By Kyra Steck
For me, summers on the Vineyard have always been defined by small family rituals — waking up at 6 in the morning to make it to the Right Fork Diner before the crowds, eating cherry-dipped ice cream on the jetties at Menemsha during sunset, laying out at night, huddled under a few blankets, to look for shooting stars. But my favorite ritual of all has to be the charcuterie boards we would make after a full day at the beach. Sitting on the deck during golden hour, watching the sun sink lower as we sipped white wine, we would try our best not to quickly devour the plate we had just assembled.
So many of my memories of the Island are centered around food, and for good reason. Martha’s Vineyard is home to so many incredible restaurants, farms, fish markets, and local producers. A charcuterie board brings all of these together onto one plate. With that in mind, I set out to create the ultimate Martha’s Vineyard charcuterie board, to feature the amazing work of Islanders and reminisce on my past days of Vineyard summer haze.
When contemplating where to buy the meat for my charcuterie board, really the staple of the entire platter, I instantly thought of the Black Sheep.They offer at-home charcuterie kits, with five different meats included. The prosciutto di parma was easily my favorite, with a buttery texture and edge of saltiness that paired great with both cheeses. The genoa salami was also incredible, with bits of peppercorn that gave it a bit of heat. The molinari sopressata — trimmed Berkshire pork shoulder — was seasoned with wine and heirloom spice, and tasted fantastic with the Prufrock cheese. The smoked duck breast was more thickly cut, with a smoky applewood flavor. Finally, the house brandied truffle mousse, a bestseller at Black Sheep, was light and fluffy while still rich and flavorful.
The cheese! Arguably the most important part of any charcuterie board. As a Chilmark resident, I’m definitely a little biased, but the Grey Barn & Farm makes the most incredible cheeses. Limiting myself to two was a struggle, but ultimately I selected the Prufrock and the Riprap. The Prufrock is Grey Barn’s award-winning cheese. The cheese is washed-rind, with a silky and creamy texture in the middle. It has a salty and savory flavor, with notes of nut and tropical fruit, and goes perfectly with a sweet jam and peppered meat. The Riprap is a hard cheese with caramel overtones and hints of acidic fruit, and pairs nicely with a savory jam and salted meat.
When it comes to jams, there is no one I trust more than Linda Lee Alley. With 25 varieties of her New Lane Sundries jams and jellies, I always try to find a savory and a sweet. Her Llavender Nectarine Jam is a longtime favorite of mine, and pairs incredibly with a creamier cheese and peppered salami. The Zinfandel Chili Jam packs some sweet heat, especially with a sharper cheese or some prosciutto.
Local honey from the Island Bee Company was a great addition. A mini 4-ounce jar of their West Tisbury honey gave the board the perfect golden touch. I drizzled it on nearly every bite of cheese, and dipped slices of baguette or salami in it for extra sweetness.
Fruit is essential to balancing out any charcuterie board, both for taste and for color. Nectarine season is in full swing, and Morning Glory Farm has been growing some of the juiciest and sweetest nectarines I’ve ever had, with a bit of tartness that I love. Sadly, I missed their homegrown strawberry season, but was still able to buy some there, along with some blueberries and grapes.
I included two different spreads for the charcuterie board — a goat cheese pesto spread from the Black Sheep and a smoked bluefish spread from the M.V. Smokehouse. The goat cheese pesto was whipped, light, tangy and absolutely delicious. I am guilty of spreading entire spoonfuls of it on the toasted baguette. The smoked bluefish spread was fresh and smokey, and a little added paprika went a long way.
For the bread, I made the trek out to Aquinnah for an Orange Peel Bakery baguette. Be warned, they only bake baguettes twice a week and they go quickly. To make sure the slices could handle the weight of the cheese, meat, jam, spread and honey, I added some olive oil and put them in the oven for a few minutes. They came out warm, crispy on the edges but still soft in the middle, and ready for whatever charcuterie combination we could come up with.
Orange Peel Bakery’s rosemary and olive oil roasted nuts were nearly addicting — one bite out of curiosity would lead to quick handfuls of them. Some might prefer the nuts with an extra sprinkle of salt on top, but either way, these savory snacks are a great way to fill out your board.
While chocolates are not usually included in a charcuterie board, I couldn’t help but make an exception for Salt Rock Chocolate Company. Like many Islanders mourning the loss of Chilmark Chocolates, I took solace knowing that the Flanders sisters were continuing its legacy of handmade, up-Island chocolates. After waiting in line at their stand at the West Tisbury Farmers Market with other excited visitors, I could finally see if the Flanders were able to recreate the magic of their predecessors. And let me tell you, their treats did not disappoint. An assortment of their dark chocolate delicacies pairs perfectly with the Grey Barn’s Riprap cheese, and also makes for an excellent mini dessert.
This article by Kyra Steck originally appeared on mvtimes.com.