Cheater’s Charcuterie Board

By Justin Warner | December 08, 2015
Fancy charcuterie boards often include artisanal meats and cheese, fancy jams and chutneys, and tiny pickles. For those of us who don’t want to pay eight dollars for pickles, or don’t have a spare coat closet for curing meats, we must CHEAT! Fooling our guests into thinking that we’ve procured only the finest cuts of what have you from a fellow in Brooklyn with a twirled mustache in a bespoke jacket is a matter of disguising store-bought meats with DIY accouterments. Homemade condiments step your game up with hardly any work, turning a cold cut platter (even with megamart salami and generic Swiss) into a charcuterie board. Sharp pine nut mustard, sour pickled grapes, and sweet tomatillo chutney enliven cured meats, and benefit from their rich salty flavor. With the simple recipes below, your megamart deli meats will be auditioning for a Wes Anderson movie in no time.


Yield: Makes 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Inactive Time: 8 hours or overnight

medium pot 
bowl, quart-size deli container, or jar 
small pot 
microwave-safe bowl 

2 cups apple cider vinegar 
1 cinnamon stick 
1/4 cup packed brown sugar 
2 tablespoons kosher salt 
6 cups water 
1 intact bunch red seedless grapes (about 11 ounces) 

1 pound tomatillos (about 8), husked, rinsed, cored, and chopped 
1/4 cup agave syrup 
1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds 
2 teaspoons kosher salt 
2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup red wine vinegar 
2 tablespoons water 
2 tablespoons mustard powder 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds 
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts 

Thinly sliced cured meats (3 ounces per person—it seems like a lot, but people scarf this stuff down without knowing what they’ve done), at room temperature Thinly sliced or soft scoopable cheeses (2 ounces per person), at room temperature 
Crackers or wafers 

Make the pickled grapes. Combine the vinegar, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt along with 6 cups water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Put the grapes in bowl, a quart-size deli container, or a large jar and pour the hot pickling liquid on top so the grapes are fully submerged. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least overnight before serving. 

Make the tomatillo chutney. Add all the ingredients for the chutney and 2 tablespoons water to a small pot, stir to combine, and cook over medium heat until the tomatillos are tender and the sauce is glossy, about 25 minutes. Transfer the finished chutney to a container and chill. 

Make the pine nut mustard. Whisk together the vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, the mustard powder, salt, and turmeric in a microwave-safe bowl until dissolved. Fold in the mustard seeds and pine nuts. Microwave the mixture on high for 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender, pulse to break up the pine nuts, and chill until cool (about 2 hours), at which time it will be thick and spreadable. 

HOLD IT? The best thing about condiments is that they have a long shelf life! All three of these will hold in the refrigerator in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks. 

Remove the condiments from the fridge about an hour before serving to bring to room temperature. Drain the pickled grapes. 

PLATE IT! Charcuterie looks best on wood or stone, served family style. Spoon swoosh (drop a spoonful and swoosh it with the back of a spoon) out the mustard. Transfer the chutney to a ramekin or bowl. Keep the grapes on the stem, but divide the bunch to maximize aesthetic appeal if necessary. Shingle or roll the thin slices of meat, keeping each type together. Pile your accompaniments all around. 

BREAK IT: Cook the chestnuts minus the peppers and onions, allow them to cool, and then slice them like little pieces of charcuterie. They will delight carnivores and vegetarians alike!

Get Creative! 
The hot vinegar-sugar-spice-saltwater combo from the pickled grapes is pretty magical for keeping things edible, and imbuing them with fun flavors. Try swapping out the components or the main ingredient and coming up with something new, entirely of your own imagination.

Excerpted from The Laws of Cooking…and How to Break Them by Justin Warner, Flatiron Books. Photos by Daniel Krieger.


  • Cheater’s Charcuterie Board by Justin Warner