Whether you’re hosting a big holiday party or a small book club meeting, charcuterie boards are a beautiful and delicious way to impress your guests. Rita Vander Kooi, a dairy farmer and blogger based in Worthington, Minnesota, regularly builds charcuterie boards and blogs about her farm life. Here, she offers tips for creating your own craveable board. 

Follow Rita on Facebook and Instagram @soshemarriedafarmer

Select a variety of textures and flavors
Think of your ingredients as fitting into four categories: cheese, cured meats, acids and filler. Pick both hard and soft cheeses, such as brie, smoked gouda, asiago and blue cheese. Meats (salami, summer sausage) should be sliced thinly. Prosciutto is a must, as its saltiness pairs well with most cheeses. Acids, like pickles and olives look great in small bowls or ramekins. Fill the rest of the board with nuts, crackers, dried fruit and fig spread. Fresh herbs, like rosemary and basil, amp up the presentation.

Think seasonally
As you shop, consider what foods are in season and what ingredients invoke a sense of that season. Choose pomegranates and cranberries in the winter, lemons and asparagus in the spring, strawberries and dill in the summer, and pumpkin and apple in the fall.

Get creative and build slowly
This is the fun part! First, choose a sturdy board (wooden or marble is beautiful) or large platter. Add the small bowls or ramekins to the board to give it structure. Arrange the cheese slices evenly around the board in interesting patterns. Fold the meat slices in quarters or halves and place them in small piles. Fill in the extra spaces with the starchy sidekicks (crackers, sliced breads) and other nibbles.

Timing matters
Most meats and cheeses are tastiest served at room temperature. Allow the food to sit out for a few minutes for the best flavor and texture. Prepare and serve it as close to party time as possible.