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 interpretation and a modern one, which I will go through this below.
Here are some of the factors as to why I think Charcuterie is so popular.
Why is Charcuterie so Popular? Charcuterie is a mixture of cured meats which 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.
Dry-cured meat underpins the popularity of charcuterie, the traditional Norcini (Italy cured meat craft butcher) is pictured below:
I don’t like to pigeon hole the ideas around charcuterie, I use to think that it only related to cured meats, but there is so much more going on with the melding of cultures and flavors across the world.
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’s something you are interested in, 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
In 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 why 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.
Before refrigeration meat was preserved using salt predominately, but also vinegar, fat or smoke. These are also flavor factors which 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 that we did in our normal kitchen fridge.
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).
Now dry curing you might be familiar with, 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 rules of production).
Prosciutto is made up of 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 why charcuterie has got popular, is 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.
If your 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 what is 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 came the antipasti platter (which has been a thing for a long time in Italy). In more recent times, the charcuterie platter has made its way onto the scene.
I think charcuterie sounds a lot 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. Can’t compare with to luncheon spam ham by any stretch of the imagination.
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 with decent balsamic vinegar makes an acidic and savory dunk for a nice bread 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.
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 is 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,
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.
- 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