Charcuterie On A Budget
Entertaining. That one word can bring equal amounts excitement and fear. While I enjoy having friends and family over to celebrate life or other special occasions, I am on a budget. Make that a very small, almost non existent budget. I sometimes want decadence, but I don’t want to break the bank in order to entertain.
While I love grilling foods, there are times when the weather isn’t conducive to such entertainment. Sometimes I just want to keep it relatively effortless and not have to be cooking. These are my loved ones and I want to spend time with them laughing and talking, being present in the moment.
Recently a friend of mine was telling me about charcuterie boards. Something I haven’t ever heard about before. So in keeping with my natural curiosity, I dug my heels in to the internet and researched anything and everything I could find. If you haven’t ever heard of charcuterie, I’ll explain.
Basically charcuterie is a French word that became really popular in the Middle Ages. It means “meat” (char) and “cooked” (cuit). While traditionally a charcuterie board would only be adorned with a variety of meats that have been cured, there are no hard rules to follow. You can absolutely make it your own by adding whatever foods you prefer. Make it as elaborate or as everyday as you desire. There are no limits here.
My first thought was oh this is out of my league. But then, I had an idea, a wickedly delicious idea. I am the queen of thrift, and doing many great things on a very small budget is something I’ve prided myself with over the years. I knew I could make this work for me, and kill it in the process. First things first, what could I put these glorious foods on?? I don’t have the ability to spend several hundreds of dollars on a fancy over-sized handmade board. But I WANTED it to be equally stunning and nothing in my kitchen fit the bill.
What to use as a board:
I went into my garage to see what I could find. We have an old entertainment armoire out there that we haven’t used in several years. It’s a beautiful piece of furniture. It’s all wood, and very rustic. Inside the armoire is removable/adjustable shelving. So, I took one of the shelves out and cleaned it up and decided this would be the base for the charcuterie board. You do not need to use a wood board. If you have a pretty platter, or
If you take a look around and still cannot find a suitable board, do not be afraid to go to a thrift store or hit a few yard sales. Remember just because it may look one way, doesn’t mean you can’t dismantle and repurpose a
What about the food:
Having the actual board out of the way I had to think about the foods I wanted to use on my new way of entertaining. I knew I wanted it to be as decadent as possible, but within reason. No caviar here folks!
I made a list of preferred foods, what I had on hand as well as foods I needed to purchase. After deciding that I really would need to add to what we already had in the pantry I headed out to the Dollar Tree. Once there, I purchased an assortment of crackers, pretzels and even olives. I also grabbed a couple cute candles to add to the overall ambiance. Total spent, $10. Next, I went to Aldi to get the meats and cheeses. I love Aldi, and if you haven’t ever been, you truly should give it a try, at least once. While their cheese section isn’t as elaborate as other big name grocery stores, I feel it’s adequate and certainly affordable. I purchased 4 types of cheeses, prosciutto, salami, an assortment of more crackers, hummus, Italian bread and a few vegetables. Total spent, $35.
Now that the foods and board were out of the way I started to get everything ready.
Building the Charcuterie:
I wanted to make sure that my charcuterie was a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy. I gathered a few pieces of “china” from my daughters rather large tea set collection. What? I’m just keeping it real y’all. Trying to show you that you can do fabulous on a budget. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t let anything that may have a liquid consistency (pickles, olives, hummus) be placed directly onto the board. I didn’t want to stain the board in case I needed to return it to the armoire. The dishes that we have collected from thrift stores and yard sales for my daughters “tea set” are very cute, full sized and if something happened to break it would have been okay.
After preparing the foods (slicing the cheese, making a dip, cutting the bread, cooking the kielbasa etc.) I needed to decide how to place them. After playing around with placement on the board, I knew I wanted it to be over the top amazing. Wanting it to be abundantly plentiful, and I had this really large board I needed to fill. Not wanting any of the actual board to be seen, placement was important. Also I didn’t want to place anything that had moisture (pickles, olives, etc.) next to anything that could potentially become soggy or stale. (pretzels, crackers and bread)
Grapes and other fruits are a fabulous way to take up a lot of space and add to the overall effect of your charcuterie. Spreading the crackers and cheeses out to cover a lot of area on the board is also essential to the abundant feeling I was after. Realizing that I had a few almonds in the cupboard, I grabbed a few hands full and placed them on the board as well.
As I have said, there are no hard rules here. As the seasons change you can easily stay within budget and use fruits and vegetables that are in season. If you like dried fruits, add them too. Jelly, jam or honey would be a perfect addition to your charcuterie. I wanted foods that were filling as this was going to be the meal offered at our next get together with friends. Which was the next day to watch football.
When to charcuterie:
If you wanted, you could easily have a charcuterie board every day of the week. Although in my opinion it would lose some of its appeal that way, but hey, you do you. Football games, girls nights in, movie night with the kids, a quiet evening alone with your spouse, baby showers, birthday parties any of the traditional holidays where friends and family would be gathering. All of these are fabulous times to make a large decadent charcuterie on a budget.