Thanksgiving is just over two weeks away, and one thing I always like to think about ahead of time is how I can contribute to the Thanksgiving meal. Some of us love to plan the meal and help cook all day (me!), and some of us wouldn’t be caught dead getting the giblet bag out of the turkey. And that’s ok. Regardless of what category you fall into, it’s always nice to bring something to contribute.
At our family’s Thanksgiving celebrations, there is always an abundance of the classic Thanksgiving dishes and snacks. Pecan pie, pumpkin pie, pumpkin rolls, cinnamon rolls, Chex mix, basically anything you can think of that is a staple on Thanksgiving day. A few years ago, I started bringing a charcuterie board to our holiday meals. I normally travel at least two hours to get to our extended family’s house, and it just seemed liked the perfect thing to bring. It travels well, it doesn’t require oven space, and it can be enjoyed before, during, and after the main meal. Win, win, win.
I’m going to share a few of the charcuterie boards I’ve made over the years, and give you some tips and tricks that I’ve learned. You’ll find a lot of really particular instructions (like making sure you have a soft cheese and a hard cheese) on how to assemble a charcuterie board online, but I say throw all of those out the window and just start with things you like to eat. As long as you have a full board and have assembled it with even a small bit of order, it’s going to be beautiful.
TIP ONE: CHOOSE A VARIETY OF MEATS
For me, my charcuterie boards always revolve around the meats. My trusty choices are usually a variety salami, prosciutto, and pepperoni. These seem to be the most cost effective in my opinion, but are still really beautiful when paired with all of the other things on the board.
TIP TWO: DON’T FUSS ABOUT THE CHEESE
Cheese is obviously a very important part of the charcuterie board, but I really don’t fuss about it too much. I usually pick out what’s on sale and don’t overthink about if it’s hard or soft. Sure, it’s nice to have a soft cheese to spread on a cracker, but if it’s the most expensive one of the bunch, I’m probably going to pass. I love a good white cheddar cheese and if I can find a goat cheese at a decent price, I will add that in too. No cheese is a bad cheese when it comes to charcuterie boards.
TIP THREE: GET MORE THAN ONE TYPE OF CRACKER
The meats and cheese are great, but the crackers and/or bread is the vehicle people are going to use to enjoy your charcuterie board. Don’t make these items an afterthought just because they may be bland on their own. I like to pick a good sized cracker that is at least the same size or bigger than the salami, and then something smaller like melba toast that goes well with the soft cheese. I also like to add in sesame or garlic hard breadsticks for people to grab and munch on.
TIP FOUR: DON’T FORGET THE PICKLES (OR OLIVES)
Adding in something with a tangy or briney flavor like pickles or olives (or capers!) is such a great compliment to the meats and cheeses. I am not a huge olive fan, so I usually opt for small gherkin pickles, but olives are a great option too (I have to remind myself it isn’t always about me, ha!). They are easy to eat and don’t require any utensils, so they make the perfect addition to a charcuterie board.
TIP FIVE: GET FRUITY
Charcuteries board are not only a place for savory items, but sweet too! I love adding in big red grapes or cutting open a pomegranate to expose the beautiful seeds. Another great addition is dried fruit or jams. They require no refrigeration and hold up extremely well as the charcuterie board sits out for people to enjoy.
I know that charcuterie boards can look intimidating to make, but they are truly one of the easiest contributions you can make to a holiday meal or party. They are such a crowd pleaser, and require zero cooking. You don’t have to go to a fancy specialty shop to get the ingredients either, one of my best kept secrets is that I find a lot of the speciality jams and crackers at….drumroll please…TJ Maxx! You don’t have to spend a fortune to make a good charcuterie board. Get creative and just let the ingredients build on one another. Now, I’m off to find inspiration for my Thanksgiving board!