If you have dipped into Pinterest even briefly over the past few years, you know that graze or grazing boards are A Thing. Beautiful boards or platters are filled with all kinds of food ready to be sampled, snacked up, nibbled and, OK, grazed.
It’s a nice way to entertain, or to offer up a room-temperature meal for your family during holiday game nights, movie nights or what have you. It’s also perfect for New Years Eve, a way to provide a beautiful assortment of nibbles before a late dinner.
Graze boards generally include a variety of cheeses, cured meats, nuts, vegetables, and fruits, fresh or dried. On the side or tucked into the board itself: sliced bread, crackers, chips.
And here’s where things get really interesting: condiments.
Mustards, spreads, pestos… but don’t just think savory; sweet is really nice, especially when paired with cheeses. Jams, jellies and honeys make perfect pairings for much of what’s on offer. Also, olives, pickles and marinated vegetables of all kinds offer a tangy crunch and briny flavor in between bites of cheeses and charcuterie.
Spreadable condiments play nicely against cured meats like prosciutto and salami, or cheeses ranging from sharp cheddar to a creamy triple crème cheese. Spread some on a cracker or a slice of bread, stack on some meats and/or cheeses, and away you go.
The mixing and matching is what makes graze boards so much fun. Every bite is customized. It’s a great way to try new flavors and experiment with different taste combinations.
A couple of side notes:
A jar of a favorite condiment makes a great stocking stuffer or little gift. And if you have a favorite condiment and a favorite use for it (maybe you layer it into grilled cheese?), write it down on a cute little tag and attach it to the jar.
And when you are traveling, this is a great way to bring home a taste of your trip. Buy jams, pestos, chutneys, etc. to play with in the home kitchen, or to keep on hand for gifts. Everywhere you travel you’ll find products that are locally made and make use of the ingredients and spices of the region.
JAMS AND JELLIES
Janie Q is a small-batch jam company run by the folks at Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, and their handmade flavors include Cherry Plum and Peach Lavender. Coo Moo out of California makes jams such as Apricot Habanero (sweet plus heat) and Peachy Mango Madness. Trade Street Jam Co. makes flavors like Smoked Yellow Peach, Strawberry Chipotle and Fig, and Sour Cherry Ginger. Fior di Frutta from Italy makes organic fruit spreads, like fig, blackberry and cranberry (fun and seasonal).
Beyond sweet jams and jellies, look for caramelized onion jams, pepper jellies and the like. Terrapin Ridge makes a Hot Pepper Bacon Jam, a Jalapeno Hatch Chili Jam, and other unique sweet and savory combos. There are a number of caramelized onion jams out there that buddy up nicely to everything on a graze board: Try the ones from Divina,Williams-Sonoma and Jammy Yummy.
The world of olives is worth highlighting, though technically it might not fall directly under “condiments.” Divina has a ton to choose from: Greek olives stuffed with spicy blue cheese, feta or garlic, or pitted kalamata or green olives They also have tapenades, like their Olive Bruschetta with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers, or their Muffuletta Olive Salad with cauliflower and pepperoncini. Their chopped Calabrian Peppers and Roasted Tomatoes are also worth noting.
There are so many interesting spreads out there, great to swish onto a cracker or a toasted slice of baguette.
Bellisari’s in Ohio makes fun spreads like one with Blue Cheese, Honey and Shallots, or a Blistered Jalapeno and Fig Spread. Coro, a specialty cured-meat producer out of Seattle, makes interesting offerings like Plum Mustard, Giardiniera Relish, and Herb and Caper Spread designed to pair up with salumis.
The Tillen Farms collection from Stonewall Kitchens presents a line of crisp, pickled vegetables like classic asparagus, baby cucumbers and Dilly Beans. This is a great way to add tanginess and crunch to your assortment of cheese, meats, etc. Kansas City Canning Company makes unusual pickled items like pickled radishes, garlic and balsamic pickled grapes.
A drizzle of honey over a slice of bread topped with a bit of cheese, maybe a paper-thin slice of prosciutto, is a total treat. Vermont-based Runamok has a serious selection of honeys to play with: Try those infused with hibiscus flower, Arbol chiles or lemon verbena, to name a few.
Mustard is a must-have condiment for me in all ways, and a swipe matched up with a slice of salami and cheese on a cracker is a perfect bite. Maille, started in 1747 in France, is one of the the pre-eminent makers of Dijon mustard, and you can choose from a classic style, like Rich Country Dijon, or go for one spiked with horseradish. Stonewall makes loads of mustard varieties like Maine Maple Champagne Mustard or Caramelized Onion Mustard. Brooklyn Mustard makes a Delhi Curry Mustard that will bring a unexpected twist to your board.