The origins of charcuterie – preserving meat through salting and smoking – go back to at least the Romans. It was originally a way to preserve food. In France charcutiers were registered to sell cooked pork in 1475, and charcuterie still refers to pork products. But these days most of us use the term charcuterie to describe cooked meats of all sorts. The word comes from the French for flesh (chair) and cooked (cuit). And when it comes to a charcuterie board, outside of France at least – it’s not just meat but cheese, fruit, buts, pickles and chutneys that are part of the feast. But you can easily create a French style charcuterie board, even though you may want to add more than pork.
What you need for a French style charcuterie board
Start with cured, cooked and processed meat such as hams of different kinds, cured sausages, rillette, pate, terrines, cold cooked meats. Fold and arrange them neatly but so that everyone can get access easily.
Add cheeses. Include different types of cheese to suit all tastes, for instance firm Tomme, creamy Brie or Camembert, chevre (goats cheese) and blue cheese like Roquefort. Include knives for cutting and spreading.
Maybe include honey on your charcuterie board, delicious for drizzling over cheese.
Grapes and olives are great to include too and nuts such as cashews. Gherkins and pickles, called cornichons in France, add to the flavour fest.
And bread of course. Slices of baguette work well with a charcuterie board. And crackers!
Wine pairing for a charcuterie board
Champagne and Cremant (sparkling French wines not from the Champagne region) go with everything! However, there’s so much choice for great wines it’s hard to know where to start. So here’s our easy guide to wine pairing for cheese and cold meats:
Wine to pair with soft cheeses
With soft cheese like Chevre or brie, Sauvignon Blanc or a citrusy white wine is the perfect pairing. High acid (think mouthwatering) wines pair beautifully with creamy and fattier food because the acid cuts through the fat and refreshes the palate, getting your mouth ready for that next bite! Fatty foods will also make the wines seem more fruity and rich, tamping down that mouthwatering sensation that make the wine seem more structured.
Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux or the Loire pair excellently, especially Sancerre. Creamy goat cheese and a cold, crisp Sancerre have had a love affair for generations in this region. A Chablis or Alsace white (like Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris) will also pair wonderfully with the lighter and more delicate cheeses on your board. Some reds will also pair well with your heavier flavored cheeses, like a red Burgundy. Just make sure that your cheese is strongly flavored enough to stand up to a more flavorful wine.
What to pair with hard cheeses and blue cheeses
Hard cheeses and funky cheeses tend to have a higher perceived salt content that affect the wine with a perceived increase in the fruit flavors, bigger body, and less tannins. A red Bordeaux is always a great wine to have around, not only for its popularity, but because food loves it too! The bold flavors stand up to funky and strong flavors, the high acidity helps to cut through fat, and the salty/fatty elements of your cheese will tame the tannins in the wine, making it even more luscious and fruity. Rhone reds also pair well with these cheese, especially Chateauneuf du Pape. Other, more wallet friendly choices would be a Languedoc or Provence red (often the same grape varietals as Bordeaux).
When it comes to cold meats
Red wine such as a Merlot goes well with cold meats, and if you’re a white wine drinker, try a white Bordeaux. Salted meats want a high acid and tannic wine, otherwise your wine will feel flabby on your palate. Delicate meats, such as a pate, pair well with a red Burgundy, Grenache, or slightly bigger bodied white blend- like a white Bordeaux, Languedoc, or Cheautneuf Du Pape white.