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In the artisan food and drink world, charcuterie is a craft steeped in rich history – and equally rich flavours. Yet with the rise of innovative British charcutiers who are keen to put their stamp on this heritage sector, it is also one that’s bursting with exciting, flavourful products.
Charcuterie, a French term (pronounced shar-KOO-tuh-ree) for cured meats, is way of preparing meat to be eaten cold or warm. While the practice of curing meats dates back to ancient times as a method of preservation before refrigeration, today charcuterie has become a culinary artform in its own right.
There are many types of charcuterie, such as air-dried, salt-cured and fermented. These processes can take anywhere from a few weeks for pancetta to up to six months for lomo, a cured pork tenderloin. There are also types of soft charcuterie, like pâté and terrines, made from seasoned forcemeats.
When it comes to charcuterie, it’s advisable to splurge on the best as an occasional treat rather than having cheaper varieties more often, and this makes it a brilliant option for fine food retailers. Ensure your team are knowledgeable so they can help customers tell their coppa from their bresaola. It’s also useful to ensure staff can identify the main selling points of artisanal charcuterie, such as the high standard of meat and methods used, and the time and care that go into crafting the best products.
Learn more about the top types of charcuterie you need to know.
Britain is home to a growing cadre of charcutiers who are creating fantastic products, including Continental-inspired classics and original inventions. As Dhruv Baker, co-founder of Tempus Foods, told Speciality Food, the UK industry has a blank canvas upon which to define the future of British charcuterie.
Some examples of British charcuterie producers include:
• Tempus Foods’ King Peter Ham - A speck style air-dried ham cured with juniper, bay and peppercorns
• Sunday Charcuterie’s Garlic and Black Pepper Salami - Rare-breed pork with Tellicherry black pepper
• Great Glen’s Mustard Seed Venison Salami - Made with pure wild venison, mustard seeds and cracked white peppercorns
• Good Game’s Bresaola - Made from local dry-aged beef silverside
• Cobble Land Cured’s Pancetta - Made from British pork belly, cured with pepper and rosemary
• Deli Farm Charcuterie’s Beef & Horseradish salami - Made with 100% West Country beef paired with classic horseradish
• London Smoke & Cure’s Air-dried Chorizo - Heritage Gloucester Old Spot pork cured with authentic Pimenton de la Vera
• Dingley Dell’s Cured Moccus Salami - A delicate Milan-style salami with cracked black pepper and garlic
Charcuterie boards are ideal for large gatherings, but they’re just as tasty enjoyed as a snackable family lunch. Not only are they easy to assemble, but they also make a big impact when displayed on a simple plank of wood or slate with a few accompaniments. Just remember that sometimes less is more, and flavours tend to shine brightest when served at room temperature.
Your choice of meats should naturally be front and centre in your charcuterie board. A good rule of thumb is to choose of three to four cured and cooked meats with a variety of flavours and textures. For example, you could choose a herby salami and a spicy chorizo complemented by a whole muscle cut, like a lomo or bresaola, and finished off with a soft charcuterie, like pâté, rillettes or terrine.
Perhaps the biggest question for your charcuterie board is whether to add cheese. It’s a hotly contested issue. We’ll only say this on the matter: if you decide to include it, make your selections carefully to ensure you choose flavours that balance and complement your charcuterie . Opposites attract here. A crumbly cheese partners well with a delicate slice of meat, while creamy textures work better with thicker cuts of meat.
A selection of savoury biscuits and crusty bread (choose a quality sourdough – this is another area where you don’t want to skimp) provide a nice base for any soft charcuterie.
A smattering of olives, gherkins and pickled onions won’t go amiss. Nuts also provide a great balance of texture and mild flavour. If you’re going for the wow-factor, you may also want to include dried and fresh fruits, like berries or grapes. Your guests might appreciate a selection of chutneys and piccalillis – but don’t forget you want to let the charcuterie flavours shine through.