Creating a Fantastic Cheese Board on a Budget

A flavorful cheese board is a great way to get any party started, and you don't have to destroy your budget to make one. You can create an attractive cheese board with a nice variety of cheeses, fruits, meats, and garnishes without having to shell out large sums of cash at a specialty cheese shop to do so. A visit to your local grocery store can provide you with everything you need for a fraction of the price. With these simple tips, you can serve your guests a cheese board that will please the eye and the palate without leaving your wallet empty in the process.

Cheese Board

Preparation

Before going shopping for the ingredients for your cheese board, there are a couple of things that you'll want to do that will make your preparations go a lot more smoothly. First, consider what kind of party that you're planning. Is it a small get together with a few intimate friends, or is it a larger affair with friends and acquaintances that you don't know as well? Keeping this information in mind will help you to decide what types of foods you would like to present on your cheese board. If it's a group of close friends, you are more likely to know their particular tastes and will be able to adjust your selections accordingly. With a group that consists of friends and acquaintances that you don't know as well, it might be better to go with selections that appeal to most people, such as cheddar and Gouda.

Also take note of the number of guests that you expect to attend so that you're not purchasing more food than you need. If you're planning on serving dinner later on in the evening, or if you and your friends intend to dine out, that will also affect the amount and types of food that you choose to purchase for your cheese board. You won't need to provide as much of each item if a larger meal will take place later.

One last thing to consider before actually making your purchases is what you intend to serve on. Be creative when considering how you will serve your cheeses. Cutting boards are great and offer a lot of open space to work with when arranging your board, but you can also use decorative serving platters, dishes, and bowls. Regardless of what you choose to serve on, you'll also want to have a few small bowls or dishes for jams, honey, and other spreads, small knives and spreaders, small forks, and small tongs.

Slice your cheeses ahead of time, and then set them out about a half an hour before serving them. Letting the cheeses warm up will bring out the flavors, and slicing your cheeses before arranging them on your board cuts down on germs and contamination from multiple people handling wedges of cheese while trying to slice them.

Variety and Portions

Buy three or four different cheeses that have a variety of textures and flavors. Try to include a buttery soft cheese, a light tangy cheese, a warm hearty cheese, and a well-aged cheese to appeal to the varied palates of your guests. Listed below are several different cheeses to consider for your board. They can all be found at your local grocery store for a reasonable price.

  • Brie – Brie is a creamy cheese with a mellow flavor. The texture of brie depends on how long it has aged, but ideally it will have a softer edge that leads into a chalky center. Look for a brie that has a soft texture but isn't runny.
  • Gouda – Gouda is a popular semi-hard cheese with a rich flavor and a varied texture depending on its age. Smoked Gouda is especially popular, and it's also available in herb and nut infused flavors as well, making it a great choice for varied palates.
  • Chevre – Chevre is a goat cheese with a bright, tangy flavor that grows bolder the longer that it ages. Younger cheeses are soft and creamy with a milder flavor, while older ones have a crumbly texture and a bolder taste.
  • Camembert – Camembert is a rich cheese with a sweet, buttery flavor. As it ages, the cheese develops a white rind that is intended to be eaten along with the cheese. Unlike many cheeses, young camembert has a harder, crumbly texture, growing smooth and runny as it ages.
  • Cheddar – Because it appeals to so many people, cheddar is a great addition to any cheese board. It is a hearty cheese that ranges from a very mild to an extremely sharp flavor depending on how long it's been aged. Younger cheddars have a smooth, softer texture while older cheddars are harder and slightly crumbly.
  • Gorgonzola – Gorgonzola is a great choice if you want to include a blue cheese on your board. It still has the tangy sharp flavor of most blue cheeses, but it is a little less intense than other varieties. The flavor intensifies as the cheese ages, and it has a pleasant melt-in-your-mouth creamy texture.
  • Cream Havarti – Cream havarti is a pleasant semi-soft cheese with a buttery flavor that intensifies as it ages. It differs from regular havarti in that it is made with additional cream to achieve its rich flavor and texture. It's not uncommon to find variations of cream havarti infused with fruits, herbs, or spices that enhances the natural flavor of the cheese.
  • Swiss – Swiss cheese has a nutty flavor that is savory without being as sharp as some other cheeses. Some types of Swiss are solid in appearance, while others have the more familiar holes, or "eyes". Generally, a Swiss cheese with larger eyes will have a more robust flavor.
  • Provolone – Provolone is a semi-hard cheese with a flavor that ranges from sweet and mild to sharp, depending on how long it has aged. It is a hearty cheese that pairs well with spicy spreads and chutney. Smoked provolone is also available, and is a great addition to a winter cheese board.

