Originally charcuterie was developed in France,
Italy and Germany where rearing pigs is a long-standing tradition. The word itself comes from the French word chair, meaning “flesh” and cuit
– meaning “cooked”.
Predominantly pork meat or offal products are
used for this and are cured through salting and smoking. This includes cured
meats, fresh and smoked
gelatines and forcemeats.
The charcuterie platter has an all-star cast
and can often vary, but here are some of the main characters:
This obviously serves as the focus of the dish
so you want to give it some attention. You might like to use just one type of
meat, or offer a choice of two or three depending on how much variety you’re
after. Suggestions include Prosciutto,
Bread picks up the cameo role, playing the
likable neutral compliment to the salty meat. Try and get a good loaf from an
artisanal bakery or even a big Ciabatta
from your local supermarket. The texture of the bread makes a big difference. I
like a thick outer crust with a soft, light centre. Some prefer to ditch the
bread altogether and opt for a packet of crackers, it’s up to you.
The soft gooey centre of a camembert
is entirely different to the sharp, robust, tongue-tingling flavours of extra
South Africa makes some phenomenal cheeses and ones that go particularly well on
a charcuterie platter are Gorgonzola-style, Gruyère,
An acid component really ‘lifts’ a meat platter
(think of the tarty gherkin they put on burgers). Pickled
onions, zucchini or marinated
peppers are some good options. Otherwise grab a mouth-puckering
bottle of relish
from your favourite deli or padstal.
Fruit and nuts
If you want to kick it up a notch, a few nuts
lend a nice bit of texture to the platter. Think roasted
almonds or some chewy cashews. My favourite though are salty, green
pistachios (in their shells).
In terms of fruit, sliced pears quickly
caramelised in butter and brown sugar, pair
beautifully with cheese. If you want to be a bit more exotic
however, then try and get your hands on plump fresh
figs. And if that’s too out of reach, a large bunch of chilled
seedless grapes will certainly do the trick.
Dips and spreads
This - simply put, is the “cherry on top”. A
smear of hot, nose-burning mustard
or a small jar of olive tapenade
is always welcome and just elevates the platter to another level. Even
store-bought hummus or pesto is
Last but not least…
Finish the platter off with a handful of
freshly dressed greens like baby leaves or Rocket.
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