How to Pair Cheese and Charcuterie

pairing cheese and charcuterie

One question we get all the time is "how do I pair cheese and charcuterie?" We say to trust your intuition. Do you like the nutty flavors of prosciutto and Alpine style cheese? Try them together and see how they taste! Every famous pairing—like raspberries and chocolate, or foie gras and Sauternes—began with a curious eater trying something new.

Generally speaking, there are three broad approaches to pairings: similarities, contrasts, and regions. Similarities are like that prosciutto and Alpine style cheese: two ingredients with a common flavor that can be emphasized by eating them together. Or you can try the opposite approach, pairing ingredients with contrasting elements that can highlight each other or develop an entirely new flavor. A bright, tangy cheese can help you better appreciate the fatty richness of a heavily seasoned salami, for example.

There's an old chestnut in the food world that "what grows together goes together." It's the basis of regional pairings like farmhouse ales with English cheddar, or Sancerre with Loire Valley goat cheese. Sometimes it's terroir at work, the conditions of the climate and soil that lead to unique expressions of food and wine. Or it may be culinary; each regional cuisine has its own flavors and internal logic. Frequently used ingredients may even be designed to go together. It's one more good reason to know about where your food comes from and how it arrived on your plate.

Saxelby Cheesemongers carries a wide selection of charcuterie. Here's how we pair them with our cheese!

Casella's Prosciutto: Raw salt cured prosciutto style hams balance sweet and salty flavors with a nutty kind of umami. They taste mellow, as charcuterie goes, and we think they benefit from similarly mellow cheeses that are low on salt to give the ham some room to breathe on your tongue. Think mozzarella, burrata, and mild Alpine style cheeses, as well as the classic choice of Parmigiano Reggiano. If you're playing at home, this pairing uses similarities and contrasts. You'll notice it as a recurring theme.

Trufa Seca: Dry cured salami like this truffle-infused specimen have a resplendently porky aroma and musky fermented flavor. You can emphasize that funk with a similarly assertive Parmigiano Reggiano, or contrast it with the cool, creamy character of a bloomy rind cheese that has an earthy fermented vibe all its own, such as Harbison.

Saucisson Sec: This French style of dry cured salami is typically spiced with garlic and black pepper. Deceptively simple, but the more you taste, the more there is to find. You could say the same for Alpine style cheeses, which are often mild yet complex. Calderwood, Alpha Tolman, or Tubby are all good options. Or try a tangy cheddar to bring out the musk!

Chorizo Seco: Spanish style chorizo gets its vivid hue and smoky aroma from red chiles dried over smoldering fires. Smoke + pork + pungent pepper are all heavy players. A tangy goat cheese like St. Johnsville Junior has the acidity and mineral backbone to contrast those flavors while enlivening every bite. 

Rust Belt Saucisson: Many French style salami are delicately spiced with the likes of white pepper, nutmeg, and clove. They're sweeter and more delicate than assertive salamis blitzed with black pepper, and they go well with sweeter Alpine style cheeses like Pleasant Ridge Reserve, or a subtle Tomme like the grass fed Appalachian.

Salami Picante: Don't knock it til you've tried it; a sweet, caramelly gouda can punch above its weight when paired with spicy cured pork. A sandwich with these two ingredients and some pickles and mustard is a beautiful thing.

Cerveza Seca: A salami aged with a brown ale to develop autumnal, mushroomy flavors? Complex, funky washed rind cheese is just the thing. Try a wedge of aromatic Hooligan or Timberdoodle. Sniff first, then taste—both the cheese and salami—to unpack the layers of flavor.

Finocchiona: This Italian style of sausage is classically flavored with red wine and fennel seeds, which add an intriguing spice to fatty pork. The sweet and savory character of a natural rind Tomme can highlight fennel's cooling character while complementing the sausage's dense texture from its fine grain. Opt for a well balanced cheese like Verano or the allium accents of Calderwood.

Nduja: A sausage you can spread! This Calabrian style of charcuterie is bright and hot wallop of Calabrian chile. Contrast the fat, salt, and heat with a fluffy fresh chevre. Delicious when paired on sourdough with arugula and lemon.

Duck Prosciutto: Compared to a pork leg, prosciutto made from duck breast tastes bold and proudly meaty, and it comes with an ample slab of delicious duck fat. A lean cheese like Parmigianno Reggiano, which is made in part with skim milk, marries the duck's sweet and savory sides without loading on extra fat.

Loukanika: This Greek and Cypriot style salami is traditionally seasoned with orange peel and fragrant herbs and spices. Following the regional pairing approach, the obvious (and excellent) choice is feta. The clean saline flavors of the cheese highlight the salami's natural funk and give the spices space to bloom.

Looking for more pairing advice? Check out our pairing guides for wine and chocolate!

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