Charcuterie boards are the epitome of lavish abundance. Platters of cured meats, cheeses, bread, and accompaniments – truly, a masterful dining experience. Popular amongst large parties, and small gatherings, charcuterie boards were made for sharing delicious food.
If you’re a charcuterie board fanatic, or you just want to learn more about the fascinating charcuterie board, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the origins of charcuterie boards, and whether they’re French, or Italian. Furthermore, we will discuss the differences between French and Italian charcuterie boards, so you can learn how to create your ideal charcuterie board.
So, pull up a seat, and enjoy!
What Is A Charcuterie Board?
A charcuterie board is a large platter, filled with a delicious range of cured meat, cheeses, and bread. There are also generally some accompaniments, which will enhance the flavor of the cured meat, and the cheeses. These are typically items such as olives and dips, such as chutneys.
French, Or Italian? The Origins Of The Charcuterie Board
So, the question at bay is whether charcuterie boards are French, or whether they are Italy.
While a form of charcuterie boards is a large part of Italian cuisine, as well as many other European cuisines – such as Spanish, the origins of charcuterie boards stem from France. This means that charcuterie boards are, indeed, traditionally French.
The Origin Story
Charcuterie boards originated in France during the 15th century. They were created by the working class, referred to as peasants, and became a symbol of low status.
The word itself, charcuterie, is derived from two French words. The first word, “chair”, means flesh, while the second word, “cuit”, means cooked. Thus, the board translates to flesh cooked. While the word choice is slightly morbid, it was appropriate for the time period, and actually refers to the fact every part of the animal is used.
Now, keep in mind that these boards were created by peasants. They did not have the luxury of money, and being able to buy lavish meats. They had to utilize what they had in order to survive.
Thus, they aimed to use as much of the animal they could, from the head to the tail. The most common animal used was a pig, but other animals were also used.
Now, in modern society, people tend to either love and appreciate the type of meats used in charcuterie boards, or find them a bit repulsive. That is because some meat is offal, which is made out of organs or intensities of pigs.
In fact, dry-cured salami is actually a type of offal, because it is made from intestines, but it is not common knowledge. The fact remains that all the animal is used, and very little is wasted.
As you can imagine, refrigerators were not invented way back in the 15th century.
This meant that people had to find other methods to preserve food, especially meat. This is more apparent for the working class because they cannot afford to waste food. So, in order to preserve the meats, the meat would either be cooked and dried, or salted and dried. This ensured that the meat stayed fresh.
Some examples of the classic types of meat used for charcuterie boards are the following:
Rillettes de Porc (Spreadable Fat/Pork), Le Saucisson à l’ail (Garlic Sausage), Viande de Grison (Dry Cured Beef), Le Saucisson Sec (French salami) and Le Pâté de Campagne (pate).
Cheese is a very important part of French cuisine. The following cheeses are considered to be classic French charcuterie cheeses: Brie de Meaux, Roquefort, and Port Salut.
When it comes to accompaniments – radishes, pickles, and grapes were very popular. Moreover, a baguette (classic French bread) is usually used.
So, the origins of the charcuterie board, which is considered now to be quite luxurious, had very humble beginnings. Charcuterie boards are a large part of French cuisine and are celebrated all over the world. In contemporary society, charcuterie boards are enjoyed by everyone, from a range of different classes.
What About Italian Charcuterie Boards?
While charcuterie boards are not native to Italy, a type of charcuterie board is very significant to Italian cuisine. However, the Italians have a very different name for their version of charcuterie boards, which is called salumi.
Salumi is similar to a charcuterie board, in that they both involve a platter of meats and, sometimes, various other food products. However, salumi uses different products. Given that Italian and French cuisine are quite contrasting, it is no surprise that salumi involves a different type of food.
Keep in mind that salumi refers to specifically meat products, but these products can be paired with accompaniments.
Another word for a charcuterie board, involving vast amounts of meats, cheeses, and accompaniments, is antipasto platters. This is perhaps more similar to the traditional French charcuterie board.
Is Salumi The Same as Salami?
Salumi is not the same as salami.
Many of those not native to Italy get confused over the wording, as the words sound similar.
However, salumi refers to all Italian cold cuts. A cold cut is a slice of meat, either precooked or dried.
Salami is actually a sub-category of salumi, but it is not exactly the same as salumi, because there are a wide variety of cold cults.
What Does Salumi, Or Antipasto Platters, Consist of?
When it comes to salumi, there is a range of different types of cold cuts that are used to create a platter.
Here is a selection of some of the most popular and commonly used types of salumi within Italy: bresaola (dried, salted beef), capacollo (cured pork). Coppa (cured pork, neck muscle), pancetta (cured pork belly), prosciutto (dry-cured ham, pork/boar), and salami piccante (pork).
Cheese, of course, is important. Types of Italian cheeses that are frequently used are: burrata, asiago, and parimigano regginao.
When it comes to accompaniments, bread fresh bread is vital. Other popular accompaniments are pickled vegetables, artichokes, fresh olives, and roasted red peppers. Dips are also commonly used, such as mustard, honey, and olive oil.
Like charcuterie boards, salumi and antipasto platters are designed for sharing.
So, charcuterie boards are indeed French.
The origins of the charcuterie board date back to the 15th century and were created by the very humble peasant class. In today’s society, charcuterie boards are no longer a symbol of low status. Instead, they reflect and represent abundance and sharing, but are still accessible to both the working class, and the wealthy class.
In comparison, Italians do not have charcuterie boards, but they have different types of platters, that are very similar to the French charcuterie boards. Salumi is a selection of cold cults, and unlike charcuterie boards, can be served alone.
However, it is very common to have accompaniments with salumi. Likewise, a more similar comparison would be antipasto platters, where salumi and a range of accompaniments are plated together. Here, you will usually find a range of Italian cheeses, bread, and a selection of dips.
So, whether you order a traditional French charcuterie board, or whether you prefer Italian salumi, or antipasto platter, we are sure that you will appreciate the craftsmanship and the history of the dish.