charcuterie meat ideas
June 13, 2022 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I love cheese, and I love trying new varieties of cheese. I love mustard, and I love trying new varieties of mustard. I love pickled vegetables, and I love trying new varieties of pickled vegetables. The obvious next step is applying my knowledge of cheeses, pickled vegetables, mustards, and other such foods to a charcuterie board. So I tried that today, and I ran into a pretty big problem.

The problem is that I don't really like salami. And it turns out, I don't like a lot of cured meat. I thought I would, because I generally like sausage. And it's not that I don't like salami. It's OK. But I don't like it enough to make it the star of my show. But I don't like anything else to make it the star of my show either.

Most of the cured meat I've come across falls into one of three categories: salami-like, which includes other Italian or Italian-inspired sausages like pepperoni and soppressata; ham-like, which for charcuterie purposes usually means prosciutto; and pancetta. I have problems with all three. I can appreciate the difference between types of salami. But like, appreciating the difference between a filet mignon and a skirt steak doesn't mean much if you don't like steak. I find it difficult to eat more than a slice or two of salami in one sitting. But I also don't like ham very much either. I've tried a lot of different hams and nothing has ever made me want to eat more of it (except jamon iberico, which is not really going to be an everyday thing for me). And I just don't like bacon. Pancetta isn't as bad as American bacon, but I still don't care for it.

Some other possibilities I've considered are summer sausage (which I've found highly variable by brand), and cold cuts (which I guess I like roast beef well enough, but it seems kinda boring to pair plain old deli roast beef with fancy and/or artisanal cheeses). A possibility I haven't considered is jerky, because I find the smell off-putting.

Otherwise I eat a lot of meat: steak, ground beef, chicken, pork, cooked sausages like bratwurst or kielbasa. I could always do that, but part of my interest in charcuterie is because I'd like to cook less, especially "meal prep" cooking. I'm trying to eat out less to save money, but I also don't have a lot of time to cook batches of stuff on weekends, so charcuterie seemed like a way I could make myself a quick and easy but really tasty and interesting lunch without cooking.

The meat is pretty important. I could just make a cheese board, but that would feel more like a snack and not a meal. I've got the cheeses, fruits, pickles, nuts, and spreads down already.

Given all that, does anyone have any magic suggestions for charcuterie boards?
posted by kevinbelt to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Summer sausage was going to be my suggestion, because that sort of splits the difference between sausages (which you say you like) and sliced cured meats (which you say you don't.)

I will take all of the salami and soppressata off your hands.
posted by emelenjr at 10:25 AM on June 13, 2022

If you get a head of cabbage that's literally just come out of your own garden, and you pull off the outer leaves and then halve it in each of three dimensions to make it into eight equal pieces, and then pull the pieces apart into smaller pieces two or three leaves thick, and use those to scoop up bites of a really good pâté, you'll be very glad you did.

Pâté also works when scooped onto garden-fresh celery (preferably celery that's been grown fully exposed to the sun so it gets that good strong green flavour happening) but garden-fresh cabbage is better.

Trying the same move using supermarket vegetables will be disappointing.
posted by flabdablet at 10:33 AM on June 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Some ideas that would be different from what you've listed above: pate or terrine, porchetta from a deli, smoked turkey (which you can get on the bone in the meat dept sometimes).

Or-- the whole world of tinned and smoked fish and seafood! Sardine, salmon, tuna, mussels, squid...
posted by TrarNoir at 10:37 AM on June 13, 2022 [21 favorites]

Sliced roast beef or turkey from the deli, they will usually have a variety of flavors.
posted by tman99 at 10:44 AM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

There are a few cured meats that are enough of a departure from the salami orbit that they might be worth trying to see if you like them (any decent deli will usually let you sample a thin slice in my experience):



Chorizo iberico (can be spendier, but it's gooood)

ham-like, which for charcuterie purposes usually means prosciutto

Have you ever tried Speck? Very similar to prosciutto, but smoked. If you like smoky flavours, it might be worth trying.

I know you said you're trying to take cooking out of the equation, but if there are various uncooked sausages that you really like, grilling/frying them ahead and then chilling them in the fridge makes them easy to slice into thin, bite-sized pieces that work well on a charcuterie board.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:45 AM on June 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

There's something called "potted meat" that's a slightly cheaper and more frugal spin on pate. It's similar in that it's meat that you eat cold, only instead of something that's been pureed and made into a loaf form, it's more like a spread. And - you can TOTALLY make some with leftover cooked meat from dinner:

1. Dig out your food processor.
2. Chop up the cooked meat into small enough chunks that you think the food processor can handle it, and throw that in the food processor.
3. Add some seasoning - salt and pepper, some dried herbs, whatever.
4. Add maybe like a tablespoon of butter.
5. Puree the snot out of it all. You should end up with a thick spreadable paste; if it's a little too stiff, add a little more butter.
6. Scoop the mass into a small bowl or crock, cover with plastic wrap and let that sit in the fridge.

