What is Charcuterie?
Charcuterie is the rather wonderful art of preparing cold meat products (normally pork-based) such as bacon, salami, terrines, ham, sausage, pâtés, and confit, and presenting them in an appealing way. It’s a branch of French cookery that is solely dedicated to this type of deli-style offering. Due to its delicious array of flavours and textures means it’s perfect as stylish party food or as a course in itself.
How much meat do you need?
As most of the ingredients used in charcuterie are quite rich, we recommend around 3-5 ounces of charcuterie per person. Around 5 or 6 types of charcuterie will give your guests a nice selection to keep their taste buds happy and their minds intrigued.
Choosing meats for your board
Building your board is pretty easy - it’s mainly getting about the right selection to tempt the eyes and palates of your guests. If you want your board to look traditional, start with the following meats:
- Most quality butchers and delis will have a selection of salami and cured sausages you can use. Try a traditional Sardinian sausage, pepperoni or chorizo flavoured with wine to add texture and substance to your board.
Sliced meats and cured ham
- These cuts of ham and other meats are normally sliced wafer thin and add an all-important visual element to your board. Lomo de cerdo (pork tenderloin) is perfect as are guanciale, prosciutto and Serrano ham such as jamón Iberico de bellota - which is made from pigs fed on acorns. Cured Moroccan lamb with star anise or air dried venison are amazing so also worth considering.
- Patés add texture and almost limitless flavour. Whether it’s a terrine or traditional rillette they are perfect for spreading and can be made with any meat including game, pork or duck. Patés can also include vegetables such as asparagus or artichoke and flavourings such as lemon and thyme. Try a rabbit rillette or game terrine with fennel and tarragon.
Lard (yes, but don't tell anyone!)
- You can buy thin shavings of ‘lardo’ which are normally made from cured fatback. They're great on small toasts and topped with fresh herbs.
Additions to your board
Homemade, small toasts are perfect - try rubbing them with herb-infused oil. Artisan bread is great too - but go for drier ones such as crisp rosemary flatbread. Chutneys and pickles add some tanginess and sharpness to your board - try something fruity and tomatoey to cut through the saltiness of the cured meats.
Yes please. Something sweet, with acidity and fizz is perfect - so look for a decent sparkling riesling, cava or champagne.
Serving your charcuterie board
Once you've collected all your meats, you'll need to start thinking about how you'll present it to them. Charcuterie can look wonderful on a board made from olive wood but can work equally well on a bone china platter or serving tray. The main thing is to arrange your meats in neat groups and tempting looking layers.
For further inspiration have a look at our charcuterie ideas.
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