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Think Inside the Box This Fall

The holiday season is about to begin and portable DIY charcuterie and cheese boxes are an impressive and easy to make hostess gift you can customize depending on preferences and what you find at the market.

Make sure to have a mix of meats (salami, prosciutto, pepperoni, artisanal ham) and cheeses with different flavor profiles and textures (fresh, aged, soft and hard).

Select at least one fun or unexpected cheese like a cranberry or apricot stilton or lavender goat cheese. If you can find it an Italian La Tur, a mixed milk cheese similar to brie with a cake-like texture and a little tang, would add special note. Or an aromatic Italian truffle cheese with a taste of honey and garlic reminiscent of the earthy woods for a seasonal Fall box with accents of pomegranate seeds.

Include a few briny olives, nuts and a small jarof Italian mostarda or deep, fruity preserves. Add crackers flatbread or crisps (we like raisin rosemary). Tuck in a sprig of a woody fresh herbs (rosemary or thyme), dried citrus slices or a honeycomb for an extra touch of creative culinaria. It’s tempting to keep adding ingredients but the boxes are meant to be small and you want them to be visually appealing without being too fussy. You can add dried or fresh fruit or a preserved vegetables if you like but consider perishability.

Package in an 6 x 6 or 8 x 8 food grade box lined with parchment paper, tie with twine and a special tag with a list of the box's contents. You can design your box around a theme (Italian, French, Spanish, Nordic) and add a homemade tartlet and a bottle of cider or wine for a unique one of a kind gift.

Here is a recipe for an Italian Apple, Apricot and Red Pepper Mostarda, a sweet and savory condiment that would be a special addition to any cheese and charcuterie box.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 3 cooking apples, cored and diced finely

  • 2 medium-sized shallots, minced

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1/2 cup dried unsulfured apricots, diced finely

  • 1/2 medium-sized red pepper, diced finely

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

  • 2 tablespoons honey

In a medium-sized pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the apples, shallots, water, apricots, and pepper and cook until soft, about 15 minutes.

Then, add the remaining ingredients and cook until syrupy. Refrigerate until needed. Will keep for a fews weeks in the refrigerator.

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