If you REALLY wanna go all fancy, after you scoop the meat into the crock, you can melt some more butter (like 3-4 tablespoons), and then pour that over the top and let that cool, THEN cover with the plastic wrap and put in the fridge. The butter makes this additional airtight seal - one which is probably not enough to protect against botulism (so that's why you have the plastic wrap and you're fridging it), but would be enough to keep it from drying out all weird.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Seconding smoked mussels. Smoked bluefish pate is good, too, if you're not inclined to rry chicken liver pate or foie gras pate. Beef carpaccio. Steak tartare. Duck prosciutto is really good, though I don't know where you'd come down on that if you don't like traditional prosciutto. Some nice jerky of some kind?
posted by briank at 10:47 AM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

These still may not be to your liking but there’s a kind of in between category of dried meats not really salamis and not quite prosciutto - Italian breasaolo and Turkish/Levantine/Armenian basturma. Think if prosciutto was made from beef and sliced a tiny bit thicker. My spouse who loves prosciutto doesn’t care for it but I like them just as much.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:48 AM on June 13, 2022

If you can get your hands on fresh rabbit, you could try pickling it. In Argentina they serve it room temperature (with pickled carrots and onions), usually with crusty bread.
posted by dr. boludo at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

What about mortadella? I'm not a fan but lots of people like it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:01 AM on June 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Man after my own (also happily married!) heart.

I'm another meat eater who doesn't really love ham or salami or pancetta.

I think you'll find you are missing the divine concoction called garlic sausage. (Comes already cooked - just slice and eat with your cheese and pickles.)

(British is best...I've always thought: I once had a dream Saturday job at a deli off the Portobello Road in west London).

However, for those of us in the US - this artisan foods website (based in NJ) offers what looks like a fair imitation: d'

(I've never tried it - but googled because of your question and my own garlic sausage order is now in!
Blurb from the website: D'artagnan Garlic sausage [\made from humanely-raised pork and veal, with no antibiotics or hormones. Our fully-cooked, ready-to-eat French-style sausage is made with natural ingredients and flavored with red wine and garlic. There are no artificial additives, nitrates or nitrites in our garlic sausage, which is a key ingredient in our cassoulet recipe, and also perfect for a charcuterie plate.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:06 AM on June 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Tinned seafood is a good bet.

It's maybe not traditional charcuterie fare, but tuna or chicken salad pairs nicely with crackers and fruit, if that would be more appealing.
posted by the primroses were over at 11:07 AM on June 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Can you go into a little bit more detail about what you don't like about salami? The texture? The fattiness? The flavor profile?
posted by praemunire at 11:08 AM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Do you have access to Eastern European / Ashkenazi cured meats? Because those are often completely different from typical Italian salami or what passes for charcuterie in America and might be more your style. I'd try kabanos, kindziukas/skilandis, baleron or kaszanka for some completely different tastes. An average Polish shop has at least 15 varieties of kielbasa alone.

(A quick Google brings up at least two likely places in your location - Romashka looks like they know their stuff.)
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:14 AM on June 13, 2022

Do you have access to anywhere that has a wide selection of artisanal charcuterie? Meaning not a grocery store deli (unless you have a really high end grocery store, maybe), but a place with a big cold case full of different artisanal salamis, mortadella, different kinds of jamon and chorizo, and all the other varieties. Being able to taste test a bunch and talk with someone who knows their products might help you hone in on options that you do enjoy, and it's also nice to be able to buy an assortment of things in small quantities rather than getting stuck with a whole salami that you end up not liking very much.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:19 AM on June 13, 2022

Chicken salad. And/or tuna salad, if you like that.
posted by sillysally at 11:21 AM on June 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Some good suggestions here, and I agree that which way you go should be dictated by what exactly you don't like about cured meats. Most of what you've mentioned you don't like is pork-based, so you could try cured product that is made from other meats - bresaola as mentioned above is made from beef, and you could try duck/goose prosciutto. A duck rillettes might fit the bill as a meaty thing to spread on crackers, or chopped liver (or any other kind of chicken liver pate). A cold mousseline (essentially a fish pate emulsified and enriched with cream and eggs) is also a great lunch with some pickles, a mustard sauce, and a crusty bread.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2022

Response by poster: Can you go into a little bit more detail about what you don't like about salami?

Probably a combination of fattiness and flavor. I'm not a huge fatty meat guy (which is why I don't like bacon), but I realize that's going to limit my sausage options a lot. I generally don't mind the flavor of salami - I'll eat an Italian panini with mozzarella cheese, for example - but I think I have a cognitive block around the Italian-y flavors in most salami products and non-Italian-y cheeses. Like, it seems weird to me to eat salami and Roquefort together, or salami and horseradish cheddar. I could see it with, like, Trader Joe's Unexpected Cheddar, because that has some hints of parmesan that I think would work well, but most cheeses and mustards I like tend to be more Germanic or northern European.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:31 AM on June 13, 2022

You might like svinjski vrat (I think in English it’s just pork neck). It’s smoked. If you have an ex-Yugoslavian store in your neighborhood (Croatian, Serbian, whatever) they’ll probably have it. It’s not as fatty as other pork meat and super tender, could be on the salty side depending on how they make it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:43 AM on June 13, 2022

• I wholeheartedly second the suggestion of chorizo Iberico, especially the little mini ones that don't even need to be sliced.

