An appetizing charcuterie board featuring an assortment of cured meats, fresh strawberries, olives, cheese, and sliced bread, ready for a delightful gathering.

The Epic Popularity of Charcuterie Explained- Origin & History

Share this:

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

Why is Charcuterie so Popular? Charcuterie is a mixture of cured meats that highlight forms of preservation or flavor enhancement. Ideally, flavors are contrasted or paired to magnify enjoyment, a combination of texture and color are also used. It offers variety and is visually appealing when displayed on a platter.

I’m really glad charcuterie has got so popular, I’ve been experimenting at home and studying it for quite a few years now. The history and cured meat origin is fascinating and has morphed into some quite extraordinary in this modern era.

So you could say it’s popular because it hasn’t got a lot of marketing or exposure until more recent times.

Charcuterie said “shaa·koo·tuh·ree” sounds so fancy! Here is a quick lesson!

There is a traditional and modern interpretation, which I will go through below.

Here are some of the factors as to why I think Charcuterie is so popular.

Popular charcuterie board

Dry-cured meat underpins the popularity of charcuterie; the traditional Norcini (Italy cured meat craft butcher) is pictured below:

Charcuterie norcini traditional cured meat large
I love going to the Norcini’s around Umbria!

I don’t like to pigeonhole the ideas around charcuterie. I used to think that it only related to cured meats, but there is so much more going on with the melding of cultures and flavors worldwide.

There are also many different types of cured meats, as a challenge, I posted examples of 50 cured meats – without cheating and just listing different salami recipes which there are probably 500.

If it interests you, let me highlight some of the background why it’s popular, talk about the classic flavors and I will put a few links on how to make your own charcuterie at home.

Charcuterie – Details Why is it Craved

Modern vs. Traditional French

The classic encyclopedia of French cooking, Larousse Gastronomique – labeled the guide to gastronomy -it defines the classical French charcuterie as:

“[t]he art of preparing various meats, in particular, pork, in order to present them in the most diverse ways.”

Source – Wikipedia – Charcuterie

It’s about pates, rillettes, terrines, sausages, boudin, and salamis – many of the super classic types of French preserved foods.

Now for the modern charcuterie side (remember this is my interpretation) – it has a much broader definition. This is where the funky marketers of restaurants begin to work there magic. But at the same time, it is a big factor in why it is so popular now.

Here is a charcuterie platter/board we made recently.

Which includes our homemade sourdough (in a Dutch oven on the gas grill), vegetables from our garden, some of my dry-cured meats, homemade dukkah, balsamic/olive oil dipping, and some other bits and pieces. In contrast, sometimes we keep it simple, but it was summer and we have an abundance.

Charcuterie board

Before refrigeration, meat was preserved using salt predominately, but also vinegar, fat, or smoke. These are also flavor factors that are now being used in various ways to bring charcuterie into the mainstream.

We have a little olive wood board from Italy, here are a few homemade dry cured meats we did in our normal kitchen fridge.

Salumi charcuterie cured meat
Dry cured meat done at home, olive wood board from Italy!

Magic That Comes From Time Honour Dry Curing

The site has a lot about dry curing (apply salt to quality meat, and draw out moisture to intensify and/or preserve the meat).

You might be familiar with dry curing from our friend dry cured bacon, which is hugely popular.

Or possibly you have heard of prosciutto or Parma Ham. In the most classical interpretation of prosciutto (Parma Ham is basically prosciutto from the area of Parma with strict name protection and production rules).

Parma ham large
Parma Ham – Salt, Pork, Passion & at least 12 months

Prosciutto comprises Pork, Salt, 12 months minimum curing/drying & passion.

Definitely one of the finest examples of simplicity and slow food in action. I have read about how prosciutto was around during the Roman Empire. It came about due to necessity since there wasn’t any form of refrigeration.

Home Made, Artisanal & Commerical

Another reason charcuterie has become popular is that people are discovering how to make it at home. Over 15 years of playing around with curing meat and smoking (which I would say is charcuterie).

More information is around now for someone to have a go. Through some try and error I have made some successful dry-cured meat in my regular kitchen fridge, here is how it came out below.

Using some inspiration of spices from different cultures (like Chorizo flavors for a chunk of pork) – I had some great outcomes from this batch.

Dry cured meat in a fridge

If you are interested in a full guide of how I did this, check out the post on making cured meat in a regular fridge here.

If you want a little info on dry cured meat, check out what I wrote explaining various dry-cured meats like ham, salamis, etc.. here.

Restaurant Marketing Making Charcuterie Popular

It used to be the meat & cheese platter, then the antipasti platter (which has been a thing for a long time in Italy). Recently, the charcuterie platter has made its way onto the scene.

