October 14, 2010

home cured bresaola recipe

Bresaola is the salumi that got me started in to meat curing at home a couple of years ago now. Some of you might remember the story of rat cage and the thing eventually ending up in the trash. Since then I have got far more obsessive (some might say that isn’t possible), and a little more scientific with my meat curing. I have cured a lot of meat over the last couple of years, but somehow keep coming back to this simple air dried beef charcuterie.

Maybe because it was the first thing I ever cured. Maybe because I had hit and miss luck with curing it (done three times, one in the trash). Certainly because it tastes absolutely fantastic. Bresaola is the reason I spent far too much time hunting on Craigslist for a second hand meat slicer. This is one piece of meat that has to be sliced really thinly for maximum enjoyment. (out if interest – if you are looking for a meat slicer avoid the “home” models, and look for a second hand pro model on craigslist. It works out cheaper and better).

At the heart of it Bresaola is just simply cured and then air dried lean beef. For this one I used the eye of round cut, but a thin piece (or trimmed) of top or bottom round could be used as well. Personally I like the idea of curing these cuts, because cooked they aren’t my favorite, however cover them in salt for a bit and dry in an airy place and they are completely transformed in to something entirely different – delicious that is.

The recipe I follow for my bresaola is that from Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book. The one exception I generally make to his recipe is that I stuff the meat in to a casing after curing and before air drying. This helps slow down the drying process, and helps prevent case hardening (where the outside of the meat dries out too fast, becomes hard and stops the inside drying out properly).

I have also found that a higher than recommended humidity works well for bresaola – I keep mine around 80% humidity, with a little airflow to help keep the nasty mold off and facilitate drying. This airflow is achieved by having a fan hooked up to my humidifier. Every time the humidifier turns on so too does the fan. This not only helps distribute the humid air, but it circulates all the air in the chamber.

I am not being a spoiled yuppie here when I say that the quality of the beef really does matter. This recipe is essentially pointless unless you use properly raised beef. Pasture raised is best. Organic pasture raised even better. Find a local farm that you like, and strike up a good relationship, it really pays off.

Homemade Bresaola Recipe (adapted from Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book)

(percentages shown here are percentage of meat weight)

1300g beef eye of round.

25g (2%) kosher salt

30g (2.3%) sugar

4g (0.3%) cure 2

5g (0.4%) black pepper

6g (0.46%) chopped fresh rosemary

6g (0.46%)  chopped fresh thyme

5 juniper berries

1 beef bung casing

Trim the meat of all silverskin and external fat.

Grind up all the cure ingredients (from salt to juniper berries) in a spice grinder until a fine powder is achieved.

Rub half of the cure mixture in to the eye of round, making sure to cover all of the meat, including the ends. Put in a zip-lock bag and refridgerate for 7 days.

Turn the meat every couple of days, and rub through the bag.

Drain any liquid that might be present and rub in the remaining spice cure. Refrigerate for another 7 days.

Soak the beef bung casing in coolish water, with a little white vinegar added. Let this soak for about 2 hours, changing the water a couple of times through the soaking process.

Take the meat from its bag, and rinse all the cure off thoroughly. Let it sit at room temperature for a couple of hours on a rack.

Rinse the casing out under running water. Squeeze as much water from the casing as possible.

Stuff the meat in to the casing, tying the open end with a bubble knot (watch the video below to see how to do that).

Tie the whole thing up using butchers knots, leaving a loop at one end to hang it from.

Hang at 55F and 80% humidity for at least a month – until it has lost 40% of its original weight.

NOTE: I find it prudent to spray the bresaola with a little water every couple of days during the first few weeks of hanging, if it feels like the casing is drying out too much. The casing whilst drying should still feel pretty subtle, and not dry. If the casing feels slimey then your humidity is too high, and your airflow too low. Fix that 🙂

If you are wondering how to stuff and tie up a whole muscle cut like bresaola, here is an unedited video of me tying up a lonzino I recently cured. The procedure is exactly the same for the bresaola (some all bresaola the beef version of lonzino in fact!).

