Summer is well on its way, which means we’re finding every opportunity to take any meal al fresco. Sure, you could sit on the sidewalk or patio of your favorite neighborhood restaurant, but there’s something to be said for packing a good old-fashioned picnic. Whether you’re going on a hike, planning a day in the park, or sunning on the beach, this is our perfect formula for a summer lunch on the go.
Quick Primer on Meats
It’s important to know a few basics things when selecting charcuterie. Salami is sort of a blanket term for medium-sized sausage, typically made from pork. (Some higher-end brands will use “salame” as the more traditional Italian term). Sopressata is a larger meat block with a much coarser grind. If you’re into big chunks of pork and fat and really want to taste the difference, this is your direction. Lastly, there’s the popular prosciutto, which comes in crudo (raw) and cotto (cooked) forms. You’ll readily find crudo forms throughout the US. They’re luscious slices of cured pig’s leg that have been aged for at least of year.
As with any culinary art form, there are several other varieties of meat (and variations within the above), so it’s best to visit your local meat shop and have a professional walk you through some tasting to learn which you like best. But, for expedience, here are our top picks for a well-rounded charcuterie picnic.
Get the Goods
Bellwether Creme Fraiche $8
This French cultured cream is an unexpected, but light and flavorful addition to any charcuterie lineup. It has just enough tang to cut through the myriad strong spices and herbs that are surely happening with the other meats and cheeses on the tray. Plus, it’s produced by a small family farm in northern California, so you can feel good about purchasing it too.
Olympia Provisions Summer Sausage $13
No picnic is complete without a summer sausage and you’d be cheating yourself if you didn’t try Olympia Provisions’ version. Mildly spiced with mustard and garlic, it has a tangy flavor that’s perfect on its own or paired with a sharp white cheese.
Fermin Iberico Jamon $20
Iberico ham is always a treat and perfect for a summer picnic. The Pata Negra pigs of Spain feast only on acorns for some of the most flavorful and well-marbled pork ever. Bring along a nice cheese and some crusty bread for the perfect European-style meal.
Farmstead Manchego Cheese $13
If you weren’t sure what type of cheese to pair with the jamon, manchego is always our go-to. This mildly sharp raw sheep’s milk cheese was aged for six months and has a pleasant bite and wonderfully savory flavor.
Castelvetrano Olives $13
These are the gold standard of the olive world. They’re easily available and have the perfect salty bite to accompany a larger platter. They’re heavily cured, but come out tender and gorgeous. Just be wary of olives that look too green. Your olives should look naturally green – the hue after spending time in a salt bath.
Freddy Guys Zesty Hazelnuts $11
Almonds and cashews are great, but why not give this alternative a whirl? These nuts are seasoned with a variety of flavors including jalapeño, molasses and onion, meaning they’ll stand up to the intense flavors of the meats and cheeses on the board.
Maille Old Style Whole Grain Dijon Mustard $9
You never go wrong with the classics, and this tangy, grainy mustard is a testament to just that. The French recipe blends mustard seeds with vinegar and red wine for a traditional flavor you can pair with anything. It’s perfect on sandwiches, in marinades and alongside picnic platters like this.
Matiz Sardines $6
These Spanish beauties are underutilized in the States and that’s a shame. They’re packed in olive oil and are an essential part of the quintessential Spanish tapas plate. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice cuts through some of the saltiness, but pack a couple on a slice of bread and you’ll be whisking yourself any to the southern European coastline in no time.
VonShef 22L Cooler $23
Not only does this cooler look good, it’s tough enough to take on any tailgate, fishing trip or other adventure. Foil insulation keeps the contents icy cold (or warm) and the navy polyester provides a great shell for all of your new charcuterie and fixins. The aluminum frame keeps everything in check during travel too.