As finals season comes to an end, a new season is upon us and it is time to relax and take a break — especially after a hectic and unique school year. With a longer winter break, it provides a perfect opportunity to rewind and prepare even more for the upcoming spring semester. Furthermore, this allows more time to safely celebrate the holidays with loved ones and friends.
To make your first socially distant winter holiday more enjoyable, I highly recommend making a charcuterie board to impress and entertain your friends. These platters are easily customizable, enjoyed as a perfect appetizer and something that your friends can easily grab and go — a must-have requisite for prioritizing safety and health.
This specific board is winter-themed, which is perfect since the season is upon us. After developing inspiration from other food blogs, I have garnered some essential items to transform your charcuterie board into the perfect winter season aesthetic.
When making a charcuterie board, there are staple cheeses, such as traditional French brie, and staple bread and crackers, such as sliced French baguettes. To complement the cheese and bread, you can also add sliced meats like salami or prosciutto. It’s also a must to add either fruit-based or savory condiments to intensify and diversify your flavors. To balance out the heaviness of some cheeses, fruits like figs and grapes are great additions. Finally, to add a bit of crunch and different textures, I recommend roasted nuts and seeds.
This seasonal board’s average prep time is 45 minutes and, depending on the size of your board, can feed up to 10 people. In order to give your board that winter flare, the food blog No. 2 Pencil shares some inspiration with its Christmas Charcuterie Board and a Hot Chocolate Dessert Charcuterie Board. The latter recommends replacing some of your basic charcuterie board items with seasonal selections that incorporate essential winter flavors, such as pomegranates and sugared cranberries. The former is a dessert-style plate that creates different hot chocolate combinations, such as peppermint and caramel mocha hot chocolate, which are sure to pair nicely with a movie night.
For example, to create a festive charcuterie board, No. 2 Pencil recommends adding sweet and spicy pecans, fig jam and seasonal fruits onto the board, accompanied by some fresh cranberries and rosemary garnish. To create the dessert charcuterie board, all you need are any toppings of your choice, such as marshmallows, in all shapes and flavors, whipped cream and crushed candy canes — it is completely customizable and No. 2 Pencil also provides a homemade Crockpot Hot Chocolate recipe to pair with the toppings. Both additions incorporate seasonal flavors and will fill your home with aromas that remind you of the winter season.
Despite a charcuterie board being meat-and-cheese-based, there are many vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives to accommodate everyone. To replace meats, Emilie Eats recommends Sweet Earth Foods’ products, such as the Hamless Ham and Tuscan Veggie Sausages. For cheese, she makes her own cranberry and thyme vegan cheeseball. However, she recommends checking out your local markets and stores, such as Whole Foods, to get an array of vegan cheeses. Finally, for dips, she highly recommends hummus, as it is very versatile and pairs well with vegetables, such as sliced bell peppers and cucumbers.
To make your board gluten-free, Steph Gaudreau, a certified intuitive eating counselor and nutritional therapy practitioner, recommends replacing traditional bread and crackers with rice-flour-based gluten-free crackers. For dairy-free alternatives, she uses Kite Hill’s almond-milk-based dairy-free artisanal cheeses. According to No. 2 Pencil ingredients for a charcuterie board can easily be found at Trader Joe’s and Target for cheap prices. This is perfect for college students who are looking to glamorize their picnics on a student budget.
Ultimately, the best thing about these boards is that they are completely customizable. Therefore, although you can get inspiration from different pictures on Pinterest or the internet, you are the decision maker when it comes to what you want to put on your board. Also, don’t be pressured to make your board pretty — you don’t need decoratives or certain placing of items to make it into a meal.
This past semester has definitely been a new experience for all of us, and for that we deserve to treat ourselves with something that is a little “extra.” These boards are perfect to share with friends and family at a socially distant dinner or movie. To maximize health and safety, especially if you are outside, I would recommend filling your own separate plates as much as you can. Although this upcoming winter season might not be your typical holiday, it is still a great way to rewind and relax after a semester filled with uncertainty.