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  • Jeff October 14, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I feel compelled to comment every time you put up a post about bresaola, since its the topic that originally drove me to your blog and has kept me reading ever since. I still haven’t got my curing chamber made yet, but I’ve had a few runs of pancetta, and my fresh sausages are almost perfect.

    I’m glad to see you nailed the bresaola, I’m looking forward to they day when I can make it as well as you can.

  • Rich October 14, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    I’ve wanted to get a fridge dedicated to charcuterie. Seriously, I’ve been toying with the idea for a year now, and haven’t been able to pull the trigger. Do I need one? I think I do – I’m in Dallas and the garage would be my only option, and it’s a pretty variable temperature range in there …

  • Marc October 14, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Outstanding! I think it’s (for me) time to try again.

  • Alan October 14, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Always a pleasure to see your posts. Nice work! Is it lunch time yet?

  • Dawn (KitchenTravels) October 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Matt – this is a thing of beauty. Gorgeous photos (as always), and it looks like the bresaola turned out perfectly. I would love to try this, but to be honest… I am a bit fearful. plagued with questions, not the least of which is where would I actually hang the stuff? 😉 Need to do a lot more reading/research before I take the leap. And you have a Hobart?! Nicely done!

  • mattwright October 14, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Rich – I would suggest using some kind of curing chamber. First I would get a humidity/temp sensor and put it in the place where you think you will cure. See what the readings are. You need a temp between 50F-57F, and a humidity no lower than 65%.

    Some find that their basement or garage is OK in the winter, but not the summer. Mine is great some days, and bad others. Generally it is the humidity that is the problem – over the winter the humidity is in the 50% range when it isn’t raining, which is bad for charcuterie. You can always put a humidifer near your hanging meat if it becomes a problem.

    I ended up using a fridge, just to save me the headaches of varying atmospheric conditions! It is also better for keeping small fury animals out of my garage..

  • mattwright October 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Dawn – the Hobart was the best deal I have ever had on Craigslist. I needed to spend a bit on parts, but I now have a really sturdy meat slicer that will last for ever, and cost me less than a decent meal out.

  • Fromagette October 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    A-mazing photography!!!

  • Rich October 14, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    It is also better for keeping small fury animals out of my garage..

    Good thinking. Fridge it is!

  • Julie October 15, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Every time I visit your blog I’m amazed by your photography and those dang meat curing skills. Wow! Oh if only my boyfriend wasn’t vegetarian… guess I’ll live vicariously through you.

  • Jackie Baisa October 15, 2010 at 3:47 am

    Man, that all just looks/sounds amazing. I really do need a meat slicer, so I think I’ll take your advice! I’ve been wanting one for a few years now.

    Maybe someday I will attempt this. I once dated a Portuguese guy and his mom made her own chorizo and other spicy Portuguese sausages. Oh my. It was HEAVEN. I’ve always been enthralled with the process but also very intimidated. You should teach a class! (I would come!)

    Wonderful post, as always!

  • noëlle {simmer down!} October 15, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    My fiancé and I are currently house shopping and one of the things I’m most excited about is getting moved so I can finally build my own curing chamber! Thanks for the continued inspiration. Oh, and that last photo is absolutely stunning.

  • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday October 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    I love bresaola ever since I fist had in in Italy 12 years ago. It’s phenomenal

  • MyPigsGood October 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Hello Matt,

    I have bought a fridge and will be outfitting it with humidifier and temp control this weekend. I had a free fridge, but that didn’t work out so good. I have decided to blog about my experience following in your footsteps to cured meat nirvana. I plan to let it run for a few weeks as I learn to control the temp and humidity. Once I feel confident in that it will be time to buy supplies.

    Thanks again.

  • whatstrubyeating October 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Good stuff Matt. Again, it looks delicious. I got a home meat slicer for a wedding gift and i have to agree with you, it doesnt ever do what you want it to and i feel more terrified using it than the professional slicers i used to use in my restaurants. Again, i hope one day i grow up to take pictures as sexy as yours! Oh, Made some Brandade with the salt cod, and it was freaking awesome. even better than the stuff you buy in little wooden boxes. the fish flavor was more pronounced and not as salty as the boxed stuff.

