selection, a charcuterie board can still be a party hit for your next get-together.


Your Napa Valley Deli and Specialty Grocery for Creating an Expert Charcuterie Board

Located in the bustling center of Calistoga, California, Cal Mart is conveniently positioned between Hwy 128 and the wine country’s Silverado Trail, making it also a conveniently easy-to-find stop for locals and travelers.

As a family-owned and independent grocery store, Cal Mart has provided a unique, enjoyable, and memorable shopping experience for our customers for over half a century.

And we passionately believe that this is a big part of why we are known as “Napa Valley’s Finest Grocery.”

When you need the absolute best meats and cheeses for your expertly crafted charcuterie board, you need a Napa grocery that you can rely on. And Cal Mart is at the top of the list of Napa Valley grocery stores and hosts a superb Calistoga deli, as well.

In fact, our Cal Mart deli is where you’ll find a vast selection of gourmet, specialty, and hard-to-find meat products.

And Cal Mart’s employees are understandably proud of our large variety and wide selection of products, including delicious cheeses from around the world and from our own local cheesemakers.

We also have a superb selection of gourmet cheeses made from goat milk, sheep milk, cow’s milk, and mixtures. From hard cheeses to soft cheeses, from mild to dry to sharp cheeses, as well as raw cheeses and gourmet selections such as blue mold or white mold cheeses, we can help you complete your meat and cheese trays.

And while you’re here, please feel free to talk with our knowledgeable staff and then treat yourself to a cup of coffee or tea from our Coffee Bar.

At Cal Mart, you will always find something that is unexpected, unusual, and uncommon!