The History of Charcuterie

February 23, 2021 3:46 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Charcuterie is undergoing something of a renaissance at the moment. Craft foods have become more popular on a global scale as people return to seeking local, high-quality items rather than mass-produced grocery store goods, and meats and cheeses have been beneficiaries of this movement.

But where did charcuterie get its start, and why are charcuterie boards so popular in Williamsport, PA? Let’s take a quick look.

What is charcuterie?

Charcuterie refers to a mixture of cured meats, which feature different forms of flavor enhancement or preservation. These meats are usually contrasted or paired in ways that emphasize unique qualities and create enjoyment, and are often put on platters with cheeses, nuts, crackers and/or fruits.

The idea of dry curing meat goes back thousands of years. In the first century AD, there were the first recorded laws regarding salted meat imported from Gaul. Just about every culture has some form of preserving meat to be used at a later time, and thus charcuterie can take on very different forms depending on the culture and location in which it’s found.

What meats are found on charcuterie boards?

It should come as no surprise, then, that there are so many different types of cured meats that a charcuterie selection can take a wide range of forms.

A classical French charcuterie, for example, has a long history of being served in hors d’oeuvres settings, and features pates, rillettes, sausages, boudin and terrines. In Italy, you might be more likely to find charcuterie with prosciutto and various salamis.

A modern charcuterie can encompass a much broader variety of flavors and meats, and its flexibility is one of the things that makes it so popular in both restaurants and home settings. It’ll generally be served on a wood board, and might include cheeses of various types and levels of hardness, different kinds of dry cured meats, some vegetables or fruits with dipping sauces or oils and random other odds and ends.

Dry cured meats used in modern charcuterie might include Iberian ham, country ham, mortadella, summer sausage, prosciutto and salamis. Some people have started taking on the hobby of making their own dry cured meats at home, as the internet provides all the instruction necessary to do so at the most basic level.

Spreads and dips used in charcuterie represent an expansion of the classic charcuterie styles. Today you’ll often find pesto, hummus, tomato spreads, capsicum and beetroot used in charcuterie. There are often certain accent pieces used as well, designed to be decoration as much as they are a part of the snack. These might include olives, grapes, raisins (or other dried fruits) or berries.

Most experts agree that whatever you use for charcuterie, it’s at its best when it reflects the region in which it’s made. The whole idea is to showcase local flavors and farmers, and to support craft foods in your area. This is why most restaurants will feature flavors you can find at your local farmers markets and butchers.

For more information about charcuterie and some of the trends in dried or cured meats available today at your local butcher in Williamsport, PA, visit Tony’s Delicatessen & Fresh Meats.

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