A charcuterie guide
Pastrami’s name is derived from the Romanian word pastra, meaning ‘to preserve’ and it’s usually made from beef brisket.
The meat is traditionally cured in brine, coated with a mix of spices, smoked and finally steamed until the connective tissue in the meat turns into gelatin. The spice coating contributes a great deal to the flavour of the meat and often includes garlic, coriander, black pepper, paprika, cloves and mustard seeds.
Serving suggestion: Warm the pastrami and stack it on top of a slice of rye bread with wholegrain mustard. Serve with a whole pickle and sauerkraut or coleslaw. How very New York.
The word ‘salami’ is Italian and plural for salame, which used to refer to any type of ‘salted meat’. After salami’s rise in popularity, however, the term became associated with this particular type of salted meat that was especially popular amongst Southern European peasants due to it being easily stored at room temperate for a month or more.
Salami is made of ground, salted and spiced meat (beef, venison or pork) that is stuffed into a casing and fermented, cured and left to dry.
Serving suggestion: Add salami to a picnic hamper or antipasto platter with cheeses like mozzarella or pecorino, green apples, pomegranates and olives. Salami works wonderfully in any tomato-based dish or sauce and we all know how delicious it is as a pizza topping or sandwich filling – salami and slices of fresh tomato on soft white bread is always a winner.
Prosciutto is the Italian word for ‘ham’ and it is typically eaten uncooked on charcuterie plates. While non-Italians use the word when referring to this specific type of meat, the term is fairly generic in Italy – to illustrate: prosciutto crudo means ‘raw ham’ and prosciutto cotto means ‘cooked ham’.
High quality cuts of meat are selected and then allowed to drain in a cool place for a day or two after which the meat is washed, trimmed and rubbed with sea salt. Once salt curing is complete (this can take about two months), the meat is washed and hung in a well-ventilated or breezy space to cure. This curing process can take anywhere from a few months to three years. This curing process leads to the very rich and complex flavour.
Serving suggestion: Serve prosciutto crudo as part of a charcuterie or cheese platter, as an accompaniment to crisp vegetables such as peas or asparagus or simply enjoy a few slices on a fresh croissant for a classic European café sandwich.
Parma ham or prosciutto crudo di Parma is produced solely in the Parma region of northern Italy, where fewer than 200 farms have been certified to produce it and the entire process is closely watched over by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma (the Parma Ham Consortium).
Parma ham is made using cured pork leg, which is dry salted and air-dried for between one and three years. The only real difference between parma ham and prosciutto crudo is that the latter is not controlled by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma and can be produced in any region.
Serving suggestion: Parma ham is usually served in paper-thin slices. It should be eaten at room temperature and other delicious pairings include wrapping subtly sweet melon slices in the salty Parma ham or enjoying it with tomato, smoked mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil on Italian Panini. It’s also superb on top of a crispy, thin-based pizza.
Serrano ham is also known as Spanish ham and it’s been said that every Spaniard eats 5kg of cured ham per year – double what the Italians eat! The word Serrano translates to mean ‘mountain’ or ‘highland’ and it is aged and cured at a higher altitude than Italian prosciutto, although they do follow the same curing process.
As with Parma ham, the production of Serrano ham is watched over by the Consorcio de Jamón Serrano Español.
Serving suggestion: To properly enjoy the flavours of Serrano ham, drizzle with a little olive oil and serve with a few slices of fresh bread, almonds or melon. Serrano ham should be served at room temperature.
Country ham is slightly dry and typically very salty as it’s first salt-cured and then smoked to preserve the meat. Country ham is made from pork leg and is somewhat similar to Italian prosciutto (see above for prosciutto crudo), with the main difference being that prosciutto is not smoked.
Serving suggestion: The saltiness makes it the perfect match for fresh or preserved sweet fruit, so pair country ham with fresh figs, drizzled with honey and served with rustic sourdough bread as part of breakfast or a light lunch.
Gypsy ham’s name stems from its roots in gypsy camps, where the pork meat (usually from the leg) would be smoked over a wood fire, giving the skin a darker colour.
Before curing the fat is cut off the ham and it is then netted and smoked. The smoky flavour and lean, tender meat makes it a delicious, healthy and versatile lunch meat.
Serving suggestion: Gypsy ham is fantastic with any breakfast dish and often seen served with eggs benedict. Add it to an omelette with red peppers, grated cheddar and fresh herbs or simply serve it alongside warm toast and real butter.
Pretty much the same as Gypsy ham.
Serving suggestion: Make a sandwich with Gypsy beef or smoked beef, tomato, horseradish sauce and fresh rocket on farm style bread.
Olive or chilli loaf
This lunch meat is made of finely minced pork or beef (sometimes a blend) mixed with either whole pimento stuffed olives or chillies, which is then formed into a loaf and cooked. This meat is usually sold in thin slices and has a short shelf life.
Serving suggestion: The perfect ‘everyday cold meat’, olive or chilli loaf is great for work or school sandwiches or served as a snack with slices of Gouda and crudité.
Chicken roll is very much the same as olive or chilli loaf in that it’s finely ground chicken, which is formed into a loaf or roll, cooked and then thinly sliced.
Serving suggestion: Serve as a snack or on a sandwich.
This delicious, well-known cold meat is made using skinless and boneless chicken breasts, which are beech smoked and very low in fat.
Serving suggestion: Ideal in any salad, smoked chicken is particularly delicious when teamed with mango, avocado and fresh rocket for a light and healthy lunch.
This is a traditional German cold cut and typically consists of ham chunks ‘suspended’ in bologna (cooked, smoked sausage made with finely ground cured ham).
Serving suggestion: Bierschinken is great in a sandwich with mild mustard on wholegrain bread.
Most supermarkets and delis offer a wide range of cold meats sold ‘by the kilogram’, so why not buy a few slices of each and have a tasting?