  • hank October 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Very pretty! I need to get you an elk loin to play with — makes an even better bresaola… Wait a sec! I need to get ME an elk loin… 😉

  • Sasha @ Global Table Adventure October 25, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    I cannot believe you did your own meat curing. That is hard core! The end result looks FABULOUS. Good for you 🙂

    Just curious – how long did it take for yours to lose 40% weight?

  • Beth October 25, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Oh my goodness. I’ve never wanted to move so badly (there’s absolutely no room for a second fridge in 500 sq. feet of condo). I dared to cure a duck breast once, dangling from a wooden spoon propped on jars, but the results were predictably less than stellar. What I wouldn’t give to be able to produce such gorgeous cured meats from my own kitchen. Thank you for the detailed instruction/video!

    Fantastic photography, of course. I want to eat all of that bresaola.

  • mattwright October 25, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    sasha – it took just over a month, but I didn’t think it was ready to eat until later than that.

    You can find that the outside dries out quite a bit, but the inside is still too moist to be safe. So, the outside could be say at 70% dry, but the inside only 20%. Feel is a good test – it should feel very firm.

    You can also measure water activity in the meat to gauge when it is ready or not. If you are interested in knowing how to do that, email me and I can explain more.

  • Jeanette October 27, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Amazing pictures. Love the lighting.

  • walter November 16, 2010 at 9:41 am

    After one week I am getting some blue mold. Is this ok?

  • Chris February 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    I let mine dry for about a month. When we tried to cut into it it was extremely tough. We thought we had over cured it. After two weeks in the fridge it started to “reconstitute”. It now seems to have taken in so much moisture that I feel it unsafe to eat. Has this ever happened to you?

    • mattwright February 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm

      Chris – some more info would be good. What temp and humidity did you hang the meat at? Do you think it got case hardening? (where the outside seems VERY dry, and the inside still wet). When you said “after two weeks in the fridge” do you mean your regular fridge, or curing fridge (at curing temp/humidity). If regular fridge, did you wrap the meat in anything? Generally regular fridges have a very low humidity – if you put something in there unwrapped, it is going to dry out even more. If you wrap something very tightly in plastic wrap, or put it in a ziploc bag in the fridge, then you will find that the moisture level of the bresaola will even out – the outside crust will be softer. I obviously cannot say if it is safe to eat or not.

  • Dom March 21, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Hi Matt.

    Just discovered your blog and I’m already hooked without having cured so much as a slice of bacon yet.

    Keen to pop my cherry on Bresaola. What do you think is the equivalent UK cut of beef eye of round? Silverside or Topside seem to be from the same part of the cow. Do you know which would work better?

    Thanks Matt.

    • mattwright April 5, 2011 at 3:43 am

      dom – sorry there I have no idea what the British equivalent would be. I know some people have cured top round successfully, but that is one very large muscle to cure.

  • Suzie May 2, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Hi Matt

    I am English but live in France- in the Perigord – which the locals decree the best culinary region in the world. I have some thoughts on that point of my own!
    However, my French neighbour and I have a friendly competitive thing going when it comes to food. He makes much of his own charcuterie. I have also now embarked and have cured the ubiquitous duck breast. I hang them in the fridge as the temperature in April can be 86F. My neighbour hangs all his curing in his barn. I can’t quite get my brain around the temperature and possible flies. Anyway the duck breasts turned out fab and I was thinking that surely the same curing mix could be used to make Bresola. So I was really delighted to come across your site and see the same curing mix with the addition of some rosemary.
    French cuts of meat can be a bit odd but I’m going to give it a go.
    Thanks for your site and a sharing your hard work.

    a bientot – Suzie

  • Nikl May 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Looks great, but is it not usually made from a cut from the neck? Cheers

    • mattwright May 15, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      nikl – bresaola is usually made from top, bottom or eye of round.