If your budget allows, you might also want to consider including one cheese that is a bit more expensive as the centerpiece of your cheese board. You still don't have to spend a fortune, just buy a smaller portion and make sure that everyone gets to sample it. Not only will it add a wow factor to your board, but it will give everyone a chance to experience a cheese that they might not have tried before.

An important factor in creating a fantastic cheese board on a budget is proportion. You want to have enough food for everyone at your party, but you also want to avoid purchasing more food than will be eaten. To save money, only offer smaller portions of more expensive items and include larger portions of items that don't cost as much to complete your board and satisfy your guests. Even on a budget, you can still include quality cheeses, you just need to shop smart. Look for sales and compare prices before making your purchases.

Cheese Board

It's not Just About the Cheese

When putting together your cheese board, don't forget to include a variety of other foods to help balance the flavors of the cheeses. Include a diverse range of textures and flavors so that your guests can experiment with pairing cheeses with other foods and garnishes for unique, tasty combinations. Not only does this offer your guests a more varied selection, it also saves your budget. Some of the things that you might want to include for a balanced cheese board are as follows:

  • Sweet – Dried fruit, fresh fruit, jams, preserves, honey.
  • Brine – Dill pickles, pickled vegetables, black olives, green olives.
  • Crunch – Crackers, croutons, Melba toast, crostini, various nuts.
  • Salt – Salami, prosciutto, summer sausage, pepperoni.
  • Spreads – Horseradish, pepper jelly, Dijon mustard, chutney.
  • Bread – Don't limit yourself to crackers. A baguette from your local grocery store, served in thin slices is a nice addition and is inexpensive.

Most of these items don't cost very much, and you might already have some of them in your pantry. Just place them on your board amongst your cheeses along with small serving utensils for the spreads, jams, and honey.

Presentation

Be creative when arranging your cheese board to give it a fancier, more expansive appearance. Try to avoid overcrowding your board, but don't leave large areas of empty space either. Instead, find a happy balance that allows your guests to identify each item on the board easily so they can make their selections without having to move other items out of the way to reach their choices.

Think texture when arranging your board to emphasize the variety of items available and give your board a bountiful appearance. Stack slices of cheese in fan formations and arrange cubes of cheese in small mounds. Intersperse meats, fruits, crackers and other items in and around the cheeses for a robust display that also fills empty spots. Place small dishes of jams and spreads throughout to encourage your guests to try new flavor combinations.

Fresh herbs can make a nice finishing touch to your cheese board. Consider adding sprigs of rosemary, mint, cilantro, thyme and lavender as garnishes. The herbs will enhance the appearance of your board and they pair well with a variety of cheeses, fruits, and meats.

There is no firm rule stating that food has to be expensive in order for it to taste good. With a little imagination and careful planning, you can create an attractive cheese board that is filled with a variety of textures and flavors that will tantalize your guests without reaching beyond your budget to do so.

Sources

https://thesuburbansoapbox.com/create-ultimate-cheese-board-budget/

https://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/cheese-board-tips-budget

https://camillestyles.com/food-and-drink/recipe-files/how-to-make-a-cheese-board-for-under-20-really/

https://www.today.com/food/best-budget-cheeses-holiday-cheese-board-t119576

https://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelysanders/great-cheese-plate-at-a-regular-supermarket?utm_term=.fcxYoBYlV#.yolGk5GBX

https://www.cheese.com/

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