When it comes to pairing with cheese and cured meats, it is all about opposites. Unlike wine, beer, or spirits, cured meats and cheese are full of fats, proteins, and salt. A classic pairing of the two is Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma. These two begin their partnership at the source. Famously, the whey by-product of Parmigiano production is fed to the pigs, whose back legs become Prosciutto di Parma! One ingredient literally becomes the base for the other. Prosciutto is (or should be) sliced into nearly transparent sheets, neatly trimmed with a ribbon of fat. On the tongue it’s delicate. Parmigiano Reggiano, meanwhile, is coarse and rugged. Its acidity, the ‘tang’ in the mouth, is pronounced. It shares toasted and nutty flavours but has a leanness thanks to its partially skimmed milk.
A classic wine pairing note is that “what grows together goes together”. When in doubt, wine and food made in the same region tend to be good together. That’s true with meat and cheese, too. A favourite example of this is the smooth creaminess of Brie and how it makes the perfect pair with a crisp, fruity Champagne. The fresh acidity of the wine will cut through the delicious creamy Brie cheese. Just as with any food pairing, it helps to think of either complementary or contrasting flavours. Light Italian style reds are always going to go well with Salami and other dry-cured cuts.
Here are three things to keep in mind about pairing:
- Texture matters. A floppy, mushy, or semisoft cheese alongside a buttery thin slice of meat lacks necessary contrast.
- Acidity matters. In this case it’s the cheese, in other cases it’s the meat. But one element needs to contribute some sensation of tart, citrusy, mouthwatering brightness to cut the fat and protein of the other.
- Complementary flavours concentrate and focus on what’s shared (in a pleasant and sometimes revelatory way) if you can rely on other elements for contrast.
In the case of spirits, think of the spices and botanicals that give the spirit its body and character and how they can either complement cheese and cured meats or contrast. The caramel of aged rum can bring out the spiciness and pungency of washed rind or the particular nuances in the botanicals of gin, can complement a traditional fennel salami. Whisky loves smoked meats and cheddar is another great example.
Craft beer and food pairings are another story. The complexity of hops and grains and the consideration the brewer makes when they produce their brew can be super interesting when considering a pairing. Hoppy brews love washed rind and bloomy cheeses. Think wheat beers and farm house cheese with capocollo. Crisp cider and duck liver parfait are a perfect match, it goes back to the method of cider-making being so close to sparkling wine production and how it works with the creaminess of parfait and the flavour of apple and duck, are a perfect pair.
In the end it’s about experimenting and having fun, sampling and tasting is the best part of finding the perfect match between drinks, cheese and meats. So be bold, and make it your mission to find your own perfect pair! The Craft & Co offer a unique range of pairing options from our deli and bar that allow for your own personal touch, or let one of our staff guide you on some house recommendations.