How: Charcuterie Board

If you google “charcuterie board” you will come up with a heap of elaborate, colourful, very impressive looking spreads, artfully arranged on large beautiful stained wood boards or platters. Which looks intimidating! So what is a charcuterie platter, can you put one together yourself and how is it something that can make chartering a boat easier?

Pronounced shahr-cute-uh-ree, it is actually a French word for smoked, dry-cured or cooked meats. And it has come to be a very fancy word for something that I grew up calling the humble cheese board. When I was a kid, a fancy cheese board that Mum would make at home generally had a wheel of supermarket brie on it, accompanied by fancy store bought crackers. And some pickled onions if we had some in the pantry. We have certainly come a long way since then!

Having worked on yachts for the past four years here in Croatia, I have come to a much more flexible understanding of this kind of eating, and have found a very happy medium between the lofty charcuterie platter and the good old cheese board. Food here in Croatia is wonderfully unpretentious for the most part and this is very much reflected in how they serve and eat their cured meats and cheeses. Namely sliced on a platter, often drizzled generously in local olive oil and served with bread. Easy, unfussy and very satisfying! This approach also goes for freshly grilled sardines, and many other finger foods that Croatians are traditionally fond of.

I like to emulate this unfussy approach and add my own flair because I find charcuterie/cheese boards so convenient for eating on the boat! It is a colourful and attractive way to present food and the sharing factor means that each person can eat to his or her own fill without feeling rude about taking seconds or leaving food on their plates. I really find that this style of eating goes hand in hand with the relaxed casual atmosphere of a sailing holiday. And you will find many items in your Fresh Box that I love to put on my boards! Such as:

  • cured meats like kulen, pršut or other salami style sausages, sliced 
  • motar (or local capers if you can find them!)
  • olives
  • fresh raw vegetables, cut up into sticks or bite-sized pieces
  • small fruits whole or larger fruits sliced up. I particularly love berries, grapes, nectarines, mandarins or fresh/dried figs depending on what is in season
  • pickled gherkins or onions
  • hard boiled eggs
  • sliced cheeses
  • nuts

and so much more! Don’t forget the bread on the side, and a generous drizzle of olive oil if you’re feeling Mediterranean.

A board like this is ideal to use up the last few gherkins in the jar, leftovers from dinner, fruit that might be very ripe, or the awesome seasonal gems that you found at the local market. For oily items like olives, see if you can find a small bowl or container to put them in before you place them the board. Just in case someone doesn’t want olive taste on their grapes! I love to make my boards colourful and varied, making sure that there is something on the platter to please everyone on board, even the kids. And local ajvar is a great way to add a pop of colour, as well as a great dip for raw vegetables. 

And remember, it doesn’t need to be served on a Pinterest worthy hand cut wooden board. A large plate or tray will do just as well, or even a series of smaller boards or plates if that is what you have in your kitchen or galley. The idea is having lots of options laid out in a sit-down buffet style, cut into small or bite sized pieces, so that everyone can help themselves to the food and build their own meals! This is also a great way of serving breakfast or lunch on the boat if you have crew members who might be particularly fussy eaters or have to think about dietary restrictions such as gluten intolerance or allergies. If you are preparing food for anyone with food allergies, please be aware of cross contamination. Cutting bread last and serving it on a separate plate (or a basket is cute and very Mediterranean!) helps out anyone who is gluten-free, and cutting/preparing any meat products after all other items is a courtesy to any vegetarians or vegans that you may have on board.

Practice putting together a charcuterie/cheese board at home before you set off on your sailing holiday. It means less dishes to wash, less prep time and will get everyone anticipating the holiday coming up. It will contribute to the relaxed atmosphere on board the boat and give everyone a chance to sample some local foods that they may not have tried before. 

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