A beautifully presented charcuterie board can be a key ingredient to a successful and memorable social gathering. Because it’s prepared ahead of time, a charcuterie has a casual feel that lends itself well to socializing: the host can actually be involved in conversations instead of toiling away in the kitchen. Being a farming community, Chilliwack is a veritable smorgasbord of local, farm-fresh ingredients. We are very fortunate to be in the heart of many artisan cheese shops, produce markets, meat shops, and bakeries. With all the options you’ll have to choose from, your charcuterie board will be fresh, delicious— and will look so eye-catching, you may end up seeing it in a few Instagram feeds!
Putting a board together can be daunting, but we’re here to help! There are no strict rules for charcuterie boards, so let your creativity and imagination run wild. The key is presenting your items in a way pleasing to the eye and appetite. The word to remember is balance. Balance savoury tastes by including sweet flavours. Balance textures: a soft cheese with a crisp, grainy cracker. Distribute your ingredients on the board so the colours complement each other. You can even experiment with temperature: instead of everything being served cold, include a spread or soft cheese that you’ve heated up, or quick fry sliced sausage and serve it hot. Building the charcuterie board shouldn’t be a chore, it can be a fun way to experiment and see what flavours best enhance each other.
1) You’ll need a board on which to present your items: wooden cutting boards, trays, or butcher blocks are popular, as they make a charming, rustic backdrop for your presentation. Marble or slate slabs, and glass or ceramic platters are all great ideas as well. You don’t have to squeeze everything on one board, use multiple boards if you have a lot of items.
2) Next you’ll need to have some cutlery and small bowls or ramekins in which to put items like dipping sauces, mustards, olives, or jams/preserves. Small knives are great for spreading soft cheeses. Invest in a good quality cheese knife for slicing hard cheeses. Have some small spoons for sauces and preserves, and lots of little forks and toothpicks on hand – great for “stabbing and grabbing” an olive, pickle, or cubed piece of cheese.
3) Next, the fundamental ingredient and namesake of the Charcuterie Board: the meat! The modern definition of “charcuterie” is: a French word for smoked, dry-cured or cooked meats. If you want to use the “traditional” cuts of meats for charcuterie, this would include selections from three categories of meat. Choose one or two from each category: A. Whole Muscle Cuts: meats preserved whole, typically chewy in texture, so they should be sliced paper thin. B. Cured Sausages, which add a good contrast to the thin whole muscle cuts. They are sliced thicker and are more robust and filling. C. Forcemeats, a category that is smoother in texture, including pâté and rillettes.
4) Cheese, wonderful cheese! You’ll be sure to delight many palates with the variety of cheeses available. And we’re not just talking about cheese made from cow milk, you’ll find cheese made from goat milk, sheep milk and water buffalo milk too; and for that vegan in your life, the vegan cheese options are getting better all the time! When choosing your cheeses, consider texture and variety.
5) Bakery items: Breads and crackers aren’t meant to be the star of the show, rather they are the carrier on which to load your goodies and get them into your mouth! A sliced fresh baguette or sourdough loaf are tasty choices, as are breadsticks and a variety of crackers. For the crackers, focus on texture, and don’t get any crackers that are too heavily flavoured; this would compete with the taste of the meats and cheeses. Although there are endless varieties of crackers, keep it simple. A nice rice cracker, pita cracker, whole wheat cracker or crostini are ideal, and it’s a smart idea to ensure you have at least one or two gluten-free bread and cracker varieties.
6) EXTRAS! There are loads of tasty extras you can add to a charcuterie board to complete it and make it visually striking! Get creative! Again, balance is important: the vinegary/briny taste of a pickle is a good way to offset the fatty taste of a rich meat. Sweet fig or pear preserve tastes heavenly paired with a mild Brie. Here is a list of “extras” that will propel your board from ordinary to incredible:
Pickled vegetables (asparagus, green beans, carrots)
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic glazes or vinegars
Seasonal fruit and vegetables (grapes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, figs, cherries, carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks)
Dried fruit (apricots, pineapple, apple, fig, mango, cranberries)
Nuts (cashews, pistachios, almonds, pecans)
Fresh Herbs (Basil leaves, Rosemary sprigs)
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
*Vegan-friendly choices like hummus, cashew cheese, bean dips (which are delicious whether you’re vegan or not)
*With the increasing popularity of the plant-based diet, more vegan friendly choices are becoming available all the time! It’s highly recommended (and appreciated by guests) to be accommodating of everyone, so instead of having just a few vegan choices, you could make an entirely separate vegan-friendly board. (But that could be a topic for a whole other blog). At the very least, if you have a good variety of fruit and veggies, along with hummus, and vegan cheese and crackers, you’ll be able to fill the tummies of your vegan friends too.
7) This is the fun step, ARRANGEMENT! Pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some tunes and start arranging your items on your board(s) in the most appealing and appetizing way! A good way to get started is to fill your ramekins/bowls and distribute them around the board, then build around that. You can roll up or fold your meat slices or keep them flat and fan them out. Cut hard cheeses into cubes or slices. Leave soft cheeses whole and put a cheese knife next to them. Put a brightly coloured item next to a muted color. If you have an awkward empty space, scatter a small pile of nuts or berries there. Add basil leaves and rosemary for a nice green pop of color. Be creative! Impress your friends and leave them wanting to host the next gathering to see if they can “out-charcuterie” you!
