Since we use the word "charcuterie" in our business name, I figured that I would start our 4 part "How do you slice it?" series with the meat. I've found that most people use the word "charcuterie" interchangeably to describe most items they would put onto their charcuterie platter or plate including the cheese.
Here is an abbreviated history lesson:
The word charcuterie itself is French and means "pork butcher shop".
Pronounce it: shar-koot-er-ee
The process of making charcuterie originated in Europe hundreds of years ago as a means to extend the shelf life of meat prior to the invention of refrigeration. Today the process has evolved to an artform that has been perfected across numerous cultures. Our more popular varieties are French, Italian, Spanish and even a little German.
Most people in the United States would more commonly use the varieties included in this article however don't be mistaken, the world of charcuterie includes far more specialties than I could possibly include here.
When prepping meat for a charcuterie board, it can be just as much about the folding technique as it is the cutting technique. Here we will talk about both with a focus on different types of meat and best practices.
What kind of meat are you planning to use?
Hard/Dry Salami - (Typically will have a casing, comes in both large and small format sticks and occasionally inpre-sliced format as well)
More popular varieties can include: (French) Saucisson Sec, Jambon de Bayonne, (Italian) Soppressata, Genoa, Piccante, Calabrese, Finocchiona, Tartufo, Lardo, Coppa, Lonzo (Spanish) Chorizo Riojano, Salchichon de Vic, Fuet, Lomo Serrano
This will usually come pre-sliced since it's best to serve this type almost translucently thin.
Usually come in a tub or glass jar and sometimes wrapped
Sausage (ground meat before it's encased)
Can include varieties like Luganega, Cotechino, Bratwurst, Liverwurst and Summer Sausage
(We will definitely do a deep dive into many of these varieties in a later issue!)
For meats that come pre-sliced, there are several ways you can choose to arrange it on your board. More often than not you will want to fold it in a specific way to get the most appeal.
-fold twice or
-ripple folding (important with translucent sliced meats like prosciutto, speck, Coppa and sometimes Lonzo)
Slicing Hard Salami
-Select a good knife before you begin. You can use just about any sharp knife but I have found a long thin knife works best and no shorter than eight inches to ensure smooth and steady cuts. Many professionals opt for a Japanese style knife as a practice.
-Remove the casing by cutting off the end of the salami and slice the casing lengthwise. This will allow you to peel it off more readily.
-Decide on how thick you would like the pieces. Without a meat slicer it's nearly impossible to get your slices consistently paper thin without the perfect knife and a TON of practice. The dryer the meat, the thicker you may need to slice your pieces.
-Use steady, long, back and forth motions and remember that for presentation you want the pieces as close to the same size as possible. If you find that your pieces are sticking to the knife too much, you might choose to put it back in the fridge to get colder (when the fat in the meat starts to warm, the slices stick more easily).
Serving Pate, Mousse and Rillettes
Depending on what you are serving this with, you can serve a Pate, Mousse or Rillette by either slicing it and arranging the slices (carefully) or, you can serve in a small dish or jar with the intention to be spread on crackers or bread. Traditionally these would be served either cold or at room temperature. Great pairing suggestions would include pickled items as well as gourmet mustards.
It's easy to get overwhelmed in the world of charcuterie. The varieties and styles are endless. What one culture considers "salami" could include very different things depending on where you go or even who you talk to. It's a slow, tastey and fun epicurian adventure to say the least.
Thank you for checking out these tips! Be sure to check out our ever growing store of charcuterie and accoutrements online here: