I was looking through my projects in charcuterie in the past year, and there has been lots of successes and lessons learned. I think I’ve managed to benefit greatly from bumbling through all of these projects, varying from my first cured duck breast that was waaayyy too salty, to my most recent adventures in making salami. One of the projects that I’d really like to repeat is making bresaola. My last attempt (see it here) was semi successful. The flavours were good, but the cut of meat was not right, and the grain direction of the meat was completely opposite to what I wanted. Adding to that, there was a bit of case hardening, which made the outside tough and the interior softer than I’d like after a 35% weight loss.
So, I think I will make a repeat of this project, with the same recipe, but avoiding all the pitfalls of the last one.
The first mistake, and the easiest one to avoid, getting the right cut of meat. I used top round last time, now, I am using eye of round.
Eye of round comes in a convenient round shape, which will definitely help with the wrapping and drying process. Cylindrical meat is of course easier to stuff into a cow bung or any other kind of natural casing you want to use. For this bresaola, I used the same flavourings as in my last attempt, in the exact same proportions. I added salt, black pepper, garlic, juniper berries, and oregano. These are all flavours that are quite mild, and will hopefully enhance the flavour of the beef rather than mask it. For the exact recipe, click here!
I recently obtained a foodsaver vacuum machine, which has just added so much convenience to my life in terms of curing meats, and moisture equalization after drying… Now I can put my beef directly into the foodsaver bag, and add the herbs and spices in, less mess and hassle throughout the curing process!
I vacuum pack the beef with the herbs and spices, and allow it to cure under weights for 2 weeks, after which it turned an appetizing shade of brown (this was not helped by the harsh white light I had in the kitchen while taking this photo)…
I then wrap it in the pig casing sheets that I have used for other projects. I would have used the bung, but the diameter I have is a little too big for this bresaola, and I need to make sure the casing is tight around the cured meat. After wrapping the meat in the casing sheet, I poked holes to make sure there are no air bubbles on the surface of the meat.
The whole thing is then wrapped in netting, which ensures that the casing remains tight while drying. Wrapping in netting also has the additional benefit that the shape of the bresaola stays cylindrical, which promotes even drying.
Then, stick it in the back of your curing chamber for a couple of months and forget alllllll abboouttt ittttt… or in my case, worry and anxiously wait for the 35% weight loss mark. I know the general recommendation is just a 30% weight loss, but I actually like the dryer texture of a 35% weight loss bresaola. After about 6 weeks, this is what I ended up with! There was significant loss of size, as expected, and there was a nice layer of white mold that had grown on the surface of the casing.
Cutting into the bresaola revealed a creamy center that has a touch of hardening on the outside. I will put this into the vacuum bag to let the moisture equalize a bit, but in the meantime, I had to have a slice…
It was amazingly smooth and tender! The difference in the grain direction definitely greatly altered the texture of the meat. It feels like the bresaola was just falling apart in my mouth, and the gentle notes oregano coming through in the smell, followed by hints of garlic and pine. Definitely a win in my books!
I think everyone should give this recipe a go… I used to think that pork salumi was king, but I think it has just been dethroned by bresaola!
Until the next time,
Top round (should have gotten eye of round), 900g
21g of salt (3% weight of beef)
15g of peppercorns
15g of juniper berries
half a head of garlic (5 cloves for me)
Crush the garlic in a garlic crusher or chop finely. Rub the garlic over the beef. Toast the pepper in a pan, removing them when the oils and smells are released. Grind the pepper in a spice grinder, and use a pestle and mortar to break open the juniper berries. It will be hard to get the juniper berries to be finely ground because they release a liquid when broken. Roughly ground is okay, and add more if you feel like there isn’t going to be even coverage. Mix the salt, oregano, ground pepper, and ground juniper berries evenly. Rub the mixture over the meat, taking care to cover as much area as possible. Place the pork inside a freezer bag, and put the excess mix into the bag. Press out as much air as possible from the bag, seal, and place into the fridge with some weight on top. Anything heavy would work, so place all your excess cans of beans, sauce, pans over the beef. Cure for 7-10 days, flipping over the bag every couple of days.