Look at your favorite restaurant’s menu or Instagram and it’s easy to see the charcuterie boards having fun.
Although many Milwaukee-area businesses will host one for you (and places like Bavette La Boucherie in the Third Ward have deli-of-the-month clubs), with the right tools, you can easily make one yourself. at home (Pro tip: “The Cheese Board Deck” by Meg Quinn is a great source of inspiration (Clarkson Potter, 2021, $20).
How about creating a charcuterie platter using only Wisconsin produce? It’s a big challenge. But if any state has to brag about having a deli with local dishes, it should be us, after all. Wisconsin is the dairy state and cheese is always the star of the show. And we have some of the best cheese in the world right in our own backyard. A good rule of thumb is to choose three: a hard cheese, like cheddar; a sweet, like brie; and a cheese spread.
For this board, I deviated from that slightly by using Caso Bolo Mellage cheese from Carr Valley, which is a milder cheese, but not as mild as Brie.
For a hard cheese, I went with a classic, Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese. In my mid-twenties, I visited their operation in Dodgeville, where I got to try their cheese for the first time. I had no idea how important this cheese was – it’s the most awarded cheese in American history – and how special it was to go there. So whenever I see it on a menu (like as a pizza topping or with a salad), I make sure to order it.
There are hundreds of cheese spreads to choose from, but my new favorite is the pimento cheese spread from Bavette La Boucherie. They serve it as an appetizer in their restaurant, but you can also buy a pot of it up front. It contains cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pickles, peppers and spices. It’s just amazing, and I could eat it by the spoonful.
Any good charcuterie board will also have some meats, which you can find in Driftless Provisions and Underground Meats.
Some form of carbohydrate is also essential. I recommend a cracker and a baguette. For me, there is nothing better than topping a cracker or a piece of bread with cheese and a little jam or honey.
Other charcuterie must-haves: olives, pickles and nuts. When in season, you can also add sliced red pepper or cucumber and fruit like raspberries or strawberries. They can come straight from your garden or from a local farmers market.
Farmers markets and craft fairs are also a great place to look if you want to get your real Wisconsin charcuterie board. The board I use is from Stella Falone and is made from ebony wood found in Cameroon, Africa.
Before assembling the board, I like to lay down a small layer of natural parchment paper as it makes cleaning easier. Then I add a “statement piece”, like a wand, that goes down the middle. Then I add the cheeses and whatever is in a jar, like jam, honey or olives, then the meat. I use crackers and nuts as filling in the middle so you only see the edges of the plank.
To round out a Wisconsin charcuterie board, don’t forget a bottle of local wine (Door County is a favorite region for this) and some chocolates, which you can find at Indulgence Chocolatiers (indulgencechocolatiers.com). So raise a glass and enjoy. Wisconsin Delicatessen Board.
Counter Culture focuses on a single food or ingredient (or sometimes, a technique) to help readers broaden their horizons in the kitchen. Alysha Witwicki is a retail writer and food writer who lives in Whitefish Bay. Contact her at [email protected].
What’s on that charcuterie board?
- Pleasant Ridge Preserve from Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, purchased from Bavette La Boucherie (330 E. Menomonee St., Milwaukee)
- Caso Bolo Mellage Cheese of Carr Valley Cheese in La Valle, purchased from Bavette La Boucherie
- Chili cheese spread homemade at Bavette La Boucherie
- Loukanika salami at Driftless Provisions in Viroqua, bought at Bavette La Boucherie
- finocchiona salami at Underground Meats in Madison, bought at Bavette La Boucherie
- Potter’s Crackers from Madison (potterscrackers.com)
- Baguette of Breadsmith, whose first location was on Downer Avenue in Milwaukee (painsmith.com)
- Preserves of figs and black tea from Quince and Apple to Madison (quinceandapple.com)
- Kallas Honey in Milwaukee (kallashoney.com)
- Candied nuts from Treat to Madison (quinceandapple.com)
- Pickle Stuffed Olives from West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe, purchased at the Milwaukee Public Market (400 N. Water St., Milwaukee)
- Dill pickles from Wisco Kitchen in Beloit, purchased at the Milwaukee Public Market