Charcuterie boards are amazing combinations of perfectly balanced cured meats, cheeses, pickles, and mustards. When done right, all of these mouth-watering flavors can be enjoyed in one bite-size delicacy. Although the word ‘charcuterie’ comes from the French language and the practice of meat curing goes back to ancient times, every country has put their own unique style on what the perfect charcuterie board includes.
While you could continue to make boards served cold with preserve meat and cheeses from all across Europe, it’s sometimes fun to see how the wide variety of flavor profiles change between an all-French and all-Spanish board, for example. If you’re looking for other types of ingredients to put a new regional flair on your next charcuterie board, the following information will help you make distinct boards that are true to each country.
French charcuterie boards are the most popular types of classic inspiration for charcuterie boards. With many different types of French cheeses, you should try to mix tangy (goat cheese) with creamy (Brie) and hard (Comté). For meat, include cured meats like jambon de Bayonne (the most famous French cured meat), Coppa de Corse, and saucisson with softer spreads including pâtés and mousses. For additions, consider jellies, pickles, and fresh seasonal fruits. A true French charcuterie board never includes crackers, only artisan breads. A baguette is a classic option, but you can include sourdough or walnut bread to add more dimension. Pair this board with a crisp wine made in Bordeaux for an authentic French experience.
A German charcuterie board wouldn’t be German without hearty, rich ingredients! German ham and cooked sausage, like liverwurst (liver fermented sausage) and mettwusrt (pork sausage), are keys to this board. Sauerkraut, pickled beets, and spicy mustard provide a contrast to the rich meats. Soft cheeses such as butterkäse and limburger are good additions as well. Slices of dark rye bread or thick, soft pretzels are the perfect German carbs. Top it off with a side of German beers, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Munich!
The star of an Italian charcuterie board is salumi. The wide range of these cured meats means that you can have a board overflowing with salumi that range in fattiness, thickness, and flavor profile. The best salumis to include are mortadella, capicola, lardo, prosciutto, salami, and ‘nduja. Other great meats to include would be the Italian dry cured soppressata, which can be delightfully flavored with black pepper, and pancetta ( salt-cured pork belly). For cheese, look to pecorino, ricotta, and parmesan. Good Italian additions are marinated artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, fresh grapes, olive oil, and even olives. Serve it all with your favorite Italian bread. Focaccia, ciabatta, or coppia ferrarese are all good choices. Finally, serve your board with a light, sparkling Italian wine such as Prosecco or a cocktail like Aperol Spritz to counter the heaviness of the food.
A Spanish charcuterie board should be reminiscent of tapas, with salty, savory flavor. Spanish meats include jamón (dry cured Spanish ham) and chorizo (chopped or ground meat sausage). Another great meat option for this region would be the salt cured, air dried cecina. Manchego or Iberico cheese compliments these meats well. Add green olives, quince paste, Marcona almonds, and figs. Serve with pan de barra (Spanish-style baguette) slices. A great addition is to pair this board with a dry, red Spanish wine to achieve the perfect Spanish experience.
Although all charcuterie share common characteristics – heavy cured meat, creamy cheeses, and delicious side items to cut the richness, boards from different countries have distinct flavor profiles that are unique to that nation. While common types of charcuterie boards draw from French inspiration, you will miss out on some amazing flavor combinations if you stop there. No matter what country you draw inspiration from, your end product will be a good one. The next time you host a dinner party or cocktail party, consider challenging yourself to make a board comprised all of ingredients authentic to one country. It may be a good idea to look in specialty shops that sell foods specific to a region or culture. Your finished product will be perfect way to keep your charcuterie boards surprising your guests every time!