• Rillettes - you could do duck, salmon, pork, rabbit, etc.

• 'Nduja (if you're in the US, get the stuff made by Tempesta. Don't get La Quercia - they generally do good imitations of Italian cured meats, but their 'nduja doesn't pass muster).

• Smoked salmon

• Pickled herring
posted by theory at 11:43 AM on June 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My first thought was to look at smoked salmon - there are a range of textures here from hot-smoked vs cold-smoked. Yes to pates or something like a deviled ham spread.

I think some pastrami or corned beef would also go great. I would lean into high-end sliced meats, like a nice roast beef or turkey (shredded texture is also great).

For other inspiration away from italian flavors, look to Norwegian Smorgasbord ideas. This might get you closer to the Germanic flavors you're enjoying.
posted by hydra77 at 11:45 AM on June 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

First, I want to say that if you look up mortadella on google it will say it's defined by the fat cubes and you say you don't like the fattiness, so I just want to let you know that mortadella doesn't have the fatty mouth-feel of salami at all.

Second, I was thinking, hey you can leave off the meat. If you don't like it, skip it. But then I see you want this as a dinner substitute so presumably you want the protein from meat. And then I thought, well you could get protein from something else. Why not get some crackers and put Nutella or peanut butter on them? And that's when I realized maybe I'm not classy enough to give charcuterie advice.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2022

Response by poster: OK, I had a feeling there was a fairly obvious answer that I was overlooking, and pastrami is it. Not pork, pairs well with northern European flavors, and is readily available almost everywhere. There are a lot of good suggestions here (thanks!) but clearly step one is to go get some pastrami.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:00 PM on June 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

In the UK, our local go-to for this is slices of on-the-bone ham. There are a number of regional recipes, but we're basically talking a salted ham hock that's been roasted or steamed and let cool, versus the monstrosity of water and meat glue that is deli ham.

I'm not entirely sure where I would go looking slices of it rather than the whole leg, though; maybe someone else has an idea.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2022

Came here to say rilletes and smoked salmon. I made rilletes as holiday gifts last year with (I’m 99% sure) a recipe from Serious Eats and I was shocked at how easy and delicious it was. Tinned seafood is also great, there’s a huge variety and a variety of price points available.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 12:19 PM on June 13, 2022

Jerky, mainly beef jerky, but also possibly other meats.

I didn't see you mention bread. Bread is a key component of charcuterie boards.

You could also go with falafel.
posted by at at 12:24 PM on June 13, 2022

Little meatballs.

Also I think a lot of people that think they wouldn’t like chicken liver mousse might like it.

You could also try bean spreads other than hummus. Like white bean.

I also second the smoked bluefish pate.
posted by vunder at 12:46 PM on June 13, 2022

In case you want to rethink the ham situation, I had a sammie made with Nueske's ham over the weekend, it was fantastic. (I know nothing about the brand, my first time, but looks pretty solid for charcuterie.)
posted by Bron at 1:57 PM on June 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Also pate. I like a good country pate, kind of like a tiny meatloaf sliced thinly, studded with pistachios and served with tiny little pickles, cornichon. Not a sliced lunchmeat, yet still meaty.
posted by citygirl at 3:47 PM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

I can vouch that this beef summer sausage from Gardners Wisconsin, is very good. I ordered one the first time, the second time I ordered five.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:05 PM on June 13, 2022

You seem like you're aiming for something a lot fancier than I am when I assemble such a meal (I call it adult lunchables), so maybe this is a bit bland and meatless for your preference, but: hardboiled eggs? Or deviled eggs to be a bit fancier and make use of some of your fancy mustards? Not meat, but it'll do for protein. I will also nth everyone else's suggestion of smoked salmon, and will specifically recommend that pastrami-style smoked salmon Trader Joe's has.
posted by yasaman at 5:41 PM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Hmmm. If you like pastrami, I think some things to look for are dried venison and moose. Dry, strong umami, meaty flavor. Also goose pastrami, if you can find it. Or smoked goose or duck breast. Or wild fowl in any form or shape. Or smoked fish.

On the softer side, there are poultry liver mousse and tuna (or other canned fish) mousse. The basic recipe is half and half liver/fish and butter, seasoned with salt and pepper. Blend till completely smooth and refrigerate till it can be turned out of the form like a paté. It seems extreme, but it is delicious. That said, you can experiment with substituting some mayo for the butter, or adding in shallots, tomato puré, garlic, thyme, lemon juice or other things you think might work for you. Obviously, eat with a crusty sourdough. For some reason, I think this would be excellent with smoked whitefish, but I haven't tried.
posted by mumimor at 8:26 PM on June 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

You like Germanic flavours in your cheese and mustard. Nobody has suggested it, which suggests it's not really a thing in the US (assuming that's where you are), but can you get German sausages? Bierwurst, Schinkenwurst, Extrawurst... like you, salami somehow doesn't work for me, and I only really like smoked ham, but those -wursts are delicious. You may not care for the texture though, which is much softer than salami.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:52 AM on June 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

You have to try bresaola.
posted by pompomtom at 5:57 PM on June 14, 2022

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