'Tis the season for festive charcuterie platters, right? So why not go the All-Oregon route and build one of your own for holiday fun, local eating and supporting Oregon producers? It's also a neat way to include family and friends—everyone can pile on a favorite Oregon item.
We suspect this month's guest blogger, Martin McClanan, has not only a lot of personal experience crafting charcuterie platters over the years, but tasting them as well. His charcuterie platters are known to be epic. So we asked him for his tasting notes on the myriad tastes that fill a festive, creative charcuterie platter. In this case, an All-Oregon one!
Turning it over to Martin...
Oregon native James Beard built his reputation in the “cocktail party craze” of 1937 in New York City. He founded Hors d ‘Oeuvre, Inc., a food business which catered the fanciest parties in New York in the 30s & 40s….a remarkable thing amidst a time that was decidedly not fancy. He bolstered this image writing Hors D ‘Oeuvre and Canapés and later Menus for Entertaining in the ensuing years.
His many books and first national cooking show in television history revealed that the celebration of local-seasonal food with friends inspired and energized him, and today we can all relate to this as one of the universal glues that binds us.
In honor of Mr. Beard's Oregon roots, I thought it would be fun to construct an entire charcuterie board made and grown by Oregon producers. This is only a sampling of the many delicious, local things you can find when you search for local producers on Oregontaste.com and at your local farmers markets that run year round.
A good charcuterie plate, according to Mr. Beard, contains cheese (4-5 types) caviar, foie gras, prosciutto, good bread, fruit and smoked salmon. While a few of these items aren’t readily available from Oregon (though I hear the Yakima nation is selling caviar), most of them are. Here’s some of my favorites…please let us know of other makers you love in the comment section so we can highlight them for others to discover in future articles.
Martin's All-Oregon Charcuterie Platter Ideas
The milkshed in Oregon is crazy good. The quality of Oregon produced milk and the artisans who are making our cheese continue to up their game. Here are a few of my favorites with a strong bias toward cheeses that are delicious and have fun names:
Rogue Creamery makes Oregonzola (gorgonzola style), which is far more approachable than many “blue style” cheeses and is a real crowd pleaser.
The talented cheesemakers at Face Rock Creamery in Bandon are really making a name for themselves and for the southern coast. My favorite is one called Face 2 Face which is both sheep and cow cheddar. I’m making an exception to the fun name rule since they have cheeses with way more fun names (like Vampire Slayer).
Chevre style goat cheeses are epic on a cheese board because they can be both a spread and a free standing cheese. Two of my favorites are the Chef’s Blend Chevre (chives & red pepper) from Fraga Farm. If you are not into herby chevre, try the fromage balance with sea salt from By George Creamery in Jacksonville, OR.
I’d like to also firmly come down in favor of firmer cheeses which are perfect for slicing and serving on the board to let you guests serve themselves. The Kazoo Gouda from Umapine Creamery in Milton-Freewater is tasty and broadly appealing.
From Dundee, Briar Rose Creamery continues to garner attention with their artisan rinds evocative of a trip through southern France. Their semi soft rind Maia is both eye and palate pleasing.
The eighty farm families that form Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) can’t be forgotten on the platter since big doesn’t necessarily work against better. The vintage series of their aged cheddars are splendid examples reminiscent of the country cheddars of the United Kingdom. My favorite is the 2016 reserve.
The nut story in Oregon is pretty simple. Hazelnuts, filberts or cobnuts—whatever you call them—Oregon produces 99% of the US supply. Pretty much any US hazelnut you buy is an Oregon one.
There are so many options on the protein front it is hard to choose. Here are a few winning options:
Native American owned Native Candy catches their fish in the Columbia River. Their Alder Smoked Chinook King Salmon is a superb choice for an All-Oregon charcuterie platter. You can also find other smoked salmon from local tribes at most farmer’s markets through the state.
Olympia Provisions continues to be build its national reputation with its consistently well-made sausages. Try serving their pork rillettes a little warm and your mouth will water with the deliciously spreadable loose unctuous ramekin of joy. My other go-to favorites are a variety in this Olympia provisions pork pate sampler.
Michael Pan is having trouble curbing his enthusiasm for all the attention he’s been getting recently at Pan’s mushroom jerky with his recent Mark Cuban investment and Larry David’s shout out. His salt & pepper mushroom jerky is a delicious vegan addition to the All-Oregon platter.
CRACKERS AND OTHER ADDITIONS
Jovani Prince is the Cracker King and has been taking the grocery world by storm lately. His Rosemary & Sea Salt Crackers are the most cheese friendly of his Portland made crackers.
A good thinly sliced baguette is a hit on any cheese platter. We are blessed with so much good fresh bread in Oregon. A few of my favorite local bakers: Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Portland, Sparrow Baking in Bend and Portland (as they say, "Get Sparrow in Your Life!"), The Village Baker of Ashland, Little T Baker in Portland and Oyatsupan of Beaverton (perhaps the most creative baker in Oregon, but for the cheese platter stick with the basic baguette).
SURPRISE AND DELIGHT ADDITIONS
The best charcuterie plates have a few unexpected elements that “surprise and delight.” Here are a few surprising and delightful suggestions to get you started:
Honey is money going great on bread, many cheeses and even on fruit. Jacobsen’s has a lovely carrot flower honey.
The Spanish compliment their appetizers with a delicious quince paste called membrillo. Oregon Growers have a pear hazelnut fruity pate and quince fruit pate which serve a very similar delicious purpose.
The Biggi’s at Beaverton foods make me smile every time I see the beaver brand mustard all over the universe. The honey mustard is sweet and savory all at the same time and goes great with salami.
Don't forget Oregon’s iconic Harry & David with their cranberry/pear chutney celebrating two Oregon grown fruits.
FRESH OREGON FRUITS
Keep your platter from getting to be too heavy by adding fresh Oregon fruit. Pears and persimmons are amazing in the fall season and for holidays. My favorite varieties are Comice, Concord and Bosc Pears and the Fuyu Persimmons. Heritage varieties of apples are also tops. Search on Oregontaste.com to find the many quality growers throughout the state and connect with them.
Dry Cured Meats Feature
In 1981, Christopher Leach had the good fortune to find himself on a train crossing the French countryside to Paris. It was on that first European adventure that Christopher discovered charcuterie, a wondrous world of flavor and texture that would change his life in the years to come. A seed was planted in the heart and mind of a young cellist that would grow into a passion.
That passion now has a name: The Beautiful Pig. Christopher developed more than twenty original recipes for pork and beef products inspired by the traditions of Spain, France, Italy, Poland, Hungary and the USA.
Find incredible Oregon meats through the variety of OregonTaste.coms listings provided by Oregon Pasture Network. You'll be inspired to start crafting your own board while directly supporting Oregon pasture farms!
OregonTaste.com is an online searchable directory promoting Oregon’s local farm fresh food growers, makers and sellers in our bountiful state. Connecting them directly with consumers is a public service designed to contribute to more vibrant, sustainable and connected food systems throughout Oregon.
If you don't see your favorite Oregon farms, ranches, fisheries, u-picks or farmers markets on OregonTaste.com, submit them here. Anyone can submit a fresh food producer, it's fast, free and easy and helps connect communities through food!