Who wants to choose between the greatest loves in life: meat and cheese? Thankfully, because the two make such a lavish meal when put together, you don’t have to make that decision too often.
Cheeseboards featuring cured meats are great for dinner parties, romantic meals, and hearty lunches. We’ve had some of our own charcuterie and cheese afternoons here in the culture offices, and trust me—nothing motivates a staff like succulent meat. If you want to experience this classic pairing and execute it in the best way possible, read on and become a pro.
One of the most important things to consider when pairing cured meats and cheeses is the salt content. A super salty slice of prosciutto isn’t going to offer much nuance or contrast with another salty, aged cheese. Harking back to our golden principle of the sweet-salty pairing, an easy way around this conundrum is to pair the less salty meat with the saltier cheese or vice versa.
In the culture offices, I have tried a sweet prosciutto which pairs very well with a salty cheese like a sharp white cheddar. La Quercia makes delicious Acorn Prosciutto, so tender and sweet it almost makes you forget you’re eating a cured meat. The incredible flavor comes from the pigs’ diet, which is 60% wild forage and fatty, fatty acorns. This delicate food pairs well with salty cheeses like feta or blue.
It also helps to keep in mind the texture of the cheese you want to pair with meat. A thinly sliced meat won’t work well with a runny cheese: the textures do nothing to bring out something different in the other. A firm, hearty meat like a sliced sausage would go much better with a creamy cheese. Try a goat cheese with herbs or an oozy camembert that will cool down a smoky sausage.
Another principle we mentioned in previous blog posts is that foods from the same region tend to pair well with one another. For example, prosciutto di Parma is made in Italy from the back legs of hogs. Once thinly sliced, it tastes of sweet butter, hazelnut, and salt. Parmigiano Reggiano is a tangy, slightly acidic cheese made in the same region. In fact, the hogs that eventually become this delicious cured meat are fed none other than the whey by-product of Parmigiano Reggiano production. Talk about the circle of life.
If you want to ramp up the flavors of your tasting and really concentrate on the tasting notes, I suggest using a firm encased meat in place of a cracker. After all, cutting out the middleman in any situation usually improves the experience. Try a spicy Chorizo sausage and smear a cool, creamy cheese on top. As odd as it might sound to put ricotta or a goat cheese on top of your sausage, the combination works. Just as one kicks up the heat, the other brings it down to the perfect temperature.
What’s your favorite meat and cheese pairing? Tell us on Twitter @culturecheese under the hashtag #culturecheesepairing and you could win a free copy of our Cheese+ pairing issue!
Feature Photo Credit: “Appetizers – tomato, meat and cheese – on wooden board” by Yulia Grigoryeva | Shutterstock