For summer entertaining, follow our series of posts with tips and ideas for eating in the outdoors. Next up: The Perfect Charcuterie Platter
A Bit About Charcuterie
Charcuterie is the art of preserving meats, developed in the days before refrigeration. It didn’t start as gourmet endeavor, but rather as a necessity – to make perishable meat last longer. Charcuterie methods involve several techniques like curing and smoking, all methods successfully preserving the meat (and also successfully making them delicious!). Even after the invention of refrigerators, charcuterie is still alive and well, simply because charcuterie items are, well, delectable!
The charcuterie platter
Also known colloquially as a “meat platter”, a charcuterie assortment is easy to make, and perfect for spring and summer outdoor parties, precisely because the meat doesn’t require refrigeration. You can set up well in advance, and leave it outside. It’s easy to eat, can serve as an appetizer, snack, or a full meal (depending on the quantities), and it really can be served at any time of day, with some cool beers and chilled wine. Below we give you the basic of a charcuterie selection.
Sausage & Salami
We suggest something with some dimension, like Spanish Chorizo Cantimpalo. It’s made from pork, and cured with sweet paprika de la Vera (see the box for serving tips). Another one to try: Sopressata. It’s from the Veneto region of Italy, and made out of pork, cured using delicious red Burgundy wine. It’s mild and perfect for all palates.
Prosciutto di Parma from Italy and Jamon Serrano from Spain are both classic selections. Another staple on the meat platter is dark and delicious Beef Bresaola. However, if the occasion calls for an extra punch of sophistication, wow your guests with rare Pata Negra Iberico Ham. This ham is made from Spanish black-hoofed pigs that have been fed exclusively a natural diet of acorns, which makes the mouthwatering ham sublimely fatty, smooth, and rich. Definitely the way to go for a special occasion!
Pate & Terrine
Here’s a chance to create flavor and texture contrast to the other more robust, saltier meats. Select a pate made out of smoked salmon or vegetables. These fresh flavors will give your guests’ palates a nice break from all the meat.
Pick at least three different types of firm or semi-firm cheeses – they’ll withstand the outdoors better. Our suggestions: a classic oil-rubbed Spanish Manchego sliced thinly, a Gruyere or Swiss-type cheese, and something classic, like an aged cheddar (which goes great with beer).
Bread and Accoutrements
We reached out to Barbara Drysdale of cooking blog Profiteroles and Ponytails, for some suggestions about the perfect additions to a charcuterie platter. She suggests cornichons or gherkins, as a “way to add a bit of acidity to the platter”, and also a good Dijon mustard, some nuts (she has a great recipe for paprika-smoked almonds on her blog!). Finally, and most importantly, bread, bread, and more bread! Set out a pretty basket with an assortment of rustic breads of different textures and flavors, they’ll go perfectly with any the meats. You’ll also need some pretty butter knives or spreaders for the pate and the sides.
Set everything on a large, gorgeous wooden board, have the wines and beers chilling, and you’re ready for summer!
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