I have been working on this Bresaola now for, er, 7 weeks in total. That is the longest time, by a country mile, I have worked on any one piece of food.
Each day, I would go down to the garage and check it. Check temperature, check humidity. Heck, most days I would do it twice.
But, alas. It was not enough. The bresaola now resides in the trash can.
And here is the kicker… It is most likely completely safe to eat. However, most likely isn’t good enough for me when I run the risk of either poisoning or killing myself or guests.
So what happened? What went wrong?
Well. A couple of weeks ago I noticed what looked like black mold on it. During the course of its curing (hanging) it has had white fuzzy, and green mold. These can be wiped off with vinegar, without too much alarm.
Black stuff however is nasty. Puke your guts up, or kill you nasty. The problem is, that it was so bloody hard to tell. The outside of the meat turns really dark during curing (those areas not covered in the white powder mold) – so was these round black areas in the middle of white mold just meat, or something more sinister?
For me, the novice at curing, it just wasn’t worth the risk. I did seek some advice. Some nutters just said cut it out and it will be fine. Others said junk it. Some said “cut it open when it is done, and sniff it – if it smells bad, throw it out”.
I just don’t want to risk it. As one friendly help said “It isn’t a sin to bin”. How right they are.
But that wasn’t it.
The bresaola developed what is called “case hardening”. During the first few days of hanging the meat, the humidity was pretty low. Down at 50%. Ideally you want the humidity between 60-70%. Too low humidity means that the outside of the meat dries out quickly, forming a crust – trapping the moisture in in the inside of the meat in – meaning the inside of the meat won’t dry out properly.
This is obviously completely my fault. I didn’t realise how important the right humidity was.
I fixed the humidity problem by wrapping that rodent cage surrounding the meat in plastic wrap, and putting a pan of salt water under the meat. But it was too late, the damage had been done.
This was meant to hang for about 3 weeks – it would then be pretty hard to the touch. Even after 5 weeks it still wasn’t that hard – the outside felt hard, but when you squeezed it the inside seemed soft. Not good.
Before throwing out the bresaola I cut into it, just to take a look at it. This is it above. Looks bloody fantastic doesn’t it? Well, it was obvious that there was some case hardening. Most of the slices showed a really dark ring around the outside (where the meat had really dried out, forming that crust I was talking about), and the inside was still too squishy – not quite raw meat squishy, but not cured meat texture either.
I so badly wanted to taste it. But no. Not risking it.
So, there lies the end of my bresaola experiment.
I am not going to bullshit you, I am sad. This was a really fun experiment, and I was so hoping it would come out right. It wasn’t even the money spent on the meat to be honest.. I just really wanted this to turn out – from a cook’s perspective – how awesome is it that you can just bathe some meat in salt (and a few other things), hang it in air for a while, and its flavor and texture is completely changed?
This failure however hasn’t quenched my desire to cure meat.. Heck, it has fueled it if anything. But, I am going to invest in some more equipment to help out.
Namely, a fridge. To go into my garage. With an external temperature controller, I can create the near perfect environment in a small fridge to cure meat.
My next experiment? DUCK PROSCUITTO.
I am going to try two different duck breasts – one from a natural grocery store, and one Magret duck breast – the breast of a fat duck (the breed raised for foie gras). The magret should give a far deeper flavor I would think – but only one way to find out. It should be fun.
Anyone have a mini fridge they don’t want? (and live in Seattle..)