by Natalie Lariccia
Decorative, festive and downright delicious, there’s no denying that charcuterie is the foodie frenzy taking appetizers by storm.
Once known as the “meat and cheese plate,” charcuterie is a centuries-old French term originally referring to the preparation of cured or cooked meats – primarily pork products – and also to the places where those meats were sold.
Today, charcuterie boards comprise many varieties of meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, nuts and snacks, and Ohio-based food merchants and farmers have enthusiastically embraced this chic, culinary centerpiece.
“Charcuterie is fun for everyone,” said Jennifer Harper, owner of Cutie Board Chick of Butler, Ohio. “When you have a party at your home, everybody gathers in the kitchen because they want to snack and sip wine and have conversation. Providing tips and techniques to create charcuterie boards with a ‘wow factor’ for those gatherings, is special to me,” she added.
A former event planner at Westbrook Country Club in Mansfield, Harper said she began following popular charcuterie Instagram influencers during the COVID pandemic. Those influencers inspired her to create small charcuterie boxes she would deliver to friends and family to brighten their days.
Before long, Harper began to co-brand charcuterie board creations with woodworkers who designed and produced custom boards from locally sourced wood. Harper said the custom wood boards bring a uniqueness to her craft.
Harper held her first charcuterie board workshop in Wooster in April 2021. She now offers several monthly workshops at breweries, wineries, restaurants and retail shops in central and northeast Ohio, including an advanced workshop with tips on curating meats and cheeses, and creating decorative garnishes. Her Bloody Mary-, S’mores-, Brunch- and Kid-themed charcuterie board workshops have become popular for private events.
Kathy DeFrancisco, owner of Sharecuterie of Powell, Ohio, said an inspiring trip to Italy, followed by the COVID pandemic, afforded her the opportunity to turn her life-long passion for entertaining and food preparation, into what is now a full-time charcuterie career.
She returned home from Italy in February 2020 with a suitcase full of charcuterie boards and an abundance of memories of the delicious food and wine she’d sampled. With more free time at home, the former human resource and recruiting executive began making charcuterie boxes and boards and promoting her business online, and she was surprised how quickly demand escalated.
DeFrancisco expanded her business in 2022 to include a retail shop that features meats, cheeses and snacks, and space for charcuterie board-making events. She said her charcuterie boards were featured at nearly 200 area events in 2022, and she anticipates catering nearly 300 events in 2023. “I just love what we do, DeFrancisco said. “You get to bring joy to people with food, and who wouldn’t love that?”
And for foodies who appreciate an immersive, culinary and charcuterie experience, co-owners, Andy Lane and Doug Wharton and their families host several, multi-day “pig-to-plate” workshops at Hand Hewn Farm in Fresno, Ohio, and at other willing farms, nationwide.
Lane said their 2-, 3-, or 4-day workshops are limited to about ten guests and feature a diverse spread of homemade, multi-course, farm-to-table meals. In October, Hand Hewn Farm will offer their “Whole-Hog” workshop which explores the idea of raising pigs, and includes hands-on instruction in the slaughter, butchery and charcuterie.
The workshop explores the production of Italian-inspired, dry-cured meats and includes a tasting of five different prosciuttos, each paired with a different wine that enhances the unique flavor of the prosciutto. Lane said a fascination with European-style meat curing, and a focus on no-waste processing, inspired content for the workshop.“You don’t see things like this on the Food Network,” Lane said. “The workshops are really fascinating, in-depth, cultural food experiences.”
Embrace the board, and all that Ohio charcuterie food merchants and farmers have to offer!
Photo courtesy Hand Hewn Farm.