Charcuterie sounds much more appetizing than a meat & cheese board!

Get asked often about what goes on a charcuterie board or platter, I have written some other posts in detail about this, but will give a bit of an overview.

Here is a brainstorming post I did about my interpretation of the charcuterie platter “theory” – please find it here.

Classic Popular Charcuterie for a Platter

Prosciutto or Parma Ham would be the classics for me – so simple, so tasty.

Dry Cured Meat

Most of these are the classic Italian antipasti dry cured meats. However, you can also see many charcuterie boards show stopper cured meats like – Iberian ham, Country Ham, or Mortadella (Emulsified meat, prefer to have the kind embedded with pistachios and truffles).

Here is a deli photo in Italy; the assistant comes out and hand slices wafer thin with a 10-inch brisket/ham knife. I can’t compare it with luncheon spam ham by any stretch of the imagination.

Mortadella with pistachio large

Salamis is another alternative, in terms of classics these are probably the most relevant ones for the main fare of charcuterie boards. However, they are also the most involved in terms of making them!

Olive oil and decent balsamic vinegar make an acidic and savory dunk for a nice bread that can be amazing.

When traveling through the classic cured meat area of Umbria, Italy – preserved antipasti vegetables were a common addition, like this one below.

Salumi charcuterie
Preserved tomatoes & courgettes in the town of Spoleto, Umbria (wiki)

Quick & Easy Charcuterie

If you want to try making some dry cured meats at home, as mentioned I have written a bit of a guide, check it out here. You can produce dry cured meats in 2-3 weeks that will blow your socks off.

It allows some intensifying of flavor. For the development of the ‘funky’ flavor of classic dry-cured meats – it’s more about getting into months of dry curing.

Meat Only or Are There More Charcuterie Options?

Spreads and dips are great examples of the expansion of classic charcuterie – beetroot, capsicum, tomato, hummus, or pesto – the modern interpretation can include any of these charcuterie additions in my book.

Charcuterie You Can Make at Home

Here are some of my favorites which are also charcuterie flavor bombs!

  • Hot Smoked Fish fillets
  • Pickled Cucumbers
  • Quick Dukkah

To get you started, here are some relevant other articles I have written,

Different Methods to Cure Meat with Salt

How to Hot Smoke Fish (Different Techniques)

The History of Charcuterie

What is It?

  • Charcuterie is a Technique Devoted to Preparing Bacon, Ham, Sausage, Terrines, Pates and Confit.
  • It is a Division of the Garde Manger Chef’s Repertoire.
  • Used to Preserve Proteins Before Refrigeration was Widely Used.
  • Products Created Using Force Meats – Sausages, Pate & Terrines.
  • Salt Cured & Brined – Prosciutto, Bacon & Ham.
  • Done First Through Osmosis.
  • Dehydration, Fermentation & Denaturing Proteins.
  • Through This Process, the Protein Structure is Shifted.
  • French Term From the Words ‘Chair’ – Meat & ‘Cuit’ – Cooked.
  • In the first Century AD, Strabo Recorded & Established Laws Regarding Salted Meat Imported From Gaul.
  • Every Culture Has Some Form of Preserving Meat for Use at a Later Time

Love to hear your thoughts, I think charcuterie deserves to have some popularity because its about food that has a story and gaining inspiration from local meat and other ingredients is good for all.

Here is a great quote from a restaurant owner in the South that specialized in cured charcuterie meat (Cypress, not closed):

Brock still believes that charcuterie should reflect the ingredients in the area where it is made. “You need to showcase the animal breeds and farmers from your region,” he says. “It’s important to glorify your food sources and create a product that demonstrates simplicity and individuality in that it can only be made there.”

Food Republic – How the South Became a Charcuterie Capital


Share this:

Comments

  1. Pingback: Making Mass Trauma Tasty and Classy with Charcuterie Boards - Perfect Home Digest

  2. Your pronunciation is awfully American. In French, it’s only 3 syllables, none of them stressed.

  3. It sure was interesting when you explained that charcuterie i visually appealing when placed on a platter and highlights forms of preservation or flavor enhancement. This is something that I will consider because I am planning to hold a birthday dinner party in two weeks. I want to ensure that my guests are going to feel excited when they see how the catering table is set, so your tips make sense to me.

  4. You didn’t mention the Italian word Antipasti. Italians don’t call it Charcuterie.

    1. Author

      No I didn’t, 90% of the readers are from North America and Canada, hence why it’s a USA focus. Meat and Cheese board is another name for it. I like salumi board! Tom

Leave a Comment