Charcuterie boards are pretty much a staple around my house. My husband and I have them for dinner fairly frequently when it’s just the two of us, with no kids around to feed. I love that we can keep a variety of ingredients on hand to quickly assemble one, and then take out it to the deck in warm weather, or enjoy it on our lap in front of Netflix after a long, busy day.
My young adult children have developed a taste for them too, and often send me pics of lovely charcuterie boards they have made themselves, or purchased at various restaurants.
In fact, when my daughter got married last month, my son and his girlfriend went to her house the day before she and her new husband returned from their honeymoon, and stocked their fridge for them. They included the fixings for a pretty impressive charcuterie board, which was such a nice surprise for them to come home to.
So this year, when I realized we were going to have to scale back for Christmas a little because of all the stuff going on in life, I decided a charcuterie board would be a good substitute for cooking a big Christmas dinner.
Perfect for New Year’s Eve or other parties
We made our charcuterie for Christmas, but this would be perfect for your New Year’s Eve celebrations, or any time you’ve got a gathering of friends over. Offering up an array of pickled items, cured meats, cheese, sweet or savory jams, fresh fruit, crackers, breads and more, a Charcuterie board is perfect to serve to a crowd.
It’s so easy to put together and can be assembled shortly before your guests arrive, so as the host, you’re not stuck cooking and cleaning up a big mess, allowing you to actually enjoy the party too!
Use a cutting board (or two) for a small charcuterie
When I am making charcuterie for just my husband and me, or for a few guests, I use a wooden cutting board to serve it on.
Ours isn’t anything fancy, but I bought THIS nicer one for our son’s girlfriend for Christmas. It comes with some little serving bowls for your jams or cornichon pickles, and also has a handy drawer underneath that holds a set of cheese knives and pickle forks.
Butcher paper for a large charcuterie
If you’re serving charcuterie to a crowd, an actual cheese board likely isn’t going to be big enough. This is where butcher paper or brown wrapping paper comes to the rescue!
I simply bought a roll at The Dollar Tree, and unrolled it down my center kitchen island to the desired length before cutting it off the roll. It was a bit wider than I wanted, so I trimmed a few inches off the side to make it more narrow and long and better fit to the size of my countertop. You can cut yours to fit the location where you’re going to lay out your charcuterie, whether that be a kitchen counter or your dining table.
Shop for your offerings
When it comes to building your charcuterie board, there aren’t really any rules. However, mixing and matching items that complement each other, including a blend of sweet as well as savory flavors, and a variety of textures is important to a well-balanced charcuterie.
If you live near an Aldi grocery store, they have a really great selection of options to build your charcuterie, and the prices were fantastic! A new one opened near where I live recently, and I went to check it out. I purchased the majority of the items for my charcuterie there for around $60 and it served 10 people easily with some leftovers. Serving 10 or more people (not including alcohol) for $60 is a bargain!
Start with your cheese selection. It’s a good idea to include both firm and soft cheese, some mild flavors and some stronger flavors. My favorite go-to cheese is the Sartori Bellavitano line. It comes in multiple varieties and we haven’t had one we didn’t like. We usually buy the espresso flavor, but also really like the Merlot, Tennessee Whiskey, and raspberry kinds.
For this arrangement I purchased some parmesan peppercorn spreadable cheese, but a warm brie or some soft and crumbly blue cheese would have been excellent, too.
There are a variety of cured meats that work well for charcuterie. I used hard salami, prosciutto, summer sausage, bite size dry salami and some black peppercorn genoa salami from the Hy-Vee deli counter that’s our absolute favorite. Slices of polish sausage or kielbasa would be great also. Whatever you choose, just be sure it’s thinly sliced to make it easy for guests to load onto their crackers or bread.
Crackers and Breads
An assortment is what is important here. Most grocery stores sell a party pack of assorted crackers, which is a good starting place. Then just fill in with other types of crackers, toasts, crips and breads, aiming for different textures and flavors.
The Rock Creek Crisps pictured above are our absolute favorite cracker. I get them at Whole Foods, and they are a bit pricey, but in my opinion they are worth it. When I go to Whole Foods, I typically buy 4 or 5 boxes and just keep them in the pantry.
I wish I had remembered to buy a fresh baguette for this board. The soft, crusty texture would have made a great addition to this.
Jams and Spreads
Some spreadable jams and mustards are the icing on the cake for a good charcuterie. Choose according to you personal tastes. A fig spread is always a good idea, and some honey is one of my personal favorites to add to charcuterie.
After you have the basics chosen, fill in with a variety of fresh and dried fruits, fresh vegetables, mixed nuts, chocolates and other sweets.
For this arrangement I used some little chocolate Santas, some small cinnamon cookies, fresh grapes, dried apricots, stuffed olives, cornichon pickles, and the Sweet & Spicy mixed nuts and Cinnamon Vanilla Almonds I made myself.
You also want some savory options such as mini pickles, olives, antipasti, or pickled vegetables.
Create your arrangement
Label your offerings
Make sure your guests know what the options are. One of the things I love about the butcher paper is that you can write directly on it! This adds a fun yet functional element to your charcuterie display.
You can also use mini chalkboard labels, such as THESE. I have a variety of them and just keep reusing them for different purposes. You can see how I used chalkboard labels for my daughter’s bridal shower HERE, and for our Couples Cocktail Contest Party HERE.
You could even just make your own little table tent type labels out of card stock. But really, if you’re using butcher paper, just write on it. Easy-peasy, and plus, the clean up involves wadding it all up and throwing it away at the end!
Finish it off….
Finish it off with your favorite wine, or a batch of Pomegranate-Pear Sangria and you have the perfect charcuterie to feed a crowd, with a minimal amount of work and no cooking on your part.
If you’re serving this for a party, you could also add in a couple of hot appetizers or dips. We made a Hot Corn Dip that got polished off in no time, and served a pre-made shrimp cocktail platter.
I love charcuterie because it allows everyone to pick and choose their favorites, and customize how they prepare their own plates. Plus, it’s a great way for people to socialize and chat as they gather ’round.