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The popularity of charcuterie has soared over recent years as consumers foster a growing appetite for artisan food and drink amid rising interest in the British charcuterie scene.
In fact, Exploding Topics discovered that searches for ‘charcuterie’ were up 237% over the last five years. Interest was especially high over December 2020, as the trend tracker revealed that charcuterie boards were hugely popular during the winter holiday season. The researchers also found that charcuterie lovers threw caution to the wind, as unlike other trending communal platters, search interest in charcuterie wasn’t hit by Covid-19 concerns.
British makers and retailers of charcuterie have no doubt benefitted from these trends. In fact, Edinburgh charcuterie producer East Coast Cured was on track to double its retail sales for the 12 months to February 2021, while overall turnover soared 53%.
The rising demand for charcuterie is part of the Traditional Food Movement trend, Exploding Topics noted, which has seen a resurgence in the popularity of traditional food thanks to their natural health benefits and eco credentials.
Sustainability has been a big part of the growing interest in Britain’s charcuterie makers. Mark Hayward of Dingley Dell Cured, told Speciality Food that more and more British consumers are seeking out meat with higher animal welfare and a strong sense of provenance. “A meat product with more provenance, more animal welfare and certainly more sustainability where it can be done is going to be a massive driver for the more discerning customer,” he said.
But when it comes to flavour, British producers have taken a range of approaches. Mark wanted Dingley Dell Cured to produce meats that paid homage to traditional styles seen in the well-established charcuterie markets of Italy, France and Spain.
“We wanted to be very true to the origins of charcuterie, and we wanted to make great Mediterranean-style, natural products. We didn’t want to try and be clever about the products or introduce lots of different flavours to them. We wanted them to be very much about the flavour of the meat,” Mark said. Dingley Dell’s British flair comes from its pigs, which are taken through a specialised breeding programme, and with the names of its products, which are inspired by ancient gods connected to the countryside or the UK.
Elsewhere, producers such as Wild and Game go even further to align their creations to the British countryside, with products including Juniper-Cured Wild Venison Carpaccio, made with wild Scottish venison, or Wild Boar Pancetta, which is made with British wild boar.
No matter the producer’s approach, there is plenty to be excited about in today’s British charcuterie market, from the increased quality of the products to the growing numbers of producers to the rising awareness from the British public. And retailers can boost this demand even further by searching for local producers and stocking their products at the deli counter.
The growing appreciation of charcuterie in Britain is good news for all artisan producers, both local newcomers and traditional Continental producers. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the top charcuterie types that retailers should look out for, as well as advice on how to pair them and serve a charcuterie plate.
10 types of charcuterie to know
Air-dried pork, mainly from the neck or pork shoulder pressed into a skin, cured with spices, smoked and air-dried. Has a very high fat content. Ready in 10-12 weeks.
Pork loin, cured with spices, air-dried and smoked. This is a leaner cut of meat, with a finer, more delicate flavour. Ready in two to three months.
‘Nduja (pronounced en-doo-ya)
A particularly spicy, spreadable pork salami you can put on bruschetta or pizza or even melt into pasta. It is typically made with parts of the pig such as the shoulder and belly, as well as tripe, roasted peppers and a mixture of spices.
Traditionally made from beef tenderloin that’s been air-dried and salted. Recognise it by its dark red colour. Takes two to three months during which 40% of weight is lost, which is why it’s on the pricey side.
Cured strips of fatback. Should taste sweet, not greasy. The fat is where the flavour is. Melt wafer-thin slices on toasts.
Cured pork tenderloin, short for lomo de cerdo (pig). Originated in Spain, and is made by lightly curing a piece of tenderloin in salt, washing it, rubbing it with seasonings (such as chilli, paprika, rosemary) and hanging it to try. Takes four to six months.
Cured sausage which comes in an array of variations, but traditionally is seasoned with garlic, salt and pimentón (smoked paprika). The UK is the main destination for chorizo approved by the Spanish Chorizo Consortium, and in the first quarter of 2021, imports increased by 28% compared with the previous year.
Italian-style bacon, which is made from pork belly. Traditionally dried-cured in salt for a couple of weeks before being hung to dry for another couple of weeks.
Originating in Lincolnshire, it can be made with a mix of pork meat and some of its offal, such as the heart and liver, before being spiced with pepper, nutmeg and sage.
Cured sausage, traditionally pork, made from fermented or air-dried meat.
How to serve charcuterie boards
With many British customers still relatively new to charcuterie, retailers can be a vital link between producers and shoppers, providing education and advice about local and Continental varieties and how best to serve and pair them.
For example, if your customers are creating a charcuterie and cheese board, they will want to offer a range of cured sausages, such as salami or chorizo, as well as whole muscle cuts, like lomo and bresaola, which are often cut into thin slices. While cured meats are typically more herby, whole muscle meats will usually be sweeter with nutty flavours. Customers may also want to include pâté or terrine on their charcuterie plate.
To create a cheese and charcuterie board, customers can include a wide variety of cheeses including hard and soft cheese. When pairing types of cheeses with meat, the rule of thumb is to go for contrasting textures, for example pairing a crumbly cheese with a thin slice of meat or cheeses with creamy textures with thicker cuts of meat. A charcuterie board is also not complete without wine, and retailers can suggest a variety of wines that will fit the bill – from crisp white wine to pair with delicate flavours all the way through to full-bodied reds to go alongside stronger flavours of meat.
Don’t forget the accompaniments, too – chutney, fresh fruits, nuts and pickles, plus a selection of hard biscuits and soft bread, provide a broad range of flavours and textures to pick and mix.