And finally, have fun with it! There’s no need to stress, because if you use Fraser Valley-fresh ingredients, you are guaranteed to thrill taste buds! Here’s a great list of local sources:
Boards & Kitchenware
Credits: The Plane & Nail Co. on Facebook
If you’re looking for a unique charcuterie board, we found a great woodworking studio right in Chilliwack. Check out The Plane & Nail Co. at 100-45896 Alexander Avenue. They craft stylish wooden charcuterie and cutting boards, handmade from Canadian hardwoods; and you can even get one custom made in your choice of size, design, and material.
Hofstedes Country Barn
45796 Luckakuck Way, Chilliwack
Credits: Hofstede’s Country Barn on Facebook
One stop-shopping for all your charcuterie needs! Fresh, locally sourced produce, a huge selection of grocery items (including a section of specialty imported items), fresh baked goods, and a deli focused on providing the freshest meats with reduced amounts of preservatives and nitrates. They have one deli slicer dedicated to gluten free products so there is no cross-contamination.
Fraser Valley Meats
7481 Vedder Road, Chilliwack
Credits: Fraser Valley Meats on Facebook
Since 1969, Fraser Valley Meats has been a staple in Chilliwack. They hand-make a variety of delectable gourmet sausages in-house. The deli section offers a wide variety of delicious cured meat. And they are more than just meat: they carry a selection of artisan cheese and have a gourmet section with all the tasty extras such as olives, preserves, and crackers.
Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry
4540 Simmons Road, Chilliwack
Credits: Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry on Facebook
A fifth-generation family farm, FVSP been a landmark in Chilliwack since the 1970s. They specialize in poultry, so you’ll find items like delicious duck sausage and smoked duck breast. They also have a farm store at the same site that carries artisanal cheese, fresh baked items, gourmet snacks, jams, olives, and so much more! Note: you can also find their products at Lepp Farm Market.
The Local Harvest Market
7697 Lickman Road, Chilliwack
Credits: The Local Harvest Market on Facebook
Featuring locally grown, farm fresh produce, the majority of which is grown organically on their 38-acre farm; this is a perfect source for seasonal fruits and vegetables. Their market bakery also sells warm-out-of-the-oven breads made with organic ingredients. You’ll find local favourite Anita’s Organic Mill products. They also carry cheese from The Farm House Natural Cheese, Mt. Lehman Cheese, Smits and Co.w Gouda, and vegan cheeses such as Black Sheep Vegan Cheese (which is also Gluten and Soy Free). Enjoy the vegan varieties “Herbed Vozzarella, Smoked Vouda, Jalapeño Veddar, Vrie, and Cashew Hard Varm”.
Anita’s Organic Mill
7697 Lickman Road, Chilliwack
Credits: Anita’s Organic Mill on Facebook
Anita’s is well known for their flours, cereals, and mixes, using traditional methods to mill fresh, organic grains on-site. They also carry a delicious selection of dried fruit. This is a great source for dried apricots, dates, figs, cranberries, as well as hazelnuts and other nuts. Their retail farm store is located in the aforementioned Local Harvest Market.
Smits and Co.w Farm Cheese
5787 Lickman Road, Chilliwack
Credits: Smits & Co.w Farm Cheese on Facebook
Using milk from their own herd of Holstein and Brown Swiss cows, Smits and Co.w produces an excellent Gouda-style cheese. They also make Goat Gouda using milk from a local goat herd. Their selection of cheeses includes mild, medium and aged plain as well as flavours such as cracked black pepper, onion & garlic, pesto, tzatziki, pumpkin seed nutmeg, chilli pepper, Italian, Greek spiced and much more.
5669 Vedder Road, Chilliwack
Credits: Magpie’s Bakery on Instagram
Magpie’s carries an amazing variety of authentic sourdough, yeasted breads and pastries. Their sourdough comes in varieties such as Marble Multigrain, White, Whole Wheat, Rye, and Spelt. They also bake specialty varieties such as Old Yale Stout, Toasted Sesame, and Carrot Herb. Check their baking schedule online to know when to get your favourites.
Old Yale Brewing
404-44550 South Sumas Road
Credits: Old Yale Brewing on Instagram
Located near the gateway to the pristine and breathtaking Chilliwack River Valley, Old Yale Brewing has a fresh perspective on how they approach the craft of making great beer, inspired by their surroundings. Staying true to their roots, they seek the perfect balance using the finest, all-natural ingredients combined with Canada’s best drinking water. Their entire award-winning lineup – from the crisp straightforward Knotty Blonde Ale, to Canada’s best beer, Sasquatch Stout – is made to reflect this balance. Enjoy their array of tasty drinks!
Whispering Horse Winery
43721 Vedder Mountain Road, Chilliwack
Credits: Whispering Horse Winery on Facebook
A local favourite, family owned-and-operated Whispering Horse Winery is a boutique winery that produces quality wines using their own estate-grown grapes (on 6,000 vines!). Using traditional methods, they produce delicious sparkling wines as well as aromatic whites and rosés. Their ‘future-release’ line ranges from Brut Nature (bone dry) to Doux (sweet) in white, rosé, and red. Every aspect of the wine making is run solely by the family, ensuring the highest standards in hand-crafted wine. Their wines can be found at a variety of liquor merchants and restaurants in the Fraser Valley.
For more information on any of these, or other local businesses, visit Tourism Chilliwack.