Charcuterie Boards & The Art of Nibbling
By now, a charcuterie board is probably something you've encountered in a restaurant or tavern, or even at an elegant fundraising gala with a string quartet playing the hits of the 1700s. Once considered primarily festive, charcuterie boards have become ubiquitous in relatively recent years alongside the rise in popularity of premium, artisan cured meats, salumi, and even seafood. Let’s face it, they’re not just for parties anymore, and with good reason: Charcuterie boards are attractive, delicious, and convenient fun anytime.
As you’ve probably guessed, we loved them before they were cool. We've been onboard the charcuterie board train since they were called ‘ploughman's lunch’. But, even when there’s no board involved, nibbling as a prolonged meal is a very Alaskan way to eat. Because charcuterie boards have again opened the world’s eyes to the art of nibbling, we feel like we have to get our $0.02 in on the subject. We want in on this board game.
Why Charcuterie Boards? Why?
The curious custom of sitting on chairs at a clean table to eat from reusable plates and bowls changed the dining world forever. No one can be sure when it began--or why--but it complicated the ritual of eating considerably. Think about it: A gastronomical transaction that once involved only food, a hand, and a mouth--and, let’s face it, the hand might even be a little unnecessary--now calls for superfluous instruments of conveyance that need to be cleaned afterward. Is that civilization, or utter madness? What fool has the time or care for such tedious rituals when challenging, unprecedented times arise (as they sometimes do?)
Wouldn’t it be easier to eat food directly from the table as they do in Chicago? Does the table really need to be so big? Wouldn’t a small stool be adequate? Simpler yet, scrap the legs. Throw a clean board on the ground, and then arrange morsels on it in a way that lets us visually take in the entire meal with one glance. Now we’re getting back to Nature!
Now that we’ve established this to be the Way of the Charcuterie Board, let’s talk about Alaskan seafood charcuterie boards. You probably predicted we would.
The Ultimate Alaskan Charcuterie Board
Pork is often the protein of focus on landlubbers' charcuterie boards. Though we do enjoy a bit of fine swine in Alaska, it’s not our go-to protein. We obviously have access to some of the world’s best seafood, and we make the most of that. Also, being wild and removed as we are, the style of an Alaskan charcuterie board assembly leans on canned and jarred local delicacies. We like things that hold up and travel well, because we hold up and travel well. This should be evident in the selection of products included in our Ultimate Alaskan Charcuterie bundle
The Goods (What You Get)
What’s the best part of this collection, you ask? Well, all you really need is a can opener, hands, and a mouth or two. We include a fine Opinel cutting board and spreader in the deluxe version of the kit, but you might want to check out the Opinel Nomad kit if you plan to execute more ambitious charcuterie board configurations out-of-doors.
Good crusty bread, seeded crackers or crisp flatbread wouldn't hurt either, of course. If you want more fat for optimal calorie loading, then a mild, semi-hard cheese or other soured dairy will do. Try to keep it simple for your own sake. Use the time you save to appreciate your surroundings, and the people in them.
- Dill Kelp Pickles: Kelp is a rather robust sea vegetable. It’s almost like a thick, mildly briny collard green with bonus texture and a sneaky, subtle crunch at the tail end of the bite. Brace yourself, Sally, because this pickle packs a bright, vibrant punch. Dill and spices mingle with tangy brine to create a pickled sea vegetable that balances seafood flavors on the palate. This is currently only available as part of the Ultimate Alaskan Charcuterie bundle!
- Smoked Salmon Caviar: There is a popular old song with the lyric, "I can dream about you if I can't hold you tonight." That's how we feel about our own smoked salmon caviar. This jar of little orange flavor grenades holds the key to transforming a ham-handed bite of anything into a focused tidbit of luxury. Read about how our smoked salmon caviar transubstantiates a potato chip here.
- Smoked Sockeye: When you arrive at the spot where you will lay out your Alaskan seafood charcuterie board for adoring companions, hold this can of red gold salmon aloft for all to see. Do a few turns, and shout, "Huzzah!" You are officially eating like a true Alaskan! Sockeye’s brilliant red flesh will steal the show when served straight from the tin! With more time, you could also create an easy bruschetta or pâté to arrange amid your other Alaskan delights.
- Smoked Octopus: The sleeper hit of 2020 wasn't a Lars von Trier movie about being trapped in a cabin during a pandemic. It was our own smoked octopus. This octo-flesh from the Bering Sea might be our favorite bite of the bunch. The meat is firm but tender, and a clean enough protein to support the bright, crisp notes of alder smoke. It's versatile and sturdy in recipes, but always perfect straight from the can.
- Smoked Herring: Our smoked herring is almost beefy, like a slow-braised pot roast. There is so much umami going on here that the smoke flavor is almost an afterthought. Add a flake of this to a cracker holding anything else in the bundle, and marvel at the deep, bass notes our humble pilchard produces.
- Spruce Tip Jelly: The flavor of wild spruce tips depends on their maturity, but the spectrum includes fruity, resinous, herbal, and citrus notes. This sweet, fresh-flavored jelly contains just the right hint of spruce to complement sweet or savory flavors. Though mint jelly with roast lamb says nothing of the spruce tip flavor profile, it’s a good example of how a sweet preserve can play nice with a savory dish. If you’ve included a mild semi-hard cheese in your charcuterie board configuration, such as Gouda, it will definitely go well with this truly Alaskan preserve.
Whether anyone thinks it’s cool to eat canned fish straight from the can, we know it’s cool to not care about what’s cool. And, we’re immensely proud of our curated product bundles that represent the bounty of wild Alaska. We encourage you to be as wild as our fish when you enjoy it. Pop open a can while waiting for a bus. Sneak a single, solitary smoked salmon egg into your mouth during a boring lecture. Make killer charcuterie boards for friends wherever you happen to be, even if that’s a forest, desert, or tundra. We’ve done the real kitchen work. You just need to eat it.