Today I want to show you how to make bresaola. Have you tried it before? Bresaola is spiced and air-dried beef with Italian origins.
From the first time I tasted bresaola, I was smitten. I love cured meats, and enjoy the clean flavor of beef much more than other meats. It was a beautiful burgundy, and the herbs it had been cured with came through crisply. I would definitely need to learn how to make bresaola myself!
I found a recipe in Food DIY, and I am pleased to say this is my favorite project from this book so far! I think you should definitely try to make bresaola– it’s not too tricky, and the result is so satisfying. And I must also mention that this is a cured meat that would be quite expensive to buy, which makes it that much more worth the effort.
How to Make Bresaola
This project has several steps, but it’s spread out over a few weeks– so it’s very little effort, actually.
- Butcher’s string
- Muslin/ cheesecloth
- Ziplock/ freezer bags
- A kitchen scale, like this one— very important! (Because you have a scale, I will leave all of the measurements in grams.)
- A nice piece of topside or other good slab of beef muscle, weighing between 500g to a kilo (1- 2 lbs.)
- A cup of red wine
- 100g coarse sea salt
- 100g sugar
- 20g fresh or dried rosemary, chopped
- 5g black peppercorns
- 2.5g prague powder per kilo of meat (I did not use any for this project, as I like to live dangerously, and I knew my hanging temperatures would be pretty low.)
1. Start by trimming down your piece of beef. Remove all the fat and sinew from the outer parts– don’t try to do internal surgery, just clean it up nicely all around.
2. Weigh your beef, and write down this weight— this is important, and key in figuring out when your bresaola is done.
3. Pour the wine into a ziplock bag, and put your meat in. Press the air out, and seal. Marinate in the fridge overnight.
4. Put together your cure— combine the herbs, sugar, salt, and prague powder, and blend in a spice grinder. I used a mortar and pestle, and it worked alright, but the peppercorns stayed pretty whole. Put half of it in a sealed container for later.
5. Take the meat out of the wine, and dry it off with a dish towel. Coat it in half of the cure, then put the meat and cure that didn’t stick into a clean ziplock bag. Press the air out and seal. Keep it in the fridge, turning over daily, for one week. It will get watery– this is the salt pulling moisture out of the meat, and it’s a good thing. After one week, dump out the liquid, dry the beef off, and then rub the second half of the cure into the meat, seal again, and turn daily for another week.
6. Remove the meat from the cure and dry well with a kitchen towel. Tie with a series of butcher’s knots. I used the video below to learn how to do this– not too tricky, and kind of fun.
7. Wrap it snugly in muslin. I folded the edges in like a burrito, then rolled it up. Truss once more, just like you did in the last step, tying a loop at the end that you can hang it from. Go ahead and weigh it, then write that weight down along with the date where you recorded the pre-curing weight the first time.
8. Hang your bresaola in a cool, airy place. I used our mud room, which basically keeps outdoor temperatures without any wind or rain. Your ideal temperatures are 50-60F. I do not have a special curing chamber, and I know my temperatures were quite a bit cooler than this most of the time. Serious meat curers also have ways to control the humidity– which I also do not have. I don’t let these things stop me, though!
Signs of trouble will be fairly clear. We’ll talk mold in a minute. Anyway, you want to weigh your meat regularly, until you achieve 30% weight loss. So, if you began with a kilo of meat, you are done when you reach 700g. Some people remove the muslin for the last week of curing, but because the air was so dry, I left the muslin on so it wouldn’t dry out too much. My total hang time was about 4 weeks.
This is what mine looked like after tying it the first time.
And this is what I found when I unwrapped mine a couple of days ago:
A little funky on the outside? Yes! But cured meats are a lot like cheese, and a little funk is a good thing, adding character and flavor. White mold on the outside is healthy.
Now, look at the inside! So pretty. The change in color (ring of brown) is because of imperfect (or zero) humidity control, allowing the meat to begin drying out. But this is mostly cosmetic. The flavor is wonderful– salty and sweet, and the wine and herbs come through really nicely. Slice it very thinly.Let’s talk mold for a minute. Most mold is natural and good on cured meats. White mold and gray mold are really normal, and even protective of the meat. What you want to look out for is green mold and black mold. If you spot any appearing, treat it by applying red wine vinegar with a cloth to the area. Use your nose to test for any spoilage. According to Hank Shaw, “White mold is good. Green mold is not the end of the world, but wipe it away periodically with vinegar. Black mold is bad. If you get a serious growth of black mold, toss the meat. Vinegar is your friend here. Keep tabs on the bresaola and molds will not get out of hand.”
As we eat ours, I am re-wrapping it in the muslin and keeping it in the fridge in an airtight glass container, to help keep it from drying out more. I expect that it will keep for a long time– but I doubt that it will be around for much longer!
Have you tried bresaola before? Would you like to try to make your own?
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