The Art of Charcuterie: Less is More


December 30, 2022
By Anna Smirnova
By Anna Smirnova

Charcuterie has no rules, except one: quality over quantity.

While Pinterest may be full of oversized boards full of heavily processed foods these days, approximating the size of a Dodge Ram truck, authentic and high-quality charcuterie, the art, taste, and beauty of charcuterie, lies in a focus on and respect for the ingredients, the quality of the meats and cheeses, and the pairing of their flavor signatures. And, of course, great friends and family to share it with! 

Luckily, we do not need to be in Paris to create and enjoy a gorgeous charcuterie board at home and have everything we need right here in the desert. With a selection of Tucson shops and markets to choose from, I set out to create a European-inspired charcuterie board just in time for the New Year’s celebration to honor this ancient snacking tradition.

(Photo by Anna Smirnova)

According to experts, and Wikipedia, while using salt to cure meats dates at least to the Roman Empire, modern charcuterie is a 15th-century French innovation meant to preserve meat and reduce waste from the precious animal used, while maximizing the butcher’s return on the cost of an animal who prime cuts would have been prepared and sold separately. As the cured preparations became popular themselves, purchasing the meats for a pre-dinner party snack became a ritual in France and throughout Europe. And thus, apéro dinatoire was invented, now more simply known as apéro, or afternoon drink and snack time.

The word itself is a blend of two French words, chair, meaning flesh, and cuit, meaning cooked. And, for those curious, in English, the word is pronounced shar-KOO-tr-ee, and in French, shar·ku·te·ri.

(Photo by Anna Smirnova)

The most traditional charcuterie boards will have nothing more than three or four meats differentiated by texture and flavor. And, while the contents boards have greatly expanded, it’s important to focus on moderate quantities and varieties of high-quality items, giving space on the board for each ingredient to breathe. Further, sourcing locally and supporting independent producers and shops as much as possible shows respect for the ingredients. And on that note, please no rose bouquets made of meat slices! Add sweet, savory, and acidic items with gentleness while pairing them with your favorite wine, white or red, and serve everything at or close to room temperature for maximum flavor. And, most importantly, keep it classy and enjoy this ritual as a treat to share with your closest ones.

Meats

A selection of three to four paper-thin cured hams, salami, and sausage with the addition of a terrine, paté, or rillette is a solid base.

Cheese

Keep the selection narrow, but interesting: one hard cheese, one soft, one goat/sheep, and one blue.

Sweet Nuances

Jams, marmalade, and honey, while not necessary, complement the cheese beautifully.

Earthy Notes

Nuts, such as Spanish Marcona almonds, bring texture and an earthy touch.

A Touch of Acidity

A small note of acidity such as from caper berries, cornichons, green olives, grapes, or even sliced apples, works exceptionally well as palate cleansers in between bites.

(Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Where to Shop in Tucson

The Coronet / Market Café

353 S. Meyer Ave.
(Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Located in the heart of historical Barrio Viejo, The Coronet’s Market Café has a lovely selection of made-in-house gourmet jams, chutneys, bread, and butter pickles as well as a beautiful selection of regional and international wines.

For more information, visit coronettucson.com.

Time Market

444 E. University Blvd.

Located near Fourth Avenue and the university, the perfect stop for freshly baked baguettes and a wide selection of unique wines.

For more information, visit timemarket.xyz.

Heirloom Farmers Markets

Multiple Locations
(Photo by Anna Smirnova)

With locations around Tucson and the region, great for local artisanal goods including honey, jams, olives, and olive oils such as the excellent locally produced goods from Local Southwest.

For more information, visit heirloomfm.org

Flora’s Market Run

2513 E. Sixth St.

International and locally cured meats, an expanding wine section, freshly baked bread, and other pantry staples.

For more information, visit florasmarket.com.

Seared Living

2870 E. Skyline Dr. #170
(Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Located in Plaza Colonial, a fantastic and very well-curated selection of International goods covers all your charcuterie needs in one place.

 For more information, visit searedliving.com.

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Article By

Anna Smirnova is a creative director and photographer working across hospitality, gastronomy, and travel. Her work has been featured by brands and publications around the world. A Londoner currently residing in the Wild West.

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