The history of cured meats dates back thousands of years, with variations of sausage and cured ham first appearing in ancient Rome. During this period, techniques including brining, smoking, fermenting and air-drying were developed to preserve meat and minimise waste, long before the advent of refrigeration. However it was in France during the 15th century where the concept of charcuterie really took off. The melding of two French words – chair which means flesh and cuit meaning cooked – the term was used to separate producers of cured meats from raw, which gave rise to the first Charcutiers Guild, which still exists today. Increasingly sophisticated use of butchers offcuts – most commonly pork – over the years have seen sausage, salami and dry-aged meats become a staple part of cuisine both in France and further afield, with charcuterie boards acting as a showcase for different flavours, textures and styles.
For Simon Attridge, Executive Chef at Gleneagles, the very best charcuterie is defined by provenance, preparation and observation of the proper ageing processes, all of which define the cured meats that appear on Gleneagles menus and in luxury hampers throughout the year. “We use a selection of specialist fine food suppliers to give us the correct quality and variety,” he says, adding that the perfect charcuterie board pairs cured meats with well-sourced cheeses – with some of Scotland’s finest including Isle of Mull Cheddar, Blue Murder and Morangie brie – charred sourdough bread, pickles and cornichons to cut through the meat, and fig jam. And, of course, a good wine, with Attridge recommending pairing with pinot noir, or a chardonnay for white wine lovers.
Whether served after a day in the Scottish hills, as an aperitif or part of a laid back lunch with friends and family, a charcuterie platter is a versatile crowd-pleaser that everyone can take pleasure from. To help you bring a touch of Alpine cuisine to your home, Attridge has curated the perfect charcuterie and cheese board, complete with a recipe for a flavourful fig jam accompaniment.