The Art of Charcuterie

By: Jessie Kuhn | Staff Writer
On: November 21, 2015

Charcuterie is so much more than a trendy term used to describe the presentation of cured meats, as you’ve likely seen it popping up on the small plates’ section of menus at restaurants. And it’s a method that refers to more than you may realize, as bacon, sausage, ham, pâté, and other cured meats all fall under the charcuterie umbrella.

The French term quite literally translates to “cooked flesh” and encompasses the art and science of preserved meat, especially, but not limited to, pork. It’s been considered a French culinary art since before the 15th Century, according to the Food Lover’s Companion, but the practice of curing meats is an ancient art tracing back to the Roman Empire—long before refrigerators. Once preserved, the shelf-life is extended. This, my friends, was key to survival, especially during periods of famine.

In France in the 15th Century, charcutier was the name for the tradesman who prepared charcuterie, and they played a crucial role in the community. Over time, this art spread to other countries and each region developed its own flair. Take Italy, for example, and the city of Bologna that defines Italian salumeria. Years ago, the leadership team at DLM traveled there and tasted and learned about the time-honored food tradition while nestled among mountains of salami, prosciutto, cheese, and pasta. We can thank Germany for Westphalian ham, and France for its famous cured ham—Jambon de Bayonne. In Spain, you’ll quickly be entranced by the dry-cured Jamón Serrano, named for the region from which it hails. Every time I savor a paper-thin slice of Jamón Serrano, I’m instantly transported back to the tiny yet inviting kitchen table of the family I broke bread with for three months while studying there. This perhaps is why the charcuterie board listed on the menu is usually a no-brainer for me and is a go-to when entertaining.

Once you’ve grabbed what you need for a charcuterie board, you are about 99% there. A safe bet would be to start at the DLM Delicatessen. You’ll find specialty meats like Westphalian Ham, Prosciutto di Parma, Serrano Ham, and Speck Ham, which we are happy to slice paper-thin for you. We also carry Jamón Ibérico, a treasure of Spain, in conveniently pre-packed slices by FERMIN. Or, check out our great selection of domestically made cured meats; indeed, we are experiencing a surge in high-quality cured meats right here in the U.S.! For example, try the pre-sliced, ready-to-go packages from our friends at Creminelli including prosciutto, bresaola, calabrese, varzi, and felino—all made in Utah from traditional Italian recipes. You’d also be amiss if you didn’t inspect the Smoking Goose products, made just a couple of hours drive from here in Indiana, available in the Meat department.

Next, head over to The DLM Cheese Shop as one often forgotten component of a charcuterie board is the pâté, which the French are famous for perfecting. Pâté, which simply means “paste,” is made of various meats such as rabbit, chicken, wild boar, pheasant, etc., in addition to pork. Grab some Rustic Bakery crackers while you are over there and head over to the Bakery for our own scratch-baked Miche or French Ficelle bread. Last but not least, grab something sweet or tangy to contrast the saltiness of the meat, like chutney or a quality jam and some good rustic mustard.

Let your creative liberties take flight as you arrange it all on your board or plate. Set out, and watch your guests enjoy this culinary tradition that truly has withstood the test of time.