Charcuterie (pronounced “shahr-ku-tuh-ree”) is a French word referring to the art of preparing and assembling cured meats and other meat products. However, with its growing popularity, many people use the term ‘charcuterie’ to describe a sharing or snacking board. Nowadays, anything is included, from an assortment of meats to different accompaniments, such as toast and crackers, fruit, cheese, pickles, and sauces. Charcuterie boards work especially well with crowds – the foods are finger-style yet filling and easy to snack on. A well laid out board can easily accommodate a food intolerance or preference, with meat on the one side and vegan products on the other. Guests cutting carbs can do so without any fuss; gluten-free diets work equally well. And they look spectacular!
The word ‘charcuterie’ originated in France, meaning ‘pork butcher shop’. The style of cooking, which involves cured meats, includes pork products such as; ham, sausage, bacon, and confit. The person that prepares the meat is called a Charcutier. While the original French translation refers to pork, modern charcuterie boards include many other types of food, such as duck, goose, chicken, cheese, even vegan cheeses, and meats.
Readers of British origin may wonder how a charcuterie board differs from a Ploughman’s Platter or Ploughman’s Lunch. This is a traditional British dish that features bread, cheese, and pickles. On occasion, they may include ham. Unlike A Ploughman’s Platter or Lunch, a charcuterie board’s traditional mandate is to feature meat with a strong leaning towards pork.
The art of the charcuterie board is in the detail of its elements, and it’s always best to mix flavours and textures. For instance, chewy salami pairs well with a rich and smooth pâté, while spicy chorizo complements sweet fruits. Also, be sure to add some colour – fruit and vegetables do this effectively, while also adding some height to the board.
To make the board multi-dimensional, breadsticks or vegetable sticks standing in a jar can be very attractive or a taller hunk of cheese can add visual appeal.
Due to their trendiness and popularity, charcuterie boards are available in many restaurants and stores. In Oakville and Burlington, we have many at our fingertips. While some offer the ingredients to prepare our own, others have fully prepared boards ready to order.
Block Co. in Burlington, uses the tagline “When all else fails, cheese”. They serve a variety of exotic and enticing cheese and meat boards and cater to events.
Farmhouse Artisan Cheese on Kerr Street prides itself as being Oakville’s only cheese shop. They also sell charcuterie from Ontario, Quebec, and Europe, as well as cheeses from Britain, three European countries, the USA, and Canada. They also have a delightful selection of the proper accompaniments. They offer cheese and charcuterie boards to serve at home and gourmet baskets as gifts.
The Culinary Pickpocket provides fine charcuterie catering and has a range of boards, from tapas to BBQ, and Fruits de Mer (seafood) to dessert.
The Sandwich Society, also on Kerr Street, has some exotic delicacies like truffle pecorino spread and salami with fennel seeds and offers a wide variety of different boards of all sizes.
Burlington’s Platter Company provides varied cheese and meat platters like the Artisan Cheese Platter, the Charcuterie Platter and the Custom Grazing Board which is the “I can’t decide” board and is a mix of many things.
Creating your own charcuterie board is simple and can add a great impact to your regular entertainment dishes. These days there are no rules, so be bold and give your board your signature style.
Whether for date-night, an accompaniment to a party, or even for a work-place meeting – charcuterie boards are flexible, beautiful, and certainly a fun and tasty addition to any meal.
by Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright
Block Co, Burlington
Farmhouse Artisan Cheese, Oakville
Culinary Pickpocket, GTHA
Sandwich Society, Oakville
Burlington’s Platter Company, Burlington