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What Is...Charcuterie (or Cured Meats)?

Charcuterie or Cured Meat?

If Charcuterie is undeniably French, are Cured Meats unquestionably British? Are they one and the same thing? Which term do you use? And, as we’re always being asked, is one right – the other wrong?

Where does Charcuterie come from….

Let’s unpack this. The word Charcuterie literally means Cooked Meats from the French Chair, “meat or flesh” and Cuit “cooked”.

No less an authority than the Oxford Companion to Food dates Charcutiers, makers of Charcuterie, right back to the 15th century in France.

They were an organised body who ran specialist shops permitted to make, cook and sell pork products – everything and anything from bacon and hams to rillettes, saucissons (fresh & cured), terrines, galantines, pâtés, black & white puddings, and so on….as long as it was made from pork.

That explains why Charcuterie is still made primarily from pork, although nowadays game, poultry, and other meats are all used.

Cured vs Cooked

As we know, pork was cured as a means of preservation before fridges and freezers were invented.

But Charcutiers were also Cooks. Cooking, although not as long-lasting as curing, transformed ingredients and it’s a craft they mastered to great effect. Every Charcutier worth his salt would strive to produce the best ever pâté, often his reputation would be staked on it, but none of its ingredients would be cured.

Here’s the rub (no pun intended). It follows all Cured Meat can be classed as Charcuterie but not all Charcuterie is Cured. Let’s think about Black Pudding, and other British Specialities such as Haslet, Faggots or Haggis, and many more. Not one of these products is cured but they are undoubtedly Charcuterie.

Did you Know

  • During Lent when the eating of meat was banned, Charcutiers were allowed to sell salt herrings and saltwater fish
  • Salumi – salted meat is the Italian for cured meat products, mostly made from pork and is derived from the Latin “sal” meaning salt

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