Red! White! Blue! It took a little time to put this together because other than blue cheese and the very obvious and ubiquitous blueberries, there are limited options for naturally blue foods. We did our best here.
If you think of anything in addition to the few things already listed here that are naturally blue or in the blue/black/purple range, please leave a comment! I would love to add them to the list. I generally avoid things like blue-dyed frosting and sprinkles on cakes and cookies.
Everything related to the Red, White, and Blue Cheese and Charcuterie Board's ingredients first: map with ID labels for our visual learners, followed by spreadsheet shopping list for that you can download and sort by color or grocery store department, and finally, the same list in bulleted format, with more expository detail on favored brands
Tools and equipment you might need in order to make this Epic Red White and Blue Cheese and Charcuterie Board are listed the end, including a link to the extra-large board that can finally come out of pandemic hiatus.
You are welcome to copy, paste, and print these lists for your personal use. If you re-publish any part of this post on your blog or website, please credit and link back to this page. No part of this post is for commercial use.
SHOPPING LIST (detailed) and RESOURCES
- CHARCUTERIE. Anything goes. My favorites are always a spicy soppresata, a genoa salami, and prosciutto or serrano ham. There are so many artisan makers out there, find one who is local to you!
- RED CHEESES. There are no cheeses (that I know) that are obviously red, only a few with red rinds that are generally not edible. Manchego, a sheep's milk cheese that has origins in Spain, comes in a version with a red rind, though the cheese itself is white. Keep the rind on the cheese when serving. Drunken Goat is a goat's milk cheese, and though it's not red, it suggests "red" because it is washed in red wine. Some types of Gouda, a familiar cow's milk cheese, have a red rind made of inedible wax. One way to serve Gouda is to leave the rind whole, slice or crumble the interior cheese, and reassemble within the rind as its container.
- RED CHEESE ALTERNATIVE. If you are having trouble sourcing red cheese, use a brie or other small round cheese with a bloomy rind and pile some berries, dried cherries, or edible flowers on top.
- TOMATOES. Cherry tomatoes are ideal for boards. Larger tomatoes that require slicing can weep their ripe juices onto the board and get messy, so make sure to place them strategically between other items that can "dam" in their juices.
- POMEGRANATE. Out of season during the American Red White and Blue holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day), but during election years, you can get pomegranates November for Election Boards! Serve pomegranates in individual pieces broken from a whole fruit (as pictured) so guests can take a piece from the board to their plate/napkin. DO NOT serve pomegrante arils individually removed from the fruit and set in a bowl, unless it's VERY clear with the presence of a small spoon that guests should the arils onto their plates. The last thing you want is for people to reach into a bowl of pomegranate arils and touch everything like it's a bowl of popcorn. Ew.
- RASPBERRIES and STRAWBERRIES. Obviously. I like Pudwil's berries from the southern California Farmers' Markets, and Harry's Berries for strawberries. But you can get both raspberries and strawberries from regular markets.
- RED APPLES. I cannot eat any apple other than Fuji apples. Because apples are such perfect complements to cheese, the best way to serve any apple is in thin slices that can be added to a cracker or used as a "cracker" itself with cheese. Only use apples for the purposes of filling space on a very large board. Apples are not at their peak for flavor and texture in the Red, White and Blue season.
- RED GRAPES. Pro-tip: cut large bunches of grapes into small clusters that diners can take and eat out of hand, similar to pomegranate clusters.
- RED MINI BELL PEPPERS. These are not pictured on my boards because I hate bell peppers of all kinds, and I'd rather eat peppers in their spicy, pickled format. However, other people love bell peppers, and as far as red "vegetables" go, it's this, tomatoes, and radishes. Take what you can get.
- RED RADISHES. Scrub round red radishes well, leave a tiny bit of stem as a "handle," and cut into quarters or halves, which serves double duty to keep the radishes from rolling around (and sometimes completely off!) your board, and also makes it easier for people to grab without unnecessarily touching a lot of other things.
- WATERMELON. Watermelon has the same issue that tomatoes have, they tend to weep their juices all over the board, especially on larger "party boards" that are left out for a long time period at room temperature. Still, in the summer, if watermelon is not already being served elsewhere, add a few slices to the board.
- DRIED TART CHERRIES and CRANBERRIES. I buy these two dried fruits in packages from Whole Foods. You only need to choose one or the other. In the summer, if you can opt for fresh cherries, add dried cranberries.
- RED WALNUTS. Red walnuts are a specialty variety of walnuts that are available in the fall at some farmers' market in California, but you can also get them packaged from the usual place.
