The History of Charcuterie Boards & How to Prepare One

May 06, 2021

The History of Charcuterie Boards & How to Prepare One

What's one thing picnics, wineries, and get-togethers all have in common? They typically come with charcuterie boards. These tasty, beautifully decorated boards are something that's easy to enjoy. Whether they're simple or extravagant, charcuterie boards always include some of the best meats, cheeses, spices, dips, veggies, and bread. 

But have you ever wondered where this favorite household item comes from? If you're like most people, the question and answer probably haven't crossed your mind. Usually, when there's something delicious in front of our faces, it's hard to think about its origin story when all we want to do is enjoy it. 

However, as we all become more conscientious consumers, there's a push to understand the things we eat. And even though we only consume what's on a charcuterie board instead of the board itself, it's still important to know the history of charcuterie boards since they're so popular. 


What is Charcuterie?

Let's start with the basics. Charcuterie is the branch of cooking that's specifically focused on prepared meats. Derived from the French term "chair cuit," charcuterie means "cooked flesh." While this doesn't sound all too appetizing, the word is true to form since most charcuterie deals with meats like prepared ham, sausage, and bacon.

In fact, the term describes the 15th-century pork butcher shops that you'd see in France, where they sold meat that had been salted and smoked to better preserve the food. In traditional times, finding unique ways to preserve meat was crucial because there were no refrigerators, so charcuterie originally referred to cold cured meats. 

Back then, curing was an effective process that required you to slowly dry out meat while using salt and spices to preserve it. This method was quite different from the preservation tactics that are common today. Modern-day techniques typically include chemicals like nitrate, but in the 15th-century, using salt and spices to preserve meat reigned. 


What is a charcuterie board?

A charcuterie board is usually a wooden platter that has a broad selection of food on it. Today, you can find ones that only have meat and cheese, and sometimes, you can find ones that include many types of meats, cheeses, spreads, nuts, fruits, chocolates, veggies, and crackers. 

However, while today's charcuterie board can be as creative and packed as you'd like, they didn't always include various foods. When charcuterie began hundreds of years ago in Europe, it focused on cured meats that highlighted flavor enhancement and forms of preservation.

In the classic encyclopedia of French cooking, Larousse Gastronomique, who's seen as the world's best guide to gastronomy, even crafted a definition of classical French charcuterie that aligns with the more traditional approach. He said charcuterie emphasized pates, rillettes, boudin, sausages, and salamis, all of which are traditional types of French preserved foods. 

But, nowadays, charcuterie boards don't just emphasize meat. They also showcase many other delicious foods and spices that pair well together to make a visually appealing board. 


How do you prepare charcuterie boards?

When you're preparing a charcuterie board, there are a few things you have to consider: the meat, cheese, and complementary foods. These are the staples of any good charcuterie board. And if you want specific ideas on the types of meats, cheeses, and complementary foods to include, here are some for you to consider. 


  1. Types of meat 

Even though modern-day charcuterie boards highlight various items, meat is still the star of the show. Unless you and your loved ones don't enjoy meat, you shouldn't skip out on the cold cuts. Some good ideas for your charcuterie board include: 

  • Capicola
  • Prosciutto 
  • Pepperoni 
  • Salami
  • Cured Sausage
  • Jamón serrano 

  1. Types of cheese 

A great charcuterie board always comes with delicious slices of cheese, and if you can, try to display a variety. You can head to your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe's for some advice, but here a handful of ideas to consider: 

  • Brie 
  • Camembert 
  • Gouda
  • Roquefort
  • Burrata 
  • Gruyère
  • Sharp Cheddar 

  1. Complementary foods 

There's nothing like complementing your meat and cheese with some bread, crackers, fruits, and vegetables. These are great additions if you have friends and family who are vegetarians. So, to make a charcuterie board that's appetizing to everyone, here are some complementary foods that you can include: 

  • Jam or jelly 
  • Nuts
  • Grapes 
  • Hummus
  • Honey
  • Olives  

 


Where to get a charcuterie board?

Of course, if you want to prepare a charcuterie platter, you need the board to put everything on. Because of their popularity, you can buy a charcuterie board almost anywhere, but there's one place where you can buy one that has meaning. 

Khutsala Artisans is extending its product selection by offering handmade charcuterie boards. These unique boards are made by skilled Swazi artisans that live in Eswatini, Africa. And the product comes from bloodwood trees that are native to the land. 

 

Bloodwood trees get their name because of the deep red-colored sap that oozes out once the tree is cut. In fact, the sap is so red that it looks like the tree is bleeding, which seems creepy, but is really beautiful to encounter. 

If you decide to buy a charcuterie board from Khutsala Artisans, not only will you get to experience this beauty firsthand, but you'll also help support Swazis in Eswatini. While rarely discussed, the people in this kingdom are experiencing hunger, poverty, poor access to education, and an orphan crisis. And with so many obstacles, it's hard for Swazis to have a good quality of life and provide for themselves or their families. 

But at Khutsala Artisans, what you buy helps make a difference. All of the profits from your purchase go to Heart for Africa, a faith-based humanitarian organization that welcomes orphans and vulnerable children into its family. Additionally, Khutsala Artisans only employs Swazis from Eswatini, so your purchase gives them the financial resources they need to provide for themselves and their families. 

So, if you're looking for a charcuterie board, don't just settle for one that's beautiful. Get one that's beautiful and meaningful at Khutsala Artisans. Not only will you shop with purpose, but your charcuterie board may spark some deep, engaging conversations as well. 

Buy your new favorite handmade charcuterie board at Khutsala Artisans by clicking here






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