A fellow food blogger, and all round lovely person Leah, over at SpicySaltySweet left me a comment asking how the Bresaola was going.
“Well”, I thought, “I should do a blog post on that”. Why? you ask – well, I have learnt quite a bit about meat curing in the last two weeks, and quite a bit about myself in the same period too.
So the meat has been hanging down in my basement garage for two weeks now. It is meant to hang for about three weeks (that is an estimate), however I think it still has quite a bit of moisture to loose, so it might take a bit longer than that.
These last two weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions to be honest – with this bloody meat anyhow.
So, I should first mention what this Bresaola is for. I am throwing a “meat” party in January, and this is going to be one of the courses. Quite frankly, it is a big risk. This is the first home curing of meat I have ever done, and the first thing you read on dry curing is that you should prepare to toss your first try out. Well, that would leave not much as a cured meats course. So, no pressure. No pressure at all. However, push comes to shove, and I bugger off down to Salumi (possibly the best cured meats ever?), and get some of the good stuff from them. But.. I want this to turn out so badly 😀
And here is the biggest problem.. There is so many variables. Temperature. Humidity. The salt cure. Light. Mold infestations.
Each one has to be right, otherwise you end up with a dud. Some are easy to control – light being the most obvious. Some paper over the windows does the trick there. Fat reacts rather badly to light, over long periods of time – it turns rancid – so you want to cut out as much light as possible. Thankfully however, Bresaola is a lean cut, with almost no fat. This means I don’t have to worry about the light down there too much when I am working out in the garage, or checking on the meat 1000000 times a day.
Mold infestations – white powder mold is good. White fuzzy is bad. Anything green isn’t desirable. Anything black is possibly deadly. In an ideal world, in an ideal climate, you would only ever get the white powder mold. The green stuff, and the fuzzies can be taken care of by wiping down the meat with vinegar.
Now.. weather. Seattle is a bastard. A complete bastard. One minute is is rainy (high humidity), the next it is dry (low humidity). Then is 60F outside, then it is 30F. All this has an effect on the curing of the meat.
The first few days it hung down there were great – temp around 57, humidity around 65% – then it dried up.. humidity dropped to about 55% – which is a bit dodgy. What can end up happening is a hardening of the exterior of the meat, which prevents the interior from drying out properly.
Some fellow curing chaps recommended wrapping my entire cage system in plastic wrap, and putting a pan of water under it to help keep humidity high. Thankfully, these guys know a thing or two – whilst it might not look pretty, it does the job perfectly. Humidity is back up between 64% and 67%
Temperature is interesting too. Seattle has just got cold. Really, really cold. Temp is now down in the 52F area – Ideally it should be 60F, or just below. I am not too concerned about this though… mainly because I have nowhere else to move the meat to! And 52F doesn’t seem crazy to me.
So, fingers crossed please people. I am on tenderhooks here. One week (roughly) and I will know whether I have made some amazing cured beef, or something for the trashcan!
Oh.. and what I have learnt about myself during this process:
- I am way too anal on details. Home charcuterie isn’t advised for people like me that want things perfect.
- My emotions are directly related to humidity/temperature these days.
- Danika is amazing for putting up with me during this process!!! “Fuck it Dan, this is bloody ruined” followed by 2 hours later “holy shit Dan, come take a look, this looks awesome”
- I am getting really fit running up and down the stairs to our basement, to check the meat.
- I am wasting far too much of my day’s running up and down stairs to check the meat.
- Next time I do this, I am so buying an old fridge, and curing in that. No more temp/humidity fluctuations!
- I have no patience. None. Zip. Danika always said it, but I never believed it.. till now.
So what is going on in these pictures? The white mold is good. The dark areas that you see is the meat. There was mold there, but I washed those areas in vinegar to remove any suspect looking mold.
What you see is a lot of plastic wrap.
Finally.. Revison 2 of this frame is going to be different. It is going to have a door into it, so I don’t have to remove staples, bend metal mesh, poke the meat, bend mesh back, restaple – everytime I want to check the meat.
It is also going to be hung on a good hook, rather than tied up to my garage door framework. That way I can move it if needed.