Move over, fries and dip: The charcuterie craze continues to dominate cocktail parties, picnics and get-togethers.
Charcuterie (pronounce shar-koo-tur-ree) is a French term that goes way back – think 15th century – for using prepared and cooked meat products.
Typically arranged on wooden boards, charcuterie combines food and art, resulting in edible arrangements that are only limited by each charcuterie creator.
Sarah Tuthill from Aspinwall loves charcuterie so much she opened a physical store, EZPZ Gatheringsin the historic business district of Aspinwall.
Tuthill specializes in made-to-order cheese and charcuterie boards. She launched her business during the pandemic, starting with small individual “charquarantine” boxes for virtual parties and get-togethers.
“I had tried to write a book about entertainment, but something just didn’t click. I would sit down to write and I felt like I would rather make a big charcuterie board than write about it,” Tuthill said.
Tuthill, 52, even runs “boarding school” workshops for customers who want to develop their charcuterie skills.
Customers can choose from mason jar-themed charcuterie or boards large enough to feed 20 people.
Prices range from $5 to $250.
“I make bigger pasture tables for weddings, showers and big events,” Tuthill said.
Sara Ward, 35, is the chef/owner of Greensburg-based food truck Miss Meatball. She said people crave deli meats, especially during the holidays.
Last year, she sold over 75 boxes of deli meats.
“I’ve been making deli boxes for a few years and customers want them for every occasion. They’ve done well during covid, and that surprised me because they’re usually a shared item,” Ward said.
Miss Meatball’s clientele is predominantly female, and deli boxes range in price from $35 to $145, with the largest box seating up to 20 people.
RSVP Gifts and More in Greensburg has partnered with Miss Meatball to offer personalized deli meats to customers.
Owner Suzanne Ward, Sara Ward’s sister-in-law, said RSVP customers request honey most often as a popular deli condiment.
“Who doesn’t love a platter full of delicious meats and assorted cheeses?” Susan Ward asked.
Sara Ward said the themes are popular and she recently created a Seton Hill University-themed board for a retirement party.
His go-to meats are pepperoni, sweet soppressata, capicola, spicy salami or black pepper salami, and prosciutto.
“It’s not limited to meat and cheese,” Sara Ward said. “I don’t really have a placement – I just try to make it look pretty.”
Prices range from a two-person mini at $30 to $145, with the largest box seating up to 20 people.
Fox Chapel’s Dana Hanna was looking for a crowd-pleasing appetizer for a book club function at her residence.
Hanna collaborated with chef deli Sugar Elisa Brown, a private chef and caterer based in Fox Chapel, to create an oversized charcuterie.
Courtesy of Dana Hanna
Dana Hanna of Fox Chapel with a custom deli spread she created with Sugar Elisa Brown of Sugarbeecooks. Hanna hosted a book club event at her home and chose charcuterie as a creative culinary offering for her guests.
“I love the creativity of a deli because you can really put your family traditions on a shared plate,” said Hanna, who grew up in Sea Isle City, NJ “Hard salami, prosciutto, imported Italian cheeses, dried olives oil, Marcona almonds, raisins and cherry peppers are always on mine.It’s like a little taste of the Jersey Shore in the ‘Burgh.
Brown said making an amazing charcuterie board requires selecting fresh ingredients, which often results in a higher price tag.
“High-quality artisanal cheeses and meats come at a premium, which is reflected in the cost of the display,” said Brown, whose deli creations are priced at $300 and up.
A former resident of Los Angeles, Brown learned deli skills while working with a caterer there.
“I fell in love with the creative possibilities and started building on what I had learned. Beautiful vegetables, fruits, flowers, artisan cheeses, crackers, meats, homemade condiments, dried fruits and spiced nuts are the ultimate palette for creating an array of colors, textures and flavors. There’s literally something for everyone, and it’s also a feast for the eyes,” Brown said.
Brianna Schreckengost, 26, from Leechburg has created many charcuterie boards working in the restaurant industry.
” They are funny. It’s a comforting appetizer,” Schreckengost said. “The evolution of charcuterie is that it has aroused everyone’s interest.
This year, CoCo Coffeehouse on Market Street in Leechburg offered Valentine’s Day-themed boards.
Joyce Hanz | Tribune-Review
A Valentine’s Day-themed charcuterie platter from CoCo Coffeehouse and Catering in Leechburg.
“Customers love the festive side of a different charcuterie. You can customize any charcuterie, and I try to mix up my offerings,” said owner/chef and barista Nikki Saxion.
Saxion said other deli themes include holidays, birthdays and Mother’s Day.
Churchill’s Joe Kotelnicki recently ordered a charcuterie platter from EZPZ Gatherings. He said charcuterie is always a topic of conversation at parties and is customizable for all types of diets.
“It’s a great way to try a bite of something different or new without having to commit to a plate,” Kotelnicki said. “Each painting designer seems to have their own artistic flair.”
Creating your own deli at home is easy with a little preparation and planning.
Tuthill said a good motto is to “keep it simple but make it memorable” and the same goes for charcuterie boards.
“I tell people to just pick two or three great cheeses, some cold cuts, and top it off with something savory like olives or pickles.”
She recommends brie and a good strong cheddar cheese. If you’re only including one meat, make it Genoa salami.
Famous grocery chain Aldi offers deli tips and must-haves on its website at aldi.us.
Sarah Crawford, an Aldi charcuterie expert, recommends following the 3-3-3-3 rule: three cheeses, three meats, three starches and three sweets per board.
Popular meats and deli meats to consider are ham, bacon, roast beef, prosciutto, and pepperoni.
Hard and soft cheese choices include Parmesan, Gouda, Roquefort, Brie, Mozzarella, Camembert, Cheddar, and Pecorino.
Adding grapes, oranges, figs and dried fruits to nuts and vegetables such as olives and pickles adds a splash of color.
Finish the board with crackers and/or slices of French baguette or other pieces of bread and set out 1-2 hours before serving.
Don’t forget serving spoons and cheese knives, and keep extra ingredients handy for restocking.