The Charcuterie Platter Makes Bologna a Grown-Up Indulgence
Small plates, snacking, and shared meals have been popping up all over the restaurant scene lately. Restaurant goers and casual home diners are looking for something a little more involved in their meals, while turning away from overwhelming portions. This isn’t to say that traditional, multi-course, or family-style meals are on their way out; it’s just a trend that allows diners the ability to experiment with their food. From tapas to dessert shots, small and easy to enjoy is in. Today’s topic: The art of charcuterie.
Chances are you have been enjoying this delicacy for decades. Back when you were chasing schoolmates and washing paint out of your hair, it was spelled a little differently. In fact, a popular jingle would tell you it has a first name, a second name, and was spelled B-O-L-O-G-N-A.
Charcuterie has been around for thousands of years and the literal translation is “cooked meat.” This cooked meat is typically pork, though other types of meat can be included. The only real requirement is that the meat be salted or otherwise prepared in such a fashion that it will last. Though we enjoy it as a delicacy today, its origins were rooted in the practical need for food to have a long shelf life.
Charcuterie’s roots in the Roman Empire as rations for long trips with little access to food took a strong hold in France during the Middle Ages. It was then that the real experimentation and evolution of the charcuterie plate began. Charcutiers, the individuals who prepared the cooked meats, developed great varieties of charcuterie to sell in their stores – also called charcuteries.
Over the years, the different meats and preparation processes made their way across Europe and finally to the United States. Eventually, Bologna, Italy, became known for bologna, Genoa, Italy, for its salami, and Frankfurt, Germany, for its frankfurter. Stateside, Virginia became the cured and smoked ham capital and Pennsylvania the sausage destination.
How is Charcuterie Made?
Charcuterie is prepared through a variety of processes. The meat can be salted, brined, or smoked to prepare it for consumption. While many processes involve a large number of spices and intricate steps, the main idea behind the preparation of charcuterie is that the meat is fully cooked. If you are interested in preparing your own charcuterie at home, consider visiting the Pastoral Artisan Blog to review some of the safety and health risks first. Despite thousands of years of successful execution, it’s important to understand that this process can be potentially dangerous if executed improperly.
A Few Tips on Preparing a Charcuterie Platter
Today if you choose to enjoy a charcuterie plate at a restaurant or opt to serve one at your next gathering there is nearly an endless list of options to explore. This brings us to a few tips. The most important thing to remember when building your charcuterie platter is the importance of diversity. Many of your guests will have different flavor and texture preferences. Try to include pate, rillettes, sausages, and air-dried meats.
If you are only serving a single meat, it can be difficult to accommodate many preferences. Opt for a less obscure meat in this instance and perhaps provide an offering of cheese, along with fruits or vegetables in case a guest doesn’t find your meat selection favorable.
For gatherings that involve wine, opt for a mild red wine. This will balance the richness of the charcuterie.
Be sure to include a good bread and a strong acid to balance the fatty flavors of the charcuterie plate. Pineapple is a great option to allow guests the opportunity to refresh their palates before dinner or the next portion of your gathering.
When selecting the platter itself, feel free to experiment a bit. Consider slate, stoneware, or even an attractive cutting board. This is an experimental kind of culinary course, so don’t limit yourself to traditional platters.