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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Eric McNew says
Definitely trying. We just did Lonzino (Gatherwithme.com … well technically not since it was a tenderloin) and are wrapping pancetta this weekend. Bresaola next!
Awesome, those sound really great! I tried to do a Lomo, but let it get way to dried out. I still want to give it another shot– it smelled so good while it was curing!
Emily Swezey says
We have ours in the wine right now, make way for bresaola!
Hurray! Can’t wait to hear how it turns out!
Emily Swezey says
Its wrapped and hung now and I’m wondering if I should unwrap it to check for bad mold at some point? It seemed to me that you didn’t unwrap yours, just weighed it?
Hi I had a question about the prague powder. I’ve never heard of it before and looked it up and it is sodium nitrite essentially. nitrites and nitrates are typically something as a real food practitioner I avoid at all costs. Would you consider it safe though to cure without the prague powder? I have never cured my own meat before so I am thinking maybe i’ll try it for the first go and then once I gain some confidence steer clear of it…I am not into nitrites or nitrates in my body!
So sorry for the late reply on this– we have been out of town! I actually made this bresaola without using any nitrates. It’s a bit riskier, but doable. A lot of people feel that the amounts of nitrites in something like this is negligible. In fact there are naturally occurring nitrates/ nitrites in things like celery, and some testing has shown that “no added nitrates” bacon from health food stores can often contain higher levels of nitrates than the ones with this added. So, it’s really just up to you. I have both used them and skipped them.
Andrew Barlow says
Some meat curing sites sell Celery powder. It Jas naturally ocuring nitrite and works in the place of pink salt. I will not use pink salt on any of my meats. It was done for hundreds of years without it.
Sorry, but you already are.
More from celery, spinach and other vegetables than in your salumi.
Ignorance makes you say many ignorant things,
Botulism is worse, and a sure barrier against it is the cure salt.
Add ascorbate (vitamin C) as to block the posibility to get nitrosamines from nitrites.
Cathryn Marcuse says
This is great! My husband and I are going to try this, and blog about it: https://www.thecharcuterieclubdc.com/blog/2014/10/21/challenge-make-your-own-bresola
I gave you credit for the original DIY 🙂
Beautiful! I am looking forward to curing some of our lamb this year and this post is so helpful, Thank you Ariana!
I see that your recipe only states “prague powder”. I know you didn’t use any BUT because this is a dried meat, I think you need to specify that it is prague powder #2. I mention this because there is also a prague #1 but that is used when brining. Soaking the meat in the wine for a day doesn’t qualify for brining in the “curing” sense and that’s why #2 is used.
Brilliant! I did a salmon for Christmas using a recipe from a famous Vancouver Restauranteur, Bishops, whose variation was fennel instead of dill. I soaked my salmon for 8 hours in Calvados first, then salt / sugar / fennel seed for 12 hours one side, 12 hours second side, then dried off and hanged to dry for 12 hours in very cold garage. Slice very thinly &
Serve with lemon infused crème fraiche on leaves of romaine or crusty french bread slices or what have you!
Mykaila Dudley says
Hi Ariana. My meat is in its second day of its first week of the cure. I flipped it. On the side facing up its hardened a little and I think it might be a little grey in a little area. Is it normal to see that this early on?
Yes, that is just normal exposure to air and drying out a little– I wouldn’t worry about it!
Mykaila Dudley says
Great. Thanks! One final question. During the time it is hanging, did you ever once unwrap it to peek and check on how it started molding? Is that what you would recommend?
Steven Eckstein says
I’m in the process of hanging my beef and also venison bresaola. It has developed a fairly uniform white mold over most of the surface. However there are several spots the size of a quarter of fuzzy gray mold.
Renee Kohley says
This is just gorgeous Ariana! I can’t wait to try this!
My home-made bresaola smelled great, but not tasty. Did I miss something in the recipe?
Please be advised! Curing meats safely is a very technical endeavor. Many “old world” curing methods are safe because the artisans who have developed the methods and handed them down through tradition have honed these methods through trial and ERROR. The USDA has provided strict guidelines for preserving meats (your tax money at work) to protect us against food borne illness and to save you and your family the pain of trial and ERROR. If you read meat curing blogs like this one, don’t take them for granted. Do your research with reputable sources. Learn this craft safely.
