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.