Is baloney charcuterie?
The technical answer is yes—but do not try to serve it to your friends as “charcuterie” if you want them to remain your friends.
So what is charcuterie, anyway? Charcuterie is a French word for cooking devoted to prepared meat products—you know, like baloney. In the United States today, however, when we say charcuterie, we actually mean a charcuterie board: a selection of prepared meat products and cheeses, along with other food products that complement the meats and cheeses, like dried fruits, nuts, olives, pickles, breads, crackers, dips and spreads. Charcuterie is perfect as an appetizer or as finger food for a cocktail party.
Charcuterie boards are often associated with wine—because they’re a perfect playground for flavor pairings.
Many people think pairing a wine with food is some sort of voodoo food magic they’ll never be able to understand—while other people think it’s just B.S. Well, it is not B.S.—it is science, and a science that’s not hard to understand with just a few guidelines.
In a simplistic model, there are six basic tastes the human tongue can sense: sweet, salty, acidic (sour), fatty (umami), spicy and bitter. Wine flavors are often described as fruity, acidic (sour), mineral, tannic, spicy and earthy. While there are thousands of flavor combinations in both food and wine, you do not have to be Gordon Ramsay to see that the flavors in food also exist in wine. The end goal of wine pairings is to elevate the flavors in both the food and the wine at the same time.
If you don’t think flavor pairings are important … have you ever had a nice glass of orange juice right after brushing your teeth? Yuck. The toothpaste tastes fine; the orange juice tastes great; together, they could not be worse. How can we make sure this does not happen with food and wine?
The simple rule is to pair wines and foods that are distinctly similar, or distinctly contrasting. Imagine similar flavors—pairing an acidic wine like an albariño with a citrus salad. Or buttery chardonnay with lobster. Stuffed mushrooms with pinot noir, and a sweet wine with a nice slice of pie. By doing this, we accentuate the flavors that are in both the food and the wine. This is what makes the butter flavor in the lobster really come to life.
With contrasting flavor parings, we want the flavors to be different in a good way, like peanut butter and jelly: The acidity and sweetness of the jelly balances and cuts the fat in the peanut butter. (Yes, a fruity red wine is great with peanut butter on a spoon. Don’t judge.) Think about spicy foods and a sweet German riesling, or macaroni and cheese with an acidic pinot grigio, or pickled vegies and Sancerre, and roast turkey with a Cariñena. These wine and food flavors work together to downplay some of their profiles that can be overwhelming—making the two taste better together.
Getting back to that charcuterie board: The meats and cheeses have the fatty, umami flavors. Dried and fresh fruits provide the sweetness. Nuts and crackers provide the saltiness, while olives, pickles and capers provide the acidic (sour), spicy and bitter flavors. Based on these food flavors, you can see how you would be able to find both complementary and contrasting flavor matches regardless of the wine in your glass.
Charcuterie boards can be created or purchased depending on your culinary skills and creativity. We can all take a walk down the deli isle and toss pre-packaged meats and cheeses into our basket, slap those on a cutting board with some pickle slices and olives, and call it a day. Fortunately, in Reno, we can buy made-to-order charcuterie boards with just a couple of hours’ notice. Graze Craze, at 4092 Kietzke Lane, is a franchise business owned by the husband-and-wife team of Myron and Missy Bursell. They opened the store last year and are expecting big things this year.
“Christmas and New Year’s were huge for us,” Myron said when asked how the community was responding to the business opening. “We have not only provided charcuterie boards for people’s personal parties, but also large gatherings for weddings and events, like sorority parties, where 10 or more boards were required.”
The most popular board, “The Gone Grazey,” includes everything from goat cheese garnished with honey and pistachios to peppered salami. The store offers keto, vegetarian, sweet or special seasonal boards, and all these boards can be purchased in a variety of sizes to serve from one to 10 people.
“We only need a couple of hours of lead time for a large board, and we have individual grab-and-go boxes that we make to order in just 10 minutes or so,” Myron said. “We have our own house-made pickles; we bake a fennel ham in house; and we have a local baker make our cranberry walnut bread.”
I love wine, and I love charcuterie, so I look forward to ordering a charcuterie board from Graze Craze and enjoy exploring all of the contrasting and complementary flavors—entirely baloney-free.
Good article! Charcuterie boards are so fun, and you did a great job of explaining why. No baloney.
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