Charcuterie started as way of preserving meats, it made sense before refrigeration, but why do we still do it today ?
I think quite simply put is because it tastes so dam good so let’s keep making it. So where did charcuterie first take place and who were the people. Lets take a deeper look into the way the meats are preserved.
What is Charcuterie?
Charcuterie (pronounced “shahr-ku-tuh-ree”) is the art of preparing and assembling cured meats and other meat products. But, many people use the term charcuterie to refer to an assortment of meats that are paired with different accompaniments, such as toast, fruit, cheese, and sauces.
If you want to offer charcuterie on your menu, there are a handful of basics to understand first, from identifying some of the most popular types of charcuterie, to what makes a really impressive completed board.
Charcuterie is a branch of cooking involving prepared meats, such as ham, sausage, bacon, confit, or other pork products. The word originated in France, and it translates to “pork-butcher shop.” While the original French translation refers to pork, modern charcuterie boards can include other types of food, such as duck, goose, chicken, cheese, toast, fruit, or other options.
In French, the person that prepares the meat is called a Charcutier. Additionally, the English pronunciation of charcuterie varies slightly from the original French. The correct French pronunciation of charcuterie is “shar-coo-tree.” How do you cure meat?
4 Types of Charcuterie
There are many different types of charcuterie that you can serve to your guests, such as pate, jamon iberico, or mortadella. Instead of listing all of the potential options, here are four unique options that you may not have heard of before that would be a great addition to any charcuterie tray:
A French charcuterie that’s similar to pate but with a coarser texture. The basic idea is that the meat is slow-cooked until it can be shredded. Rabbit, goose, and duck are common types of meat used for this.
How Do You Eat It?
Rillettes can be served cold or at room temperature, then spread over bread or toast.
When talking about charcuterie, mousse refers to a mixture of meat and liver that’s blended in a meat mixer and strained so finely that it takes on a creamy texture.
It’s similar to rillettes in that it’s a spreadable meat dish, but the main difference is that it has a much smoother consistency that is similar to pate. One of the most popular kinds of mousse is chicken liver, which is often prepared with spices, cream, and even a bit of wine to achieve a rich flavor and silky texture.
How Do You Eat It?
Even though mousse must be cooked before eaten, it’s usually served cold and tastes great on toast or even pieces of fruit.
Salami is ground meat mixed with spices (and usually wine), encased in sausage casings, and then dried. There are many different styles of salami, some of the most common being Italy’s soppresatta, chorizo from Spain, and saucisson sec from France.
How Do You Eat It?
The serving method largely depends on the type of salami. Genoa salami lends itself well to being sliced thin on a meat slicer and put on a sandwich. Chorizo is commonly used as an ingredient that adds a robust flavor to cooked dishes and can be found in anything from breakfast to fish entrees to sides of potatoes. Soppresatta is commonly sliced a little thicker and served as an appetizer with cheese and fruit.
Prosciutto is usually a fatty cut of meat that’s cured in salt and hung to dry over several months. Prosciutto is usually made from pork, but cured lamb, duck, or other meats that undergo the same process can also be considered a type of prosciutto.
How Do You Eat It?
Because of its dense texture, prosciutto is typically sliced very thin on a specialty meat slicer and can be served in a wide variety of ways. You may see it wrapped around fruit or covering other meats and cooked as a crispy outer shell. It’s a delicious pizza topping; it can be diced and added to quiche or pasta dishes, and it can be eaten all on its own!
How to Make a Charcuterie Board
An ideal charcuterie board has a good balance of flavors and textures and has items that contrast and complement each other. Here are some tips for making pairings and choosing ideal options for your charcuterie tray:
- Pair a chewy salami with a rich and smooth pate.
- Complement spicy chorizo with sweet fruits.
- Contrast cold cheeses, fruits, or meats with warm sausage or cheese.
- Limit yourself to one smoked meat option per tray. Smoke has a strong flavor that can easily overwhelm more delicate flavors on the board.
The basic goal of a charcuterie board is to create contrast between all of the different qualities in each morsel that makes sense. Additionally, many charcuterie boards will include toast, fruit preserves, and even mustard or fancy olive oils to mix up the possible combinations.
Charcuterie Board Portion Sizes
When it comes to portion size, many charcuterie boards will include only about 2 oz. of meat per person. This is assuming that it’s being used as a “small plate” being eaten in between meals. For cocktail parties or settings where guests will be mainly eating just snacks, you can increase the portion and include lots of bread.
How to Serve Charcuterie
When it comes to serving charcuterie, presentation is everything. Natural wood serving boards are a popular option because it gives the charcuterie board a trendy and rustic look. If you want to create an upscale aesthetic, slate servingware is an excellent option. For restaurants that are looking for attractive, affordable, and easy to maintain options, there’s even faux servingware that’s perfect for charcuterie.
4 Styles of Charcuterie Boards
There are a few different approaches you can take while developing a concept for your charcuterie board. You can go with a regional approach and include items that all hail from the same country or town (i.e. you could make an entire board based on the flavors of Alsace, France or Bologna, Italy). Or you can take a more freestyle approach and think about how your favorite flavors and textures would translate onto one board. Here are a few examples of the latter option, to spark your creativity.
1. Pickles and Spreads
The crunch of a pickled vegetable with the smooth texture of duck rillettes is a lovely combination. Since pickles are another example of an ancient preservation method, it makes sense they’d marry well together.
2. Cheese and Fruit
A fresh and crisp green apple goes great with a soft cheese. You can also consider rounding out your charcuterie board with some nuts, honey, and chicken liver mousse.
3. Fresh Veggie and Citrus
Think crunchy fennel and blood orange slices. The bright and fresh flavors of fresh produce can balance out heavier, fattier meats, like salami.
4. Toast and Meat
Classic charcuterie items like prosciutto and fig jam pair perfectly with toast. Additionally, toast provides a unique crunchy and chewy texture that contrasts well with other charcuterie options.
When it comes to making a charcuterie board, there’s no right or wrong way. Instead, you should focus on creating contrasts and comparisons and providing your guests with a memorable eating experience. Additionally, you can experiment with your charcuterie boards by using creating new and interesting pairings of meats with different types of cheeses. Knowledge of the various ingredients in a standard charcuterie board can help you break the rules in an effective way as you grow more comfortable with the craft of developing a delicious and cohesive board for your restaurant, bar, or cocktail party.