Charcuterie products have seen steady growth over the past several years, with a notable sales increase during the pandemic as more people found themselves home-bound. Charcuterie also meshes well with the ongoing snacking and grazing trend.
Presentations of charcuterie boards focus on creative pairings of smoked and cured meats with cheeses, accented with various accoutrements. In order to dig deeper into the ongoing charcuterie trend, we reached out to Chef Jason Hernandez, owner, Blade & Tine Culinary Consultants, Holmes Beach, FL.
CHEF JASON HERNANDEZ, BLADE & TINE CULINARY
After working in culinary operations for over 25 years, Chef Jason Hernandez started his own culinary consultant firm, Blade & Tine Culinary, based in Holmes Beach, FL, in 2019. His previous experience includes roles as Executive Kitchen Manager for Old Chicago in Colorado; Executive Banquet Chef for Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver; Executive Kitchen Manager for Old Chicago Restaurants in Denver; Director of Kitchen Operations and Development with BJ’s Restaurants & Brewhouse in Southern California; Director at St. Elmo’s steakhouse and Harry & Izzy’s in Indianapolis; Vice President of Culinary and Kitchen Operations for Eureka Restaurant Group in Los Angeles.
DOUGLAS J. PECKENPAUGH: What’s new in the world of charcuterie?
JASON HERNANDEZ: For myself and my wife and partner, Chef Heather Hernandez, charcuterie really started picking up a couple of years ago when we moved to Florida kind of mid-pandemic. We started working with a company that sets up luxury suites on the beach, like cabanas and chairs—they bring everything out to the beach. We did a private dinner for them, then we started doing little lunch boxes. Then we started getting more into charcuterie. It started out very simple, with crudités and simple meats and cheeses, just done really well, and using sustainable packaging. Over the past year, it developed into our brick-and-mortar Graze Street AMI, which offers charcuterie and more in a modern market format.
We have been seeing the push of how people are eating, going more into grazing and snacking, and going more for of the high-end meats and cheeses. Where it comes right to them at the beach. Utilizing, different cheeses we’re trying to keep everything domestic. We’re using a lot of need from Coro Foods out of the Pacific Northwest. They add a lot of flavor to their salamis—peppercorns, mole, and lemongrass.
We’re also using Smoking Goose out of Indianapolis, which has some really fun, unique salamis and other meats. One of my favorites from them is a Rabbit Pork Cheek Terrine wrapped with bacon. People today want high-end flavors, including items like rabbit, elk, or bison, as well as high-end traditional aged salami—items that have uniqueness, so it’s not just your standard grocery store options.
DJP: The flavor innovations going on in some of these differentiated smoked and cured meats will likely steer some charcuterie product pairing opportunities in different directions. Do you have any examples of some interesting, flavor-forward meat and cheese pairings that you’ve used?
JH: Lamb is still big, and it offers a different flavor. You can pair it with chèvre. Laura Chenel offers a goat cheese in brine. It offers a good contrast. You get that earthy lamb flavor, but then you get into the sweetness of the goat cheese, and the olive oil just kind of coats your mouth for full flavor.
We also use dried fruits, in addition to fresh fruit, on the charcuterie board. So we put fresh grapes and strawberries on there, but we’re also using dried mangos, dried tomatoes, dried apples—just a lot of different flavors. So not only are you getting a flavor, but you’re also getting texture. Crunch can always come from crackers, but also from dried fruits and dried vegetables.
DJP: You mentioned some more-specialized meats like lamb, rabbit, elk, and bison. How do those options impact flavor pairings compared to something like a traditional salami?
JH: Something like bison is a great way to encourage people to get a bit more adventurous. One thing that COVID has taught us is that nothing is off the table when it comes to getting people to get out there a little bit more and try new flavors and experiences.
You need to understand your clientele. With our brick-and-mortar store, we serve everything from bachelor parties and weddings to boat tours and just a day on the beach. We’re able to curate the selections by utilizing our different products in creative ways.
Consider a group of guys on a fishing boat. They’re probably going to love the rabbit and the smoked trout dip/spread that we put on there. Other people might say, ‘I don’t want anything that anybody else can get, just premium, high-end meats.’ For that, we might go with our high-end Mexican mole-flavored meats or the Hot Smoked Wagyu Baloney from Smoking Goose.
DJP: Where are we in the evolution of charcuterie? Are in the second wave of depth for the trend, like charcuterie 2.0? We know that Instagram loves charcuterie. How is mainstream America embracing the evolving trend?
JH: It’s starting to evolve, I think we are at charcuterie 2.0—or maybe 3.0—as we get into different segments. Right now, not only are we doing the traditional boards, but we’ve started doing brunch boards—taking breakfast and brunch to a new level. I’m doing a maple bourbon bacon on there, we’re including croissants, doughnuts, and waffles. We’re putting on fresh fruit, like grapes, strawberries, bananas, and mango.
DJP: Most charcuterie boards will feature cheeses. When you think about the different products that you’re currently using, what are some of your favorite meat and cheese pairings?
JH: Right now that I really love the double-cream and triple-cream cheeses from Tulip Tree Creamery in Indianapolis. They have a funky rind. It’s a spreadable cheese, with just a lot of flavor. The BellaVitano cheeses that are coming from Sartori have a lot of differentiation. The Sartori Espresso BellaVitano Reserve, with an espresso-rubbed crust, is a really big hit with a lot of our guests right now. They also have a Black Pepper BellaVitano, which is fantastic as well.
The Bel Brands cheeses that we use offer great pairing opportunities with all of the boards we do. The Bel cheeses are spreadable and some are available in bite-sized options, both of which are a natural fit for charcuterie boards. We are able to create some unique flavors and textures.
We’re also seeing a lot of our guests liking our house-made spreads. We do a white Cheddar farmer’s cheese, and a caramelized onion dip. Using cheeses in different forms, instead of just slicing it or cubing it, adds interest. Spreadable cheeses also bring opportunities to add unique flavors.
But it’s not all just meats and cheeses. We include house-made jams like peach and mango. We work in flavors like rosemary. We have our own house-made pickles that we’re putting on every charcuterie board. If you’re doing a rosemary cracker, a little bit of prosciutto, and a little bit of cheese spread, what could be better than adding in a dollop of house-made jam and a pickle on the side? It’s perfect.