Grazing boards are quickly becoming an essential for any party, especially during the holidays. They are the perfect item as they have endless possibilities.
Some must-haves for the board are cheese and charcuterie. When it comes to picking cheese, you want to include some fan favorites.
“The three cheeses that you can almost always find on my boards are brie, Manchego, and some type of cheddar. These three are widely loved and pair well with all the other elements,” said Sarah Tuthill of EZPZ Gatherings.
Tuthill noted that adding an unexpected cheese, seasonal cheese or one that you can't find in the typical supermarket adds some flare to any grazing board.
Anaïs Saint-André Loughran of Chantal’s Cheese Shop said that holiday boards should include winter cheeses to keep things seasonal. These heavier cheeses include alpines and goudas. She added that gouda has a nutty flavor, so it pairs well with seasonal fall items like apples.
“The nature of our business is the seasonality of our cheeses, so ask your cheese monger, they will know,” she said.
“We like a cheeseboard to be a selection of diverse and complementary cheeses. Having cheese from three different milk sources (cow, sheep, goat) with different textures is a good guide, and focusing on how the flavors and textures work off each other helps bring the whole thing together,” she added.
Charcuterie is another essential element for any grazing board. Justin Severino of Salty Pork Bits likes to include an array of different textured meats and spreads. He recommends included a dried salami, a whole muscle cut like duck speck (Salty Pork Bit’s most loved item), something spreadable, such as chicken liver mousse, and a pate.
One pate that Severino loves to include on every grazing board is pate ciccioli, which is cured fatty pork braised in a pork stock with garlic and black pepper, then seasoned with a sharp vinegar. Pate campagnola, which is a country-style pate made with pig’s liver, is something Severino only makes during the holidays. It will be available for purchase right before Thanksgiving.
To balance out all of these fermented and savory flavors, Severino believes that you need items with different flavor profiles. He recommends acidic, sweet, and crunchy items to make the board well rounded. Once you’ve picked your cheeses and charcuterie, you can focus on the other elements of the grazing board.
“It can become a main meal for me and my family. It starts with a board and suddenly no one’s hungry, because we destroyed a giant charcuterie and cheese platter,” Severino said, laughing.
The flavors and textures Severino mentioned are a good guide to figure out what you will want to include on your board. Something acidic could be pickles or banana peppers. They add a nice crunch and flavor profile that cuts the richness of some meats and cheeses. Something sweet could be a chutney, jam, or honey. To keep things seasonal, Saint-André Loughran recommends the harvest chutney from Tait Farm, which is made in Pennsylvania. She also loves Quince and Apple products, such as their pear, honey, and ginger preserves.
“I could eat this one straight out of the jar, it’s that good,” said Saint-André Loughran.
Fresh fruit is another great option for the sweet element. Fruits like grapes, apples, and raspberries pair naturally with many different cheeses. The crunchy element of your board could be a spiced nut, salty crackers or crispy, grilled bread. These elements are just a starting point. The options for grazing boards are truly endless.
“The great thing about a gathering board is that there’s something for everyone,” said Tuthill. “No matter how old we are, we eat with our eyes, so if it looks tempting, it will likely get eaten.”
Both Tuthill and Saint-André Loughran mentioned that adding decorative elements to grazing boards can make things more festive. Tuthill loves cutting bright green Sage Derby cheese into triangles and topping them with red dried cranberries to look like Christmas trees. Saint-André Loughran adds mini gourds, pumpkins or persimmons, which look like mini-pumpkins. Saint-André Loughran added that you shouldn’t be afraid to add your own personal touch.
There are so many trends in the grazing board world and scouring TikTok or Instagram is great way to find inspiration for items and presentation. Tuthill said that one trend that clients love to learn at her ‘Boarding School’ workshops is the salami rose, made by folding salami ‘petals’ over a champagne flute. She added that personalization is huge right now. She loves to use cookie cutters to spell out different words with cheese for her clients.
Tuthill added that her inspiration changes, depending on her mood. “I rarely go into creating a board with a concrete plan. It’s sort of like staring at a blank canvas. I play with different shapes and proportions, and experiment with new and unusual ways to slice cheeses and fold meats,” she explained.
Making something your whole family will love is tough, as everyone has their own tastes and preferences. Saint-André Loughran recommends asking your family about what kinds of items they love and would like to eat. Severino added that you should include some traditional items, but make sure you’re still excited about your creation.
“I think the best thing you can do when presenting any type of food to someone is for it to be something that you want to eat,” said Severino.
No matter what you include on your grazing board, it will no doubt bring your guests or family together to enjoy something delicious. “The most satisfying part of creating a meal is what happens when a group of people sit around a table,” said Severino.