Recently, I was at one of my favorite local pubs. It was cold and rainy and I was looking for something comforting but a little bit different. I passed up on my usual soups, salads, and burgers for a charcuterie board and a chilled glass of Chardonnay.

The charcuterie came out on a natural wooden plank and was filled with delicate slices of cured meats, an assortment of cheeses, Naan bread, hearty crackers, thinly shaved green apple, wonderful crisp pickles, and, to my surprise and delight, sea salt dark chocolate drops.

It was culinary perfection and, since I have had quite a few charcuteries in my time, I realized what a different experience each one has been.

Since then, I have been experimenting with different versions that I can serve my friends at cocktail parties or for a bit of a nibble before dinner. Such a simple concept but such a range to choose from.

When it comes to meats on my board, do I want to choose from paper thin slices of pepperoni and salami, or does this charcuterie board call for the spiciness of a chunk of chorizo?

Then the cheeses, and the vast array of choices: creamy goats cheese, pungent blue cheese, a firm wine cheese, or that southern favorite…pimento cheese. Or all of the above and much more!

Next, the “carriers” – thin slices or a big ole hunk of crusty bread; delicate cheese crackers or sturdy lavash?

As for fruit, the color and freshness of red and green grapes, apples and pears adds a touch of beauty to your board. Or, pair your cheeses and meats with dried cranberries, mango and figs.

To compliment the meats and cheese, try a bold, grainy mustard, fig preserves or, for a special treat, add the the taste of fresh southern peaches and diced sweet Georgia onions with Pickled Pink’s Vidalia Onion & Peach Relish.

No charcuterie board could be complete without the crunch of the perfect pickle. Add a little sweetness with Pickled Pink’s Sweet Gourmet Pickles. Or looking for that little bit of heat on your board…add Pickled Pink’s Sweet Heat Jalapeños or Gourmet Jalapeño Pickles!

The rule with Charcuterie is that there are no rules. So experiment the next time you have guests or just want to treat yourself!