Charcuterie

Home Cured Bresaola – Update!

December 16, 2008

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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 :D

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.

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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.

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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.

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  • sue bette December 16, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Hi Matt – thanks for the updates, what a cool (but not easy) process
    I am looking forward to the meat party menu!! Best of luck with the rest of the cure!!

  • Hank December 16, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    “My next revision of the box” ??? Dude, buy the old fridge on Craigslist for $50, buy a temperature regulator for another $50, and you automatically have a nice wine fridge/curing case. It has served me very, very well.

    As for temperature fluctuations, I actually like my salami cured that way — I do a few in my back shed in winter because the fluctuations give it a little something extra, IMHO. And in winter the temp never gets above 60F anyway, so it’s OK.

  • Food Woolf December 16, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I couldn’t help it, but every time I looked at your breseola-in-a-box pictures I wanted to add the dialogue “let. me. out!” underneath. LOL! I guess that’s what happens when a screenwriter turns into a food writer! Weird dialogue moments!

    Oh, and thank for the update! I really did want to know how things were going!

  • Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. December 16, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    How cool.
    The part about Seattle weather made me laugh, yeah… I get you. but 52 F? where do you live? Maybe you meant 25 F!!!??
    Also, very funny, the things you learned about yourself! I’m surprised that you did not take a sleeping back and went to sleep right next to it.
    And speaking of Salumi… I’ve never been there. Can you believe it? Something about standing in line for food doesn’t do it for me… Only time I did it was for lunch at Spago, LA.

  • Y December 16, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Thanks for the long awaited update. You crack me up! Yes, definitely buy a fridge, Matt.. to save your sanity! Talk about micromanaging a bresaola ;) That clingwrap looks kind of gruesome to me (even if necessary).

  • matt wright December 16, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    Hank – I am going to do the fridge route for sure! I do have some duck proscuitto that I want to do, and might not have time to get a fridge together before then.

    FoodWolf: Thankfully the piece of meat now looks well and truely dead. No chance of it wanting to escape :D

    Nurit – 52F in the garage, 25F outside – insulated garage door!

    Y – I lit the clingwrap from behind and up, just to make it seem like a rather gruesome basement experiment !

  • brittany December 16, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    god bless you for mustering the patience for this. I know it will be delicious.

    A process you could never pay me to put myself through.

  • Kairu December 17, 2008 at 12:37 am

    I have just decided that curing my own meat is just not something I have the patience – or space – to try. Pâtés or rillettes – yes, yes – but bresaola or prosciutto, no, no. I can only look on in awe at that fiendish-looking contraption hanging from your garage door. And in the meantime I will have to content myself with the rare excursions down to Salumi for their creations.

  • atypicprig December 17, 2008 at 5:48 am

    Glad to see you didn’t chuck it out in frustration just yet. While I won’t be in line to try it out (veggie and all) I’m curious to hear how it turns out! Rhi and I were inspired to do the veggie equivalent and we now have some fermenting sauerkraut in the kitchen.

  • White On Rice Couple December 17, 2008 at 6:29 am

    Never has mold on meat looked better! We’re getting so wrapped up in this, the emotions are killing us. Now you need a weekly update (at least) because we’re all emotionally connected to this friggin piece of flesh! How crazy.
    Only in the foodie world can all this be sane….and exciting!

  • Alex December 17, 2008 at 11:19 am

    It’s like looking after a new baby! And rightly so

  • Leah December 18, 2008 at 5:48 am

    Looks good, Matt. Thanks for the update (and the thoughtful compliment). I don’t think a trip to Salumi will be necessary, except maybe to gloat :)

  • White On Rice Couple December 18, 2008 at 6:40 am

    We’re baaack…..is there more of the good mold?

  • matt wright December 18, 2008 at 7:14 am

    WoRC – bloody hell, you are more impatient than me!
    Alex – You hit the nail on the head mate. I am being waay too overly sensitive with this hanging meat – but I was (and still am) the same way with my son too!
    Leah – hehe, more than welcome – Salumi rocks, I wonder if they make bresaola.. if so, I will have to go try some – see what I am up against!
    WoRC – bloody bloody hell, you certainly are even more impatient than me :D In the 1 day difference between your comments, I am sure a mesurable amount of new white mold has developed :D

  • diva December 18, 2008 at 10:21 am

    good luck with the meat party matt! it sounds amazing and i’m sure it’s just gonna be wonderful. and great idea on the plastic wrapping. that should definitely keep out most of the humidity. i’m near the equator for christmas and i kinda wish i had some sort of plastic wrapping around me, or an air-conditioned bubble, to keep out the heat and humidity. literally am just dying. anyway, all the best and merry christmas! x

  • Melissa December 19, 2008 at 12:57 am

    Mmmm, that is one sexy piece of beef! And what an adventure – it’s not every day you get to eat something that has been the object of such care (or should that be ‘obsession’?). :)

    Can’t wait!

  • matt wright December 20, 2008 at 5:13 am

    DIVA – merry xmas to you. I hate a warm Christmas

    Melissa – I never thought I would find mold sexy, and I am glad I am not the only one! Hopefully this moldy beef won’t kill us all! I appologise now if it does :P

  • Ivette December 22, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Very courageous of you to do this. Hope everything turns out
    grate for you. Let us know how it all turns out :)

  • Steamykitchen December 23, 2008 at 11:35 am

    YOU ARE SO MY FREAKIN’ HERO!!!

    tho after seeing those pics of the snowy house, i think i’m kinda glad that i can’t make it up to see you guys…brrrr….