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What is Charcuterie and What Meats Are Used to Make a Spread?
Charcuterie spread of meats and vegetables on charcuterie board

Making a nice charcuterie spread is more than just slapping some meat and cheese onto a board and calling it a day. Charcuterie is nearly as much an art as it is a food plating tradition. Before we talk about making a spread, we need to discuss the origins of the word, kitchenware, and food. Without the curing of meats, charcuterie would most likely not be as popular as it is today! After all, it was cured and salted meats that made early charcuterie so appealing. And the tradition of charcuterie dates back thousands of years! Yes, thousands! You would not initially expect something that can look so vibrant and modern as something older than many dishes around today.

Charcuterie, in its simplest definition, is just a spread of assorted cheeses, crackers, breads, meats, vegetables, and sometimes sauces. The word means “pork butcher” since many of the cuts used include pork or are completely pork based like prosciutto. They originally made it as a way to serve preserved meats since refrigeration was not possible hundreds of years ago.

Types of Charcuterie Meat

However, the spread of cheeses and meats has changed with time. Curing and salting processes and cuts of meats most likely differ significantly. However, the meat used are similar, even if the flavors or cuts may differ. For example, salted pork is one of the most common preserved and salted meats in history. Beef did not become more prevalent in diets until around the 10,000 years ago because of the time and effort required for cattle versus swine. Pigs are may have been farmed a couple thousands of years before cattle; as early as the 13,000 B.C. Many of the meats used to make a charcuterie spread are from Spain, Italy, and France. With this in mind, here are some of the most common types of charcuterie meats:

  • Jamón Ibérico
  • Salami
  • Bresaola
  • Prosciutto
  • Speck
  • Chorizo
  • Pate

Jamón Ibérico

As the name jamón suggests, this is a type of cured pork that is famous throughout the world as one of the best cuts for pork around. This is because unlike other types of cured pork, making Jamón Ibérico requires following strict traditional processes. For one, the food can only be made from a specific breed of black Iberian pig that forages openly. While like other expensive cuts of cured meat like prosciutto, it is known to be a step above in quality.

The pigs are on a special a specific diet because of the food in the area and treatment before slaughter. For example, the big is often fattened with barley but then given free range of the area to eat acorns, grass, chestnuts, and roots. Though, before the time comes, farmers may restrict their diet to specific type of food like olives to get the best meat possible.

Salami

Woman making charcuterie spread at home in kitchen

Salami is a common cut of cured sausage. Most people will come across salami as salami sandwich or as lunch meat or pizza toppings. Unlike Jamón Ibérico, it does not expensive cuts of meat or require special pigs. The sausage is also sometimes a combination of different meats. Some meat may be cured while other meats are air dried. Most salami, however, is different cuts of pork. Fermentation allows salami makers to promote non-dangerous and flavorful bacteria while killing off other dangerous organisms.

Bresaola

One of the few beef dishes on this list is Bresaola. This cut of salted beef originates from Valtellina in Italy. It is typically a piece of air-dried, salted beef. However, you can make it from other types of meat such as pork. The meat is typically dry aged (store in dry conditions with salt) until the other layer turns a dark color. This is like dry aged steaks and other types of dry aged beef. This outer layer is inedible, so it is removed to reveal the aged edible meat below. Like most charcuterie meat, it is often served in thin slices packed with intense flavor.

Prosciutto

Prosciutto, like Jamón Ibérico, is a special type of salted, preserved pork. Both have their own protected status, or way that they should be prepared that is regulated by a type of governing body. Many quality pieces of meat have this kind of protection. For example, specific types of beef like Wagyu, will have to be made to certain standards and receive certification. Not anyone can make it. Prosciutto is made from pig or boar leg. It is salted and air dried for around 18 months.

Speck

Speck is kind of like bacon. If you are used to bacon outside of the United States, then this should not be too different. Speck is cured pork belly. If you are familiar with your cuts of meat, then you will recognize that as the same part of the pig bacon uses. In fact, some places use speck at the replacement for bacon if regular bacon is difficult to come by.

Chorizo

Chorizo is a sausage that most people are familiar with in other recipes. It is popular in many Spanish recipes and is known for its versatility. Chorizo goes great in a taco, with pasta, in a rice dish, and paired with chicken. Some types of chorizo are very spicy, while others go for a savory flavor.

Pâté

Pâté is a type of forcemeat, or ground of meat with fat that is emulsified into a solid product. It typically includes a variety of meat rather than a single type. For example, a common mixture would include beef, pork, and chicken. Pâté makers sometimes couple the meat with spices and vegetables. Pâté can also come as a spread for bread or crackers as well as in a loaf form.

Get Yourself a Charcuterie Board from Machika today!

Those were some of the most common types of charcuterie meat. However, charcuterie is a lot more than just the meat. A spread can include nuts, crackers, bread, fruit, vegetables like olives, and a variety of cheeses. You can get started making your own charcuterie spread today by getting yourself a Machika cheeseboard set today. With a durable and natural bamboo wood design, you can make a beautiful and delicious spread with ease. Click here to purchase a new Machika charcuterie cheese board set for yourself or as a gift for family and friends!

Author blurb for Maria Perez, Machika Kitchen blog writer.

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