Home cured Bresaola is complete!

October 7, 2009

Home cured Bresaola

It has been a long time hanging. Literally. But today was the day that I pulled the bresaola from the curing chamber, and sliced into it.

I did a post a couple of weeks ago that showed some shots of it hanging in the chamber, and a little bit of information on the process – You can see that here.

Bresaola is an Italian air dried beef eye of round (or often top or bottom round too). The meat is trimmed of excess fat and sinew, then rubbed liberally with salt and mix of spices. It is then left to sit in the fridge for a couple of weeks “curing”. The salt draws out a lot of the moisture from the meat, which helps to preserve it. The herbs and spices are there of course for flavor. Every couple of days the meat gets turned to make sure it is curing evenly. Half way through you rub it with more salt and spices.

Then comes the hanging. You tie this bad-boy up, and hang it in a cool humid place until it has lost about 40% of its weight, and feels almost stiff throughout. I had been keeping a close eye on this throughout the curing process, wanting to pluck it from the curing chamber at the perfect time – but then work got in the way. A couple of really heavy weeks at work, and I neglected the curing cabinet. Turns out I left this in the chamber for a few days too long. The meat isn’t as moist and silky as it could be…

But by heck is it quite possibly the tastiest piece of beef I have ever had.

The meat is cured with black pepper, rosemary, thyme and juniper berry (along with salt and sugar), and you can taste it all. It is an incredibly complex taste. The first flavor that comes through is the juniper. That was really be design – I bunged a few more berries in than the original recipe (from the Charcuterie book by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn) called for. You chew on it a bit and the thyme and pepper comes through. The next bite you can start tasting a little of the rosemary.

I now just have to work out what to do with all this bresaola. There is quite a bit here, considering you slice it so thinly.

Bresaola is fantastic served with a little olive oil, arugula, and reggiano. Personally, I just like to slice off 10 slices or so, and munch on them.

This has really started my home charcuterie bug. I get it now why people become so obsessive about meat curing (one only has to look at a few online forums about it to realise that). I am already planning my next curing projects, and fingers crossed they are going to be a result.

So – the curing process. This has really been all about learning. I expected the first couple of results to fail, and go off course, and any reader of this blog will know that they did.

About a year ago now I tried to do my first ever home charctuerie – another bresaola.

People might remember this photo:

I built a “rat-proof” cage that I could hang in my garage, bunged a cured piece of eye of round in there, and hoped for the best. I didn’t know anything about the right humidity levels, and as a result this guy got a lot of rather nasty looking colored mold on it. In the end it went in the trashcan.

The idea of just hanging a piece of meat in my garage, it collecting “good mold”, air drying to the point of perfection, and then eating it really appealed to me. In the end the garage wasn’t the best choice. Every time I would open the door, the humidity would drop down to 40% (it should be 70%) – and the exterior of the meat completely dried out, trapping moisture on the inside – unable to get out. Bad mold grew.

I do have to say though, that if you have a basement and live in Seattle, the fall and winter months are just absolutely perfect for curing meat down there. Humidity is high in them, and the temperature is low enough. Just don’t do it in a garage where you let that dry winter air in all the time.

After that I got an old fridge off craigslist, and used that to cure some duck proscuitto in. Because fridges run at a temperature around 37F, you need some way to get the fridge running at 60F. You can thankfully buy some electronics for that. A temeperature control unit that has plugin for the fridge, and a temperature probe to be more precise. The probe meastures the temperature in the fridge, and turns the fridge on and off to keep a temperature of your choice:

This worked out pretty well, but the fridge is pretty old, and does suck a lot of power when on.

More recently I managed to get my hands on (for free!!) a fantastic old wine fridge, which got converted by a hotel/restaurant for dry curing meat in. The unit is the size of a decent fridge, and is able to hold the perfect temperature, without any funky electrics needed. All I needed to do then was get a small humidifier to sit in the bottom of it, and blow in a little damp air whenever the humidity in the chamber dropped down. This turned out to be the perfect environment for curing meat in. I can accurately control the temperature and humidity, which means I am far more likely to have success with the moldy meat!!

This is what I used for this latest bresaola.Above you can see the meat hanging, along with my temperature and humidity gauge. The tube coming down is from the unit’s refrigeration system – which is actually inside the chamber (unlike frdiges that have it on the outside). This thing apparently has to drain water into something – hence the tube and tub of water that you can see.

What is next to cure? We shall see, but I reckon it might be a few things rather porky and fatty. Stay tuned.

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  • Derek October 7, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Great information, was just starting to look into a rig for this. What sort of power consumption are we talking about here?

  • monicajane October 8, 2009 at 12:14 am

    I’m totally impressed and jealous. I grew up with this sort of cured meat in Italy and had homemade versions there (I only spent two years of my youth there–and then visited many times.)

    But I’ve never made it. And haven’t had anything resembling it in years…


    when I have more time I’ll come back and see if I can actually replicate! thanks for sharing

  • shayne October 8, 2009 at 12:33 am

    I am so excieted that it turned out this time and can’t wait to be in a situation to try it myself.

  • Jeff B October 8, 2009 at 1:21 am

    I have to admit I plugged your blog into my google reader after a search for info on bresaola hit on your site. As a result I’ve read all you non-bresaola related post waiting for this triumphant day. I’m glad to read you didn’t give up.

