Photo by Caitlin Abrams
Charcuterie board with meats and cheeses
The cutting board is handcrafted and heirloom quality from Nicholas Henton of Magnolia Place Woodworks (Stillwater).
Charcuterie sounds complicated but it’s actually rooted in practicality. Centuries ago, curing your meat—and using the entire animal while you were at it—was done out of necessity. Today, charcuterie (which literally means cooked or cured meats, served cold) is practiced in the name of deliciousness. Salty, savory, umami deliciousness.
Dry-cured pork products such as salamis and muscle meats, known collectively as salumi, tend to be the star of the charcuterie show, but it isn’t always a pork party. Pâtés, terrines, cheeses, and veggies all help accessorize (charcuterize?) your meats.
There are charcuterie experts out there, but you don’t need to be one to create a solid, well-curated board at home. Jim Bovino, head fermenter at the nearly year-old GYST Fermentation Bar (he also answers to “the acid king”), says creating a perfect charcuterie board, like most things in life, all comes down to balance. Here’s how to do it:
Start with salami
And we’re not talking lunchmeat. You want the good stuff; look for ground meat (either pork or beef) that’s been lovingly encased, fermented and dry-cured. Spices, herbs, and other flavorings can be fun, but aren’t necessary, since the aging and casing all contribute to a salami’s flavor.
Along with more heavily spiced or flavored options, Bovino recommends presenting some salamis that really showcase the curing process and the meat itself. For this, he loves Red Table Meat Co., a Northeast Minneapolis-based company that uses heritage-breed, pastured pigs from local farms.
Add muscle meats
Whereas salamis are ground meats, muscle meats are just what they sound like: muscles (or groups of muscles) that are marinated, then fermented and cured whole. At GYST, you might find Red Table’s slightly spicy Coppa (pork shoulder with juniper and coriander) and Lonza (pork loin with rosemary and bay leaf) on the charcuterie menu.
Balance the board
There’s bound to be a lot of chewy texture happening between the salamis and muscle meats, so a pâté or terrine can add some variety. GYST’s pork-pistachio pâté and mortadella, a sausage that includes small cubes of fat from the jowl or neck of the pig. (“Essentially high-class bologna,” says Bovino.)
Acid is your friend
As a fermenter, Bovino’s a little biased, but he says acid is key to a good charcuterie board. “We serve a pickle or fermented vegetable alongside it,” he explains. “That really helps cuts through the fat, so you have some diversity in the palate.” And great news, folks: Jim’s preparing to sell his housemade fermented vegetables from GYST as carry out products. You’ll be able to pop into GYST and pick up fermented daikon, carrots, and turnip greens for your home charcuterie!
Cheese is nice—but not required
There’s no real formula to selecting a charcuterie-friendly cheese, but Bovino generally opts for an artisan fromage that has some character: “something aged, creamy, salty, or that has some richness or funk.”
+Pairings from Surdyk’s
We asked the experts at Surdyk’s for beverages to complement charcuterie. Here’s what they recommend:
Pairing #1 (wine): La Sangliére rosé from Provence has a gorgeous salmon pink color with notes of floral, wild strawberry, and orange oil. It’s bright, clean, and crisp with enough character to stand next to rich pâtés or salty cured meats.
Pairing #2 (beer): Badger Hill MSB (Minnesota Special Bitter). Don’t let the name fool you—this Shakopee-made beer is a twist on the ESB (Extra Special Bitter), an English traditional style. It’s a well-balanced beer that will enhance but not overpower your charcuterie.
Charcuterie meats pictured include: The Pork Queen (salami) and Coppa (dried pork shoulder) from Red Table Meats in NE Minneapolis, as well as Borsellina salami from La Quercia in Iowa and Surdyk’s housemade Coarse Country Paté. Cheeses include: Grazier’s Edge from The Lone Grazer (Northeast Minneapolis), Marieke Golden from Holland’s Family Cheese (Wisconsin), Shepherd’s Way Friesago (Minnesota), and Little Lucy Brie from Redhead Creamery (Minnesota). All were procured from Surdyk’s with the Little Lucy Brie available soon. Fermented vegetables are housemade at GYST Fermentation Bar and include fermented carrots, daikon, and turnip greens—all available from GYST for carry out soon.