What should you put on a charcuterie board
It’s not so long ago that mention of a charcuterie board would have been met with blank faces and responses of ‘charcuter-what’? To most, a meat platter would have meant mini sausages, pork pie, scotch eggs and sliced ham. And while we’ve never been known to turn down a hand-raised pork pie, we’re certainly glad that as we embraced new cuisines, charcuterie became a staple on many menus.
But while ‘charcuterie’ may originate from France, our local farmers have made it their own, producing exceptional hand-reared, home-cured meats. More sustainable than buying from our European neighbours, and with an arguably more interesting selection of rare breed animals, British charcuterie is fast gaining a name for itself.
What is a charcuterie?
Charcuterie refers to the preparation of cured meats and began life as a means of preserving meat. This process has many alternatives - air-drying, salt-curing and fermenting - with varying timings from a few weeks to months. From coppa to bresaola, lomo to lonzo, chorizo to pancetta, there’s a wealth of options when it comes to putting together an exciting and enticing charcuterie board.
Is charcuterie a sustainable way to eat meat?
When done right, absolutely! At a time when we’re becoming more aware of the negative impact of meat on our changing climate, choosing small amounts of meat from rare-breed, high welfare animals and encouraging nose-to-tail products in salamis and patés is a great place to start.
Paying a little more for charcuterie is a wise investment. Nothing spoils the rich indulgence of chorizo like a piece of grisly gristle. And while it might be tempting to pick up a two-for-one deal on a ‘salami selection’, the lack of clear provenance and supply chain transparency can raise questions about welfare, air miles and ingredients.
That’s where British charcuterie comes in. Not only is it a relatively new, homegrown product, but our British farmers and producers are putting their talents to good use, creating traditional and new (dare we say improved?) styles of charcuterie. And with no air miles and high standards of welfare, the sustainability credentials can be easier to trace. This is particularly true of the small independent producers Barbury Hill works with, from Beal’s Farm to Chiltern Charcuterie.
What is supposed to be on a charcuterie board?
Whether you’re assembling a charcuterie board for a large gathering or an easy lunch for two, there are a few simple rules that will make your charcuterie sharing platter the star attraction. Firstly, cured meats are best served at room temperature so prepare the board with enough time to allow them to rest from the fridge.
At our Barbury Hill wine and cheese tasting events we tend to recommend three or four meats. Sometimes less really is more and this allows you to have enough of each meat to appreciate their individuality. Within this selection, aim for a variety of textures and flavours. For instance, you might opt for an air-dried ham and a lomo. You could then contrast this with rich chorizo and a salami flavoured with fennel.
Barbury Hill’s offering from the award-winning Beal’s Farm brings together these options in easily ordered and delivered selections. But this is no ordinary charcuterie. This family-run farm uses meat from the rare breed Mangalitsa pigs who enjoy the run of pastures and woods. Saved from extinction in the early 2000s, it’s a fine example of independent British farming at its best. The Mangalitsa Selection Box includes Air Dried Ham, Spalla Ham, Coppa, Lomo and a half-stick of Salami. With five delicious styles of charcuterie, it’s an easy way to create a charcuterie board with the wow factor.
Should you add artisan cheese to a charcuterie board?
This is something of a contentious point. Some would argue that cheese deserves its own place in the spotlight, uninhibited by the richness of cured meats. At Barbury Hill we’re inclined to think you can’t have too much of a good thing! But it pays to consider your options here. Choose flavours and textures that work with your meats rather than against them. If you’ve got a thick slice of meat, aim for a creamy cheese. A more thinly sliced meat benefits from the added bite of a hard cheese. Our Cheese and Chutney for Two Barbury Box would work perfectly here, bringing together a crumbly cheddar and organic British brie with a handmade pear chutney.
Once you’ve got the basics of your charcuterie board, it’s time to add the accompaniments. Small batch crackers and freshly baked sourdough would be the perfect vessel to transport thickly cut layers of salami or a wafer-thin fold of coppa.
We favour a chutney or two to add another layer of flavour - perhaps the trio of chutneys that come as part of our Cheese Hamper. Olives, grapes, gherkins, almonds and roasted piquillo peppers are all perfectly at home on a charcuterie board.
Of course, a classic accompaniment to the charcuterie board is a glass of good wine. If you’re exploring the world of British charcuterie, why not add a bottle of English wine to complete the selection of homegrown delights. Whether a crisp white to pair with more delicate flavours or a full-bodied red that can cope with the stronger notes, our English vineyards are creating exceptional options. Our team is always on hand and eager to chat about British food and drink so give us a call if you’d like any recommendations.
A perfect charcuterie board
We hope this guide to what to put on a charcuterie board has provided inspiration. As a simple supper or a more lavish affair, charcuterie and its accompaniments are an easy way to make a memorable meal. We may be biased, but we’d argue that if the board showcases the best of British charcuterie, then it’ll be even more memorable. Throw in some artisan British cheese and wine and your guests will be coming back for more!
Rebecca, a talented writer, is a friend of Barbury Hill’s. When she’s not eating the best of British food and drink, she is writing about it. And when she’s not writing about it, she’s thinking about it.