    I haven’t been nearly as tenacious as you. I haven’t tried again since my first one, around the time of yours.

  • zenchef October 8, 2009 at 3:25 am

    Woa.. Matt. I’m impressed!

    First of all, the sliced bresaola looks incredible and the photo itself is just perfect.
    Nice to see a little recap’ of all your past projects. Love the rat-cage. Lol. You’re becoming quite an expert at this and you’re making it easier for people (like me) considering turning their wine cooler into a curing chamber.

    If you don’t know what to do with all that bresaola.. euhh.. i can help!

  • nina October 8, 2009 at 3:26 am

    Well done, Matt!! Your perseverance paid off in the end!!!! I would also like to eat a few slices….just like that!!!

  • Y October 8, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Congrats Matt! Awesome looking bresaola! You must be so proud 😀 Wow, was it really a year since your previous attempt??

  • keiko October 8, 2009 at 10:13 am

    This looks absolutely fantastic Matt – can’t wait to read about your next porky/fatty project!

  • Divina October 8, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    That’s absolutely fantastic. There’s probably a place here at home where I can do that. Thanks for the info.

  • dawn October 8, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    what to do with it you say? :::sigh::: Ohhh the possibilities are endless, I mean the whole slicing & munching is good too. lol

  • Ciaochowlinda October 8, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    I’m amazed at your determination and the end results. Bravo to you.

  • Jessica Lee Binder October 9, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Holy cow! That is involved.

  • mattwright October 9, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Derek – not a lot to be honest, but it really depends on how cold the environment your fridge is in actually is. Mine is in my garage, which holds around 60F anyhow, so it doesn’t switch on that much.
    MonicaJane: It really is pretty simple to get up and going, you should try it!
    Shayne: I am so glad it worked this time too 🙂 Thanks!
    JeffB: Try, try, try again!
    Zen: It is cheap, do it. Heck, some people just hang the meat on their porch. If you were in Seattle mate, I would give you some of this bresaola (and some space in my curing chamber)
    Nina: Wish you could try some!
    Y: Thank you! Yes, about 11months I think.. time flies
    Keiko: thanks! next up is going to be coppa I think
    Divina: Let me know if you have any questions, but certainly try it – doesn’t take much space
    Dawn: Yep, great with some sharp greens I have to say
    Ciaochowlinda: Hah! Most call it my stuborness
    Jessica – really not that involved really – rub meat with salt and herbs, leave for a bit, then hang at a certain temperature. It is my OCD behavior that just makes it seem so!

  • Colloquial Cook October 11, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Errr… Matt? I’m in AWE! That’s a lesson in perseverance (or in some OCDs being more exciting than others..)

  • Mel @ October 12, 2009 at 6:33 am

    That’s the most orgasmic shade of maroon my eyes have feasted on… am I allowed to say the O word? congrats and props, Matt <3

  • mattwright October 12, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Coll Cook: thanks! it is quite possibly my most interesting OCD, far above needing all the toilet rolls in the house facing the same direction on the roller.

    Mel: the O word is perfectly acceptable when talking about meat. Wait.. that sounded bad.

  • The Leftoverist October 12, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    So fascinating! I’ve always been a “measure-once-cut-twice” kind of gal, so I’m not sure curing meat is for me. But for now I will follow along with you.

  • mallory elise October 13, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    impressive 😉

  • Rasa Malaysia October 14, 2009 at 4:56 am

    Matt – wanted to say thank you for the scrim tip. Now my photos don’t have those ugly glares.

  • Scott October 14, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Looks to have turned out well, Matt. Now you know why I case all my whole muscles, eliminates that tough, white outer edge. All in all, a successful endeavor.

  • Brooke @ Food Woolf October 27, 2009 at 2:18 am

    Wow. Absolutely beautiful. I’m totally impressed with the fortitude and commitment to making this dried cured meat thing HAPPEN. What a gorgeous bit of air dried meat, mate! Congrats! YUUUUUMMMM! Paul Bertoli watch out!

  • linda October 29, 2009 at 12:44 am

    bresaola is my all-time favorite cured meat hands-down. your pictures really really make me miss living in Italy and I’m super impressed with your chamber! I’ve just bought some pork belly at the market and will undertake pancetta this month. Michael Ruhlman has me addicted- confiting lemons, brining home-slaughtered chickens, prosciutto-izing duck breasts, and now you’ve got me ruminating on attempting bresaola once and for all. for now it’s down to delaurenti for a bit of their bresaola and a truffle to go with, but soon, very soon, as you have inspired me!

  • Bobby G December 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    I just finished with curing Bresaola. I made two different Bresaola’s using two different recipes/techniques and had great results with one of the recipes. It’s a leap of faith to eat something with mold on it, but I must say, Bresaola is my new favorite cured meat. I have made pancetta and guanciale in the past.

    I took a fresh mozzarella roll, unrolled it, lined it with Bresaola, Arugula, shaved parmesan and rolled it back up making a Mozzarella Bresaola log. Cut the log into pinwheels 3/8 inch thick, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and cracked fresh black pepper over the pinwheels…WOW!!