- SWEET DROP PEPPERS or PEPPADEW PEPPERS (not pictured). Sweet Drop Peppers are tiny tear drop shaped, subtly smoky, slightly spicy pickled peppers. The two most common brands in jars are DeLallo and Les Trois Cochons. They are my FAVORITE but I limit myself because I can eat an entire jar by myself in one sitting. Peppadew peppers are larger, round, thin-skinned and fairly mild bright red peppers. I used to get these from the self-serve olive and antipasti bar at Whole Foods or natural foods markets, but now buy them in the same department of the grocery store packaged by the store in to-go containers, and increasingly in jars in the same aisle where olives are.
- RED CERIGNOLA OLIVES. I said I generally stay away from foods that are dyed, but these olives are an exception because we already eat dyed olives; black olives are naturally green! Red olives are not always available, so they are not pictured on these boards, but you can peep them here. TBH, if you have black/purple olives, there isn't a real need for red olives, especially if you have red pickled peppers.
- RED BERRY or SOUR CHERRY JAM. I am currently having a love affair with Sour Cherry Jam by Dalmatia (the brand Divina has a sour cherry jam as well).
- WHITE CHEESE. Cheese is naturally white because guess what, milk, from any animal from which we get cheese, is white. Pick your favorites. MESSAGE ME for CHEESE RECS, as my favorites change all the time, and also, making a rec is more accurate if I know what you don't like. Though I tend to avoid "decor" on my boards, using a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out stars from slices of white Cheddar, provolone, or Monterey Jack seems cute.
- WHITE VEGETABLES. I did not include white vegetables on the boards pictured here for no other reason than they didn't fit. However, if you have the space, or want to go "lighter" with more vegetable crudites, add cauliflower, endive, fennel, jicama, and radish.
- NUTS. Marcona almonds are visually the most "white," but raw cashews can appear fairly light, too.
- PLAIN WHITE CRACKERS. My favorite is the sprouted grain Mini Croccantini, but they have a pretty wide variety of flavors.
- GLUTEN FREE CRACKERS. It's usually a thoughtful move to offer a gluten-free cracker option. These gluten-free crisps by 34 Degrees are made with chickpea and rice flours. Super light.
- STAR SHAPED CRACKERS. Info on these star-shaped crackers is probably one of the most-requested items. The crackers are made by Valley Lahvosh. They are available in the deli sections of chain grocery stores. Stores often sell-out before a holiday, so stock up a couple of weeks early.
- BLUE CHEESES. You should probably limit the cheeses in the Blue section to one, if any at all. True blue cheese, the funky, ripe cheeses with blue mold, can be a little intense for some people. Humboldt Fog is not technically a blue cheese, but it has a blue-hued line of vegetable ash. It is one of my favorite cheeses. Capriole "Sofia" is a similar ripened goat cheese with a bloomy rind, but is formed in a 3-dimensional trapezoid shape, so it's interesting looking on a board. If you go with a true blue, my favorite is gorgonzola dolce.
- BLACKBERRIES and BLUEBERRIES. Blue foods are hard to find. All we have are blackberries and blueberries, which arent even really blue, they're purple. Every single table will have blueberries on it during the RWB holidays.
- BLACK and PURPLE GRAPES. Same as above.
- FIGS. The best figs are fattest and sweetest very late in the summer, but if you're lucky, you can find black mission or other black/purple figs during the RWB holidays at the grocery store. Dried figs (and plums aka prunes) work, too!
- PURPLE OLIVES. There are purple cerignola olives, which have the same notes as Red Cerignola Olives above. Kalamata olives can appear pretty bluish-purple, too.
- FIG and OLIVE CRACKERS. You know the ones. I chose Fig and Olive flavor because "figs" sound the most blue to me.
- ALL OTHER VEGETABLES and FRUITS. All fresh produce I get first from the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers' market. Whatever I can't find there, I supplement with produce from Bristol Farms and Whole Foods (both in southern California).
There are many other small, snackable red, white, and blue things you can put on a board like seasonal red (usually dyed), white, and blue corn tortilla chips and red (beet-dyed), white and natural blue potato chips. There are also many white snacks like chicharrones and popcorn. Use these to fill in gaps if you have to! Though I encourage you to just fill in gaps with more cheese.
TOOLS and EQUIPMENT
- extra large 28x16-inch wooden board
- best large 20x15 cutting board that works well as a cheese board
- if you don't have a board, use a sturdy all-purpose baking sheet
- round wooden board, 3 diff sizes 12-inch to 18-inch diameter
- favorite all-purpose 7-inch chef's knife (expensive but worth it!)
- multi-purpose small condiment bowls for dressings, olives, and pickles
- I have a gajillion of these tiny spoons for dips, dressings and spreads on boards
- salad spinner to wash and prep fruit and vegetables
- this produce/vege wash to clean produce