1baguette(about 1 pound), sliced on the bias into 1/4-inch slices (about 20 slices, see note 9)
Create some anchor points on the board with any bowls of mustard, cream cheese with red pepper jelly, dill dip, and olives. Add the grapes, still in a bunch, arranged in a position to create height.
Arrange the sausage, cheese balls, ham roll ups, mozzarella pretzel sticks, and cheese into piles, layering and overlapping when needed (Martha calls that "shingling"). If you're leaving chunks of cheese for guests to cut themselves, make sure it's accessible on the board.
Fill in the gaps with crackers, toasted baguette slices, and candied pecans. Garnish with herbs, edible flowers, and finally, add forks, spreaders, and picks where needed.
Whole-grain mustard: Or substitute spicy brown, Dijon, or anything with horseradish. To make your own, in a medium container with an airtight cover, add 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds, 1/4 cup brown mustard seeds, 1/4 cup cold water, and 1/2 cup white vinegar. Stir to combine, cover, and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. In a blender, pulse mustard mixture with 3/4 teaspoon salt until coarsely ground, about 1 minute. Transfer to a glass airtight container and allow to sit at room temperature until desired spiciness is reached, 1 to 2 days. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Pepper jelly: Buy it at the store or make your own red pepper jelly with red bell peppers, habañero chiles, sugar, white vinegar, and liquid pectin. In the Midwest, we love to serve it over a block of cream cheese with crackers on the side.
Dill dip: To make your own dill dip, in a medium bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups sour cream, 2/3 cup mayonnaise, 2 tbsp dried minced onion, 2 tbsp dried parsley flakes, 2 tbsp dried dill weed, and 1 tsp celery salt. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes to blend flavors. Serve with plenty of fresh vegetables.
Venison sausage: Because anyone with a hunter in the family knows you run the risk of being saddled with venison sausage in all forms, forever and ever, amen. Or substitute beef summer sausage or even beef sticks or jerky.
Mini cheese balls: In a medium bowl, combine 8 ounces softened cream cheese and 6 ounces shredded Havarti cheese until blended. Using a tablespoon, place small mounds of cheese mixture on a plate (you should have 18 to 20 cheese balls), then roll into balls and chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, add 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs to a bowl, 1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes to a bowl, and 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts to a bowl. Drop chilled cheese balls in each topping as desired and roll to coat.
Ham roll ups: These little gems are cream-cheese-slathered ham slices (Badger brand baked ham, if you can get it) wrapped around pickle spears and cut into pieces or served whole. For each pound of ham, you'll need 8 ounces whipped cream cheese and 8 dill pickle spears cut in half. Aka Lutheran sushi.
Mozzarella pretzel sticks: Cut a piece of string cheese into 8 pieces (Baker brand smoked string cheese, if you can find it), and stab each piece with a pretzel stick. Repeat.
Candied pecans: To make candied pecans, preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 egg white until frothy. Stir in 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Add 1 pound (4 cups) pecans and stir to coat. Pour on to a baking sheet lined with parchment and spread into a single layer. Bake, flipping nuts occasionally, until coating is dry, about 30 minutes.
Baguette slices: For toasted baguette slices, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush the slices evenly with 1/4 cup olive oil. Bake until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes.
Yield: This charcuterie platter as shown feeds about 8 as an appetizer, or 4 generous servings as the "main event."
Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Serving size: How much meat and cheese per person depends on your budget, the group’s appetite, and what else you’ll be serving. I usually plan on 2 to 4 ounces of meat and cheese per person. If the charcuterie is all I’m serving (for a cocktail party, for example) I might veer towards 4 ounces so no one leaves hungry.
Think OUT, but also UP: Yes, you want to cover every inch of your board with snacks, but try to make it a little three-dimensional, too. Sometimes I even use an overturned bowl as a pedestal for another bowl of dip, with crackers mounded underneath to conceal the prop. The two keys to gorgeous platters: Plenty of layers and ensuring your platter is fully-loaded (so choose your board size accordingly based on your guest list and fill in any gaps with more fresh herbs).
Temp check: Serve anything that’s supposed to be eaten hot or chilled separately, on a different platter or in other bowls.
Mix it up: Variety is key. Consider adding local and seasonal favorites like braunschweiger, Milwaukee brand pickles, Door County cherries, or apples from The Elegant Farmer. Or add pickled garlic, orange marmalade, pieces of honeycomb, or honey.