Since I’m dairy-free, I make charcuterie boards rather than cheese boards. Simple enough: there is just no cheese on them! But since you’re removing what many consider to be a quintessential part of a board, you need to think about what you’re going to add, or increase, in order to round out your board and still make it interesting and satisfying (from a visual and taste perspective!). These are my tips for creating the perfect late-summer charcuterie board.
Consider Your Late-Summer Charcuterie Board Ingredients
You’re looking to make a late-summer charcuterie board, so consider the ingredients that are the best of the season! A charcuterie board does not have to be the same thing every time you make it. Think about a few things that you want to eat together (like proscuitto with melon, or fresh figs with honey) and then make sure you have those elements on your board.
What’s in season will vary depending on where you live, but for late-summer in Chicago, there are a few ingredients I wanted to makes sure to incorporate:
- Honeycomb – I can’t overstate how much I love to have raw honeycomb on a board. It’s gorgeous, delicious, and a bit out of the ordinary, so a real treat to include! You may need to go to a specialty store to buy honeycomb, but you can also order online from companies like Savannah Bee and even on Amazon! This also became the centerpiece of my board.
- Fresh figs – an absolute summertime favorite. They are delicious and stunning, and immediately elevate any board.
- Cantaloupe – think about how you’re going to pair this — with proscuitto and balsamic, it’s the perfect addition
- Blackberries – another great summer berry to add interest and flavor
- Olives – always a good thing to include on a board to break up the sweetness of some of the summer fruits
- Salami(s) – pick your favorites, but I like to include a thinly sliced salami, and then something that is a thicker, hard salami
- Proscuitto – to pair with the cantaloupe
- Pistachios – this adds a nice bit of crunch to the board, and sticks with our color theme
- Breads and crackers – you need a vehicle for all of the great meats you’re adding to the board!
- Balsamic vinegar – a little goes a long way, but this elevates the proscuitto and melon
- Rosemary – mainly for decoration, the rosemary adds a nice pop of color and visual interest, but the flavor / aroma also goes well with the other flavors of the board
Consider Your Late-Summer Charcuterie Board Colors
This is optional, but if you want to really lean into your theme, think about your colors. Some of the ingredients you might be wanting to incorporate into your board will come in different colors. Olives, for example, are a great way to incorporate a certain pop of color. They can be green, black, mixed, or have red pimentos in them — go for the kind that fits most with your theme! And the list goes on: you can pull different colors (and shapes!) from apples, melons, grapes, and pickles.
For a late-summer charcuterie board, lean into your purples, oranges, and reds.
- Purples: fresh figs, blackberries
- Oranges: cantaloupe, honeycomb (somewhat orange!)
- Reds: fresh figs, salamis, proscuitto
- Greens: Olives, pistachios, rosemary
Consider Your Layout
First, start with your board. What size and shape do you want to use? Or do you not want to even use a board? You can put down kraft paper and use the tabletop as your board, or you can use a series of plates! Remember that charcuterie goes a long way; you don’t need to make a TON in order to feed quite a few people!
Second, consider your centerpiece: one central point that you build around. For my late-summer charcuterie board, the raw honeycomb is my centerpiece. If this were a cheese board, you might decide a wheel of brie is the centerpiece, or perhaps you are including a dip, and want that to play this role. Place that on the board first, and build everything around it.
Finally, consider your pattern. You can build with an organic pattern, or with more of a structured pattern — there is no wrong way! For an organic pattern, place different things around the board to create multiple interest points, and then build on those points. Nothing needs to be in a straight line! For a more structured pattern — perhaps concentric circles, or straight lines — decide what you’re going for, and then build that pattern from one starting point.
Late-Summer Charcuterie Board FAQs
Is there a certain way to fold your meats / salamis?
You can get fancy if you want to, but you don’t have to! I like to just lay my salamis / meats in an organic way. Personally, folding meats in a special spiral seems or special swirls seems time-consuming and not worth it, but that’s just me! Like I always say: keep it simple and delicious!
Can you make a charcuterie board ahead of time?
Yes! Charcuterie boards are a great thing to make ahead of time if you’re entertaining, and pull it out when you need it. You can simply cover with some plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Keep in mind this is a short-term solution (recommend a few hours, max). Your crackers / breads will begin to pick up moisture and get soft, and your cut fruits will start to lose their juice.
What should I place on the board first?
Pick a centerpiece item and place that first. For my late-summer charcuterie board, I used the honeycomb as my centerpiece because it was large, but also very beautiful and visually interesting. You could choose for any item to be your centerpiece to build around.
After that, place your bigger items, and then work your way down to smaller items. You can always use those small items to fill in cracks / little spaces that you have left at the end!
Are there rules on what can go next to each other?
There are no set rules! One thing to consider is water content. If you put crackers next to cantaloupe, the crackers are going to get a bit soggy from the melon after sitting for a while, so try to keep some separation with other items just to keep everything crisp and fresh.
How do I keep my board from being super expensive?
The meats on a charcuterie board are often the most expensive item. Just because we didn’t include cheese doesn’t mean that we filled those “holes” with more meat. Firstly, that would get costly, but it would also make your board very heavy for those eating. Use more fruits, nuts, and other items to add balance and lightness (and even better, these items are also not as expensive!).
There is no wrong way to make a late-summer charcuterie board, so just remember to have fun! At the end of the day, it will be delicious. It’s very loose, but I’ve included a quick recipe below if you want to recreate the same late-summer charcuterie board I made. I hope you like it!
Late-Summer Charcuterie Board
- Raw honeycomb
- Hard salami
- Sliced salami
- Fresh figs
- Green olives
- Crusty baguette
- Balsamic vinegar
- Rosemary sprigs
- Slice and prepare your ingredients: slice figs, slice and peel cantaloupe, slice hard salami, slice crusty baguette, and add balsamic vinegar to a small dish.
- Choose your board or surface and place your centerpiece (recommend the honeycomb!) first.
- Build around your centerpiece with the large ingredients first. Place your meats, followed by the breads and crackers, and fruits. Place your balsamic vinegar dish and then fill in remaining openings with small ingredients like olives, blackberries, and pistachios. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.