True, the amount of Nitrate in Prague powder 2 is very small as opposed to the risk. There is much more nitrate in a bag of prepared spinach leaves! The risk is Botulism! 75% of people that contract Botulism from improperly cured meat die!
Gayle Hurmuses says
If the ratio of cure salt to meat is correct and the process is accurate there is no issue. Spices do not affect the result unless they change the weight ratio. It is important to follow the correct processes, but also not to act like Chicken Little terrified of life itself.
Thanks for posting this recipe. I have made it three times now with excellent results every time. I was wondering of you have ever swapped out the rosemary for any other herbs such as thyme or sage?
Hi Tia! I am so glad you have put this to good use, and have had great results. I think that sage and thyme would taste great! I haven’t tried them myself, so please let me know how it comes out. 🙂
Beginner curing ….
There’s no place in Texas for me to hang meat..hahah. so I’m doing it in a mini refrigerator.. please the meat have to dry in an upright position ??
The important thing is that air can circulate freely all around the meat. So if you need to hang it from the fridge rack horizontally, that’s OK. As long as it’s not resting on something.
Don Mei says
I’ve made this recipe 3 times and have tweaked it based on my preference.
Specifically, I found the end result to be too salty. Not a little too salty, but a lot too salty.
On my second batch, I reduced the cure time from 14 days to 10 days. Still too salty.
On my third batch, I reduced the cure time from 10 to 8 days and it was PERFECT.
I actually hung it in my basement for the first two batches and it came out perfect. My basement averages about 62 degrees. The humidity swings wherever it wants, but both came out perfectly. By the end, I had about 25% white mold coverage.
My last batch, I put one piece in my basement per usual and another piece in the unheated mud room of a small cottage we have in NH starting in late September. I retrieved it just this week after a month. It did well with substantial covering of white mold. It is not as dry as the meat hung in my basement, but within a couple of days of me moving it into my basement it firmed up substantially.
Based on my experience so far I’d suggest the following practices.
1) adjust the cure time to your taste.
2) do’t worry about it being too cold, damp, dry, etc. Give it a shot. You will know if its working.
3) Mold is important. If you develop black mold, you may want to try a different location. My place in NH seems to have a nice source of white mold somewhere. Which is a good thing because it helps to ward off black mold.
4) once you come up with the tweaks you like make A LOT. It goes quickly and only takes marginally longer to make several pieces. The batch I just finished today totaled about 15 lbs. I can’t wait!!
Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of your results with us! This is very helpful!
Super helpful information, thank you! My bresaola is on curing day 7 but I’m not a big fan of super salty foods so I’ll probably pull it tomorrow to hang. Just in case it is too salty though, is there anything you were able to do to salvage it? I’d hate to throw out all that gorgeous meat…
Hi, I want to follow your instructions to make Mubarak first Bresaola, but I have a question, can I substitute the red wine with some other liquides i.e apple venigar?!
I honestly don’t know if using vinegar instead of wine would work. I am sure there are cured beef recipes out there that don’t use wine, but it would be different than bresaola. If you find one, I’d love it if you could post it here for others!
I’m so happy I found this recipe, but I need to ask. Can the wine step be omitted or substituted with something else?
I honestly don’t know. I am sure there are cured beef recipes out there that don’t use wine, but it would be different than bresaola. If you find one, I’d love it if you could post it here for others!
Wow. I practically never bother to comment, as I’m just looking for the basic idea, then riff off it. However, this is superbly comprehensive and make me want to get cracking ASAP. So I shall 🙂
A propos of nothing, I love your header pic. So cute!
I cannot stress out enough the option of getting away that thread from the meat.
Use a casing of any kind, or micro-perforated paper.
Give it a slower drying.
It’s not just cosmetics, unbiased observation and strict hygiene practices are an absolute necessity.
Kim Ky-Zuccoclo says
This recipe sounds very easy to do. I have just started the first week of curing after the wine soak last night. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. Thanks so much for the really good step by step instructions.
dried meat says
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