A Beginner’s Guide to Charcuterie

Posted on: January 12, 2023

Charcuterie has become quite popular these days. As a result, most trendy establishments will have some sort of a charcuterie board or platter on their menu.

At first glance, the arrangement and variety can seem a bit daunting (and it sounds a bit snobby too) but it’s simpler and more rustic than one may think.

A Little Bit of History

Charcuterie is derived from the French words chair, meaning flesh, and cuit, meaning cooked. It was traditionally intended to preserve meats in the pre-refrigeration days. Nowadays, however, people use Charcuterie techniques to produce the unique flavours that come from preservation.

Charcuterie has been recorded as early as the first century AD and reached its peak in the 15th century in France, where they established the guild of charcutiers.

A Great Variety of Products

The variety of products produced within Charcuterie is great. Cured and fermented sausages, pâtés and terrines, as well as salt and brine cured meats. Furthermore, there are three main ways one can use to preserve the meat:

  • Salt Curing, as for lox or bacon
  • Dry Curing, as for prosciutto or pepperoni
  • Cooking & Preserving in fat, as for duck confit

Smoking is a Key Step in Nearly All Charcuterie Techniques

Smoking meat predates all the fancy Charcuterie skills, as this was something cavemen discovered! The combination of salt curing and smoking meat provides a delicious flavour besides preserving the product through controlled drying.

When simply dry curing meat, the goal is to remove as much of the moisture from the meat over time (weeks usually). Adding a smoking stage will accelerate the drying process and impart that tasty smokiness.

Curing and smoking walks the fine line of preservation and spoilage by culturing the good bacteria to out-number the bad ones. So please, be certain to keep very clean surfaces and hands through the process, as well as to follow your recipes precisely. Here are some links to some great recipes that you can make with your Bradley Smoker:

Elk Landjæger Sausages

Cold smoked salmon

Kabanos Sausages

Boar Ham

Spicy Boar Pepperoni Sticks

The combination of preservation flavour from these unique techniques, and your own addition of seasoning and spices make for outstanding dishes. And the best part, in my opinion, is that you can make such an amazing final product from essentially scraps!

A Mouth-watering Way to Save Money

When I visit my local butcher, I often ask what scraps and trim they have lying around that I can use. You can use it all: fat, trim, odd cuts, anything really to make sausages, terrines, pâtés, roulades, etc. Not only does it spur the creative side in you, but it’s such an affordable way to produce fine, good quality food. As a result, nothing goes to waste.

Show Off with Your Bradley Smoker

Now after you’ve laboured over cured sausages, hams, terrines and such, it is time to present them to your adoring friends and family on one of those coveted Charcuterie boards!

When making your own Charcuterie board, remember that variety is key. Include some mild and some bold flavours to suit everyone’s palette. Add some pickled items and sweet items like jams, dried fruit, etc. to the board for some contrast, Also, don’t forget some nice sliced breads and crackers. And voilà! You have a first class, artisan, homemade Charcuterie board to impress everyone with!