25 January, 2010

Making Bresaola

On Saturday, I headed over to the local wholesale/retail meat market to buy a whole pork belly. I want to make some pancetta, and I still have plenty of room to hang stuff in my curing room in the attic. Unfortunately, there were no bellies available that day; I'll have to check back later in the week.

But they did have whole beef eye round for the very reasonable price of $2.29 a pound (untrimmed) and so I decided to make bresaola instead. In much the same way that my capicola is a cured and aged whole boneless pork loin, bresaola is a cured and aged whole eye round.

The process is somewhat longer, though. For one thing, the curing process is longer - my capicolas are only left in their salt cure for 2 days. The beef stays in its cure for 10 to 14 days. Following Ruhlman & Polcyn's method, I'll be draining off the first accumulation of brine after 5 to 7 days, then reapplying fresh brine to finish the aging for another week. After that, I'll be casing the beef in a natural beef bung cap casing, just like my cappy, and hanging it to age for a month or two...or longer, depending on how it goes. This is a learning process for me, and it's the first time I've ever tried making bresaola. So, welcome to the first steps and I hope you stop back every so often as I update and monitor the beef's progress.

This is the eye round I started with, right out of the cryovac. Untrimmed, it weighed in at about 6½ pounds. Before I can start curing it, I'll have to trim off all the visible fat and any silverside that is still on it.

Trimming the round is fairly simple. I use a good sharp boning knife with a narrow blade, and pass it between the fat cap and the meat, in the same direction as the grain of the muscle. If there is any silverside, I just pull it away from the meat and use the knife in the same way as when I remove the fat. Small bits of fat or silverside might remain, but those are easily removed with small trim strokes.

All trimmed and ready for the cure, the round is down to a little shy of 6 pounds. At this point, I set it aside and made up the cure.

For the cure ingredients, I knew that I'd want salt, sugar, and InstaCure #2 ("pink salt") as a minimum, with perhaps some other aromatic ingredients to taste. After researching several recipes, I came up with the following proportions, which makes enough cure for up to an 8-pound round. Note that I am giving the amounts in metric weights rather than my customary American method of teaspoons/tablespoons. I did this to avoid clumsy measurements like "1/8 teaspoon" etc. and fractions of ounces. Decent digital scales are available for ten dollars or less online and in many stores, and nearly all of them can be toggled between ounces and grams.

Dave's Bresaola Cure
Sufficient for 8 pounds of beef

50 grams Kosher salt
60 grams sugar
10 grams InstaCure #2 ("pink salt" )
10 grams ground black pepper
15 grams fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
12 grams dried thyme, crushed
12 juniper berries, ground in a spice or coffee grinder

Combine all ingredients thoroughly until evenly distributed.

Once the cure was made up, I put the round into a large shallow bowl, pulled on a pair of vinyl gloves to protect my hands, and went to work rubbing the cure into the meat. I rubbed the entire round with the cure, making sure that all of the meat was covered. It only took a couple of minutes, and I had some cure left over when I was done (which I put away in a jar for next week. Saving the leftovers means I won't have to mix so much when the cure gets reapplied.)

When the meat was thoroughly coated, I sealed it in a cryovac pouch using my vacuum packer. If you haven't got one, don't sweat it. Use a big ZipLoc bag and push as much of the air out of it as you can when you seal it up. Check it out: the meat had been for less than five minutes when I sealed it, and the cure had already begun to pull juices out of the meat to form a brine:

Right now the curing beef is sitting on the bottom shelf of my fridge. Every so often - whenever I open the fridge for something - I turn the bag and give it a quick massage. I'll be doing that for the next week. Sometime over the coming weekend, I'll open the package, rinse and dry the round, and apply fresh cure. Check back with me later and follow the progress.



Browners said...

Looks awesome. Very impressed indeed. Looking forward to giving this a go myself some time soon.

Battle Park said...

Wait. How did you take the picture of both your hands massaging your meat?

Dave said...

Steve: I held the camera in my prehensile mouth.

Unknown said...

Dear Dave,
Do you have a source for small quantities of insta-cure? I've only found it in 5lb bulk packs. A link would be awesome! Thanks, Liz

Dave said...

Elizabeth: You can get InstaCure in packages as small as 8 oz. from www.sausagemaker.com