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A Holiday Charcuterie Board

Cured meat products arose from the need for preservation, in a time when cooking and refrigeration were not always available. Today, charcuterie is an embodiment of art in the kitchen, combining precision, balance, patience, and creativity. Below we share recipes from Pure Charcuterie: The Craft and Poetry of Curing Meats at Home by Meredith Leigh , so you can try your hand and making your own charcuterie board. (Be sure to scroll down for some simpler recipes like Fig Chutney and Fennel Pickles)

Corned Beef & Beef Pastrami

Few people realize that corned beef and pastrami are so closely related. Corned beef is wet cured and boiled until cooked, and pastrami is wet cured via the same process, parboiled, and then rubbed with additional seasonings and smoked. This recipe gives you the approach for both, so you can go either way.

This recipe uses beef heart, because using the whole animal is for winners, and because beef heart pastrami does not suck. If you don’t want to use organ meat, brisket is a common cut used for corning and pastrami. If you do use heart, you’ll need to do quite a bit of trimming. There is a lot of silverskin on the outside of the heart, plus some extra inner workings you’ll need to remove.


Corning Brine

  • 2.5 qt. distilled water
  • 5 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 5 Tbsp evaporated cane juice crystals
  • 2 Tbsp Cure #1 (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp allspice
  • ½ tsp garlic
  • ¾ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp bay leaf, crushed
  • 5 lb. beef brisket or 5 lb. of beef heart (it will take a couple)

Pastrami Rub

  • 2 Tbsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon


  1. Dissolve salt, sugar, and cure in the water, then refrigerate until brine reaches 40 degrees. Injecting or pumping the brine into the meat is ideal, using a meat syringe, but if you are not equipped for this, simply place the meat or heart into the brine and pack loosely in a nonreactive container. Place all the dry spices except the garlic into a grinder and grind them coarsely. Add to brine with garlic. Cure the meat in this brine for 3 days in the refrigerator, if you were able to inject the meat. If you did not, brine it for at least 10 days.
  2. Remove the meat from the brine and rinse. Pat dry. If you’re making corned beef, prepare a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Add the meat or heart and cook until the internal temperature is around 120°F. Remove and cool.
  3. If you’re going for pastrami, prepare a pot of water just as though you were making corned beef, but simply parboil the meat or the heart for about 5 minutes (some people skip this step, but I swear it makes better pastrami). Remove from water, then cool slightly and rub with the pastrami spice mixture and prepare the smoker. Wrap the meat in foil to keep moisture and spices in, then smoke until the internal temperature is 120–125°F. You want low temperatures — no higher than 200°F. Use hickory and oak or maple woods, or a blend of your own creation.
  4. To serve, slice very thinly, across the grain of the meat.

An untrimmed heart of beef

Denuding the outside of the heart

Trimming the heart’s inside

Fennel Pickles

I adore this fermented pickle in tomato soup, on grilled sandwiches, and as an accompaniment on the charcuterie board.


  • Per 1–2 fennel bulbs,trimmed and thinly sliced:
  • ½ cup non-chlorinated water
  • 3 Tbsp cane sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1 tsp whole yellow mustard seed
  • 2 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp sea salt


  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl, and punch and squeeze everything with your hands until you’ve released the fennel’s juices and melded all the ingredients well. Pack into an airlock jar and leave to ferment at room temperature at least two weeks. You can also pack into a mason jar, if you like, but you’ll need to weigh the fennel mixture down so that it is underneath its liquid brine as it ferments. You can accomplish this with a smaller jar, washed and pushed down on top of the fennel mixture, then forced down with the lid of the fennel mixture’s own jar

Candied Jalapeño Pepper

You’ll want to double or triple this recipe, though.


  • Pint mason jar with lid
  • 16 oz. jalapeño pepper, sliced thinly, with or without seeds (wear gloves!)
  • 5 oz. white vinegar
  • 2 oz. apple cider vinegar
  • 2½ to 2⅔ cups cane sugar


  1. In a medium saucepan, stir together the vinegar and the sugar, and add the jalapeño slices. Bring to a low boil and simmer, until the jalapeño is tender but not mushy. Cut off the heat, and using a slotted spoon, remove the jalapeños from the syrup and packing them into the mason jar. Pour the hot syrup over the jalapeños, to cover, then put the lid on the jar and cool to room temperature. Then store in the fridge.

Fig Chutney


  • 4 C. figs, stemmed and quartered
  • ½ t.· ground coriander
  • ½ t. whole cloves
  • grated rind and juice of one orange
  • ⅛ C. rapadura, or maple syrup
  • 1–2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated on a zester or microplane grater
  • 10–12 mint leaves, chopped fine
  • ¼ C. whey
  • 2 t. sea salt
  • ½ C water


  1. Mix all ingredients and pack into a quart jar. Cover. Allow to ferment 2 days before refrigerating

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