Charcuterie is the name given to the process of preparing meat products of the variety you would expect to find behind a delicatessen counter, and is also a term that refers to these meat products as a collective. Cooked and cured meats often feature in Italian antipasti and so charcuterie has a central role to play in the aperitivo tradition in Italy. Records of charcuterie date back to the Roman period when laws were written up to regulate the process of producing meat for consumption and in 15th century France there was a tradesmen's guild specifically for charcutiers, demonstrating the rich history of this craft.
In fact, very little has changed over the centuries in the way that authentic charcuterie products are prepared and in many parts of Italy producers use traditional methods and ‘gentle’ techniques which maximise the flavours of the meat and prevent it from becoming overly ‘processed’. Many types of ham and sausage are dry-cured or smoked, giving them a uniquely delicious taste.
Our favourite charcuterie meats:
When in Italia, or when trying to recreate an Italianesque dinner party in the comfort of your home, your experience will be incomplete without sampling a charcuterie platter. Some of our favourite varieties are listed below to give you an idea of what to try for yourself and what to serve up for your guests!
- Soppressata - a dry salami of which there two particularly famous variations: a cured sausage originating from Apulia and Calabria and an uncured salami that comes from Tuscany and Liguria
- Prosciutto - a delicious dry-cured ham served in very thin slices, the world-renowned Prosciutto di Parma comes from a town in Emilia-Romagna
- Bresaola - a salted, air-dried variety of beef that is aged over a period of several months
- Mortadella - a cooked sausage made from ground pork mixed with a blend of herbs and aromatics and enriched with wine and pieces of pistachio
- Capocollo - also known as Coppa and Capicola this is a tasty smoked sausage with a slightly spicy flavour
- ‘Nduja - a bold, spicy, spreadable pork from Calabria
This is by no means an exhaustive list of charcuterie, but we’ve found it’s a great place to start...
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