Humans are funny creatures. As soon as you tell us something can't be done, we simply have to do it (unless, in my case, it involves waking up before 8am, listening to '80s cover bands or eating garlic). And vegans, well, we're often even more driven to prove than no animal needs to suffer, especially not for flavor. But as the hipster bacon craze seems will outlive their love for skinny jeans, vegans are being called to the art of cured and salted faux meats. Yes, I'm talking vegan charcuterie.
The traditional charcuterie focuses on cured and salted meats such as sausage and bacon, cheeses and pates—items you often find in delis and small local butcher shops. Since most of those have disappeared, small farmers and ranchers can now be found selling some of those items at local farmers markets and restaurants.
For the vegan wanting to indulge in the sampling of salted cured foods, a meat and dairy free charcuterie is actually a lot easier than it sounds.
While vegan faux meats don't really need curing, there are quite a few options that will be delightful sub-ins for sausage or bacon. Tofurky and Field Roast both make fantastic sausage and deli slices options that are GMO free (Tofurky does contain soy, though). You can also easily make your own seasoned seitan. Another great faux meat option is coconut jerky—dehydrating the meaty part of young coconuts with citrus and spices. It turns out incredibly meaty and chewy and quite delicious.
A traditional charcuterie will have rich, aged cheeses. This is no place for Daiya or Follow Your heart. You'll need a rich nut cheese to nibble on. Dr. Cow makes incredibly delicious fermented nut cheeses available at select health food stores. You can also make your own with cashews, almonds and Brazil nuts.
Vegans have perfected the meat-free pates with legumes, beans and nuts. A walnut-lentil combo is rich and savory. You can also go a lighter route such as carrot and tahini. White beans and eggplant also make a great pate with fresh herbs and lots of olive oil…delicious.
Get your salted and cured fix with healthy, probiotic-rich fermented vegetables. Krauts, pickles, pickled carrots, beets or beans will also help to break down all the protein and fats you're ingesting, making them not only an appropriate vegan charcuterie menu item, but a yummy one at that.
I'm a fan of the assorted platters in life. Nibbling and combining bites is one of life's greatest pleasures. Don't get me wrong; the sandwich is a fantastic Earl-worthy invention if there ever was one, but it’s a homogenization of sorts where eater can lose some of the intimacy with the eaten. And for these rich foods even by vegan standards, the assortment platter may also help prevent overeating.
Serve your gorgeous assortment with fresh seasonal vegetable wedges, rounds or slices, a crusty sourdough bread or crackers. Pair with rich stout or porter beers or a French red wine.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger