Monday, November 26, 2007

Bresaola - Curing

If you've ever eaten in a high falootin' Italian restaurant you've no doubt seen "bresaola" served with Parmigiano shavings, maybe some rucola/rocket/arugola salad, some nice oil and lemon juice.

Bresaola is a great cured meat. It isn't made from pork, which is uncommon as far as salumi go; it is made from beef, or also, quite commonly in Italy, horse or donkey. Basically a very lean piece of meat (most commonly beef, especially if bought commercially) is salt cured with spices, then dried.

Sliced thin it makes a superb antipasto when drizzled with a mixture of oil, lemon juice and black pepper, it great in a sandwich, and is delicious just eaten out of hand. This is one salume people worried about cholesterol and fat don't have to feel guilty about eating.

So lets get to how it can be made at home. Now, given the preliminary results of the survey, I'm going to post this without having tasted the results. This means my spices could be entirely out of whack. This is unlikely as I've made this before, but it might happen!

IngredientQuantity(g)% of Meat
Eye of round1537100%
Salt ( Kosher)785%
Black pepper7.60.5%
Fresh rosemary3.50.25%
Juniper berries1.70.1%
Dry thyme1.50.1%
Cure #25.150.33%

EDIT 1/3/2014 : Since i posted this recipe i've moved to lower salt % in my whole muscle meats. I now use 3%. 5% is very high.

I started with 3 whole eye of round roasts (each one weighed about 1.5kg/3.5lbs). I made sure there was no surface fat or silver skin anywhere. You want the meat nice and clean, a solid block of meat. I like this cut because of the shape and size. It lends itself well to being put into casings.

Mix up the spice mixture after grinding the cinnamon, clove, and juniper berries, chopping up the rosemary and crushing the black peppercorns.Make sure you really mix everything up, especially if you're making a double or triple batch for 2 or 3 pieces of meat, as I did.

Take the mixture and really massage it into the meat. You really want to get the meat and salt nicely worked into it. This should take 1 or 2 minutes, don't do it for 15; this isn't a cow spa!

Take you piece of meat and put it into a ziplock bag, including all the salt and spices that fell off it while massaging it. Get out as much air as possible from the bag, and seal it up. Put it in the fridge for 15-21 days.
Massage the meat while it is in the bag every 2 or 3 days, flipping it to make sure it is getting even exposure to the liquid which will have formed in the bag.

This method can be used on many lean pieces of beef. My notes from 2005 tell me I used a rump roast once. As long as the piece is nice and large, somewhat regularly shaped and LEAN, you should be able to use it. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure why it HAS to be lean. I imagine a nicely marbled piece of beef would taste pretty good cured! But, as I've said, i like the eye of round, as it is a good size and shape.
Normally I'd use 1/2 eye of round roasts which are commonly found at markets, but this time i found whole ones. Either way, just scale the formula as needed by weight.

I'll be back in about a week to detail the casing and hanging. I'll be using 100mm casings for this.


Anonymous said...

Hi this sounds interesting to try but I have a question.
I was wondering whether it is really safe to have the plastic bag in contact with meat and salt for so long. Isn't there a danger of harmful plastic molecules contaminating the meat?

Could this be done using a glass container instead?


Jasonmolinari said...

Sure you could do it in a glass container, and massage and turn the meat every few days.
I have no idea about plastic molecules and salt really. I never even thought about it.

Anonymous said...


Allan said...

Hi Jason,

Can you help me understand what the casing does for this preperation? I noticed that the Ruhlman/Polcyn differs in that there is no casing....just tied and hung.


Jasonmolinari said...

The casing helps slow down the drying a little bit, and also keeps the developing molds away from the meat. You COULD do it without the casing, in fact i think i've done it a couple times, but i have to check my notes about what i thought about it.
I remember preferring it with the casing.

i guess it is a personal preference.

GadgetGeek said...

Venison would work?

Jasonmolinari said...

Gadgetgeek: Yes, i think venison would be fantastic!
The only concern, is that i was told or read somewhere that wild venison (hunted) is prone to parasites, and i have no idea if like trichinae these parasites are killed by freezing and salt.

iperry said...

Can you please tell me what is cure #2?

Thank you

Sam Hoffman said...

I found a number of studies suggesting that annato has a very solid antibacterial effect. For those of us who prefer simpler ingredients to the more processed ones, this may be a viable alternative for cure #2. Annato also has a smell/flavor similar to clove and cinnamon. I will post on the final product.

Also, can you post the quantities or the ingredients in more common measures, like tsp and Tbs? I don't have a scale, so I just winged it on quantity.

Jasonmolinari said...

Sam, the quantities of most ingredients in teaspoons and tablespoons can be found on Len's page:

I recommend getting a scale though. I got mine on ebay for about $10. Small scale, 0.1g resolution.

Renieri said...

If you love bresaola you should take a look at although it would be better taste it ;)

Jasonmolinari said...

After reading that page i'm very hungry Renieri!

Nabil said...

I am doing some this eye of round, but i found out that the bags after two days, start be filled with gas, i looked at the meat and the accumulated juices and everything look normal. is this normal for little gas production during curing? i followed ur recipe with everything

Jasonmolinari said...

juice production is normal...but i've never seen or noticed gas production...i can't think of any reason why that would be a good thing though..i might be a little concerned.

Anonymous said...

It isn't a lot of gas, but there is now a gas pocket inside the bag+juices+spices+meat ... i was worry, because gas production means fermentation of somehow, and this could lower pH if it is a good bacteria, or bad one means the meat is rotting.. but it is likely the good one, as there is salt...

Anonymous said...

"Isn't there a danger of harmful plastic molecules contaminating the meat?"

No, plastics only produce harmful carcinogens at temperatures at or above something like 700 degrees Fahrenheit, or that was what my reading on Johns Hopkins said... also if your fridge is that warm you probably shouldn't be curing meats anyways.

"I imagine a nicely marbled piece of beef would taste pretty good cured!"

Beef fat has a tendency to go rancid, I think that I have read somewhere that it is not as stable as pork fat due to a difference in cell structure but I can't say for sure - however cured or jerked beef should usually considered best if it is as lean as possible.

Anonymous said...

edit - "is usually considered best..."

Jasonmolinari said...

i had read the same thing regarding beef fat, but when i made a ribeye bresaola, it turned out amazingly delicious.

Tuba said...

Is it possible (or safe) to make bresaola without using cure #2? I've just finished curing one recently (my first cured muscle ever), and I feel it really interfers with the meat's final flavor/taste... I find cure#2 to taste bacon-like, and that's not where I want to get with a bresaola. Can I use only pure sea salt as curing salt?

Jasonmolinari said...

technically it's safe with just salt.


Jason, Love your blog. I have learned so much.

Might I ask why (so I can understand) you used 5% salt? I recall reading, I think your post on Salt Equilibrium and I think you used 3%.

I also noticed you used Prague powder . Probably for taste and color and maybe a safety margin. Why #2 and not number #1. Is it because the cure might exceed 2 weeks and you wanted the advantage of timed release?

Just curious.
When using Prague powder #2 instead of #1 does the % changes for amounts? I.E 1 tsp of #1 will cure 5 lbs of meat.
Thanks Lloyd

Jasonmolinari said...

5% used to be what I used to use but jive been lowering it to my tastes over time. 3% is where I am now.

#2 because it hangs for months.
#1 or #2 it's always 0.25%.


Thank you. I am making your exact recipe. Just finished sealing bag. The eye of round is huge, 3322 grams so I am guessing a 21 day min cure.

I like using prague powder not just for the obvious but like color and taste.

Just so it's clear to me. I did not have to use Prague powder because it's a whole muscle. Extra safety margin not a bad idea though.

Patrick Kelly said...

I'm following your recipe here for my first attempt at any curing. I've got the eye of round curing right now. Almost every other bresaola recipe I can find anywhere has 2 steps of cure application. Half at first and then after 7 days, rinse and apply the second half for another 7 days. But you just do all your cure mix at once with no mid-reapplication. Is there a reason for that? I'm following your way, but just wondering why everyone else says to do half now and half later. Thanks for all your help with your posts!

Jasonmolinari said...

Patrick, i read the same thing when i started out, but i never could figure out why the salting was split, so i stopped doing it.
Also, this recipe is from a long long time ago, i've since moved to lower salt %. 5% will work, but th eproduct might be salty. Next time lower the salt to 3-3.5%

Patrick Kelly said...

Ok, cool. I've actually read through pretty much your whole blog so I had already seen the note about the salt. I salted at 3% so should be good. I'm giving it 18-19 days for curing since its my first time. Figured it'd be best to be conservative.

Brian Patton said...

Hi. I'm new to curing and I have a somewhat random question. Once the final product is done (single muscle) and you cut into it, how do you proceed if you don't want to eat the entire piece? Can you just hang it again and let the exposed end create a new casing? Probably a dumb question, but I just can imagine throwing a bresaola that you spent weeks or months caring for back into the fridge next to the Mayo.

Jasonmolinari said...

brian, either vac pack or wrap it in plastic and zip bag.

Mark Griffiths said...

How long would a 600g piece take in the cure?

Mark Griffiths said...

How long would a 600g piece take in the cure?

Jasonmolinari said...

depends on thickness. Leave it for 10-14 days.

MalcolmTennant said...

Hi, I am looking to try Bresaola. Instead of a ziplock bag could you use a vacuum packer? And is a fridge temperature of 1 or 2 degrees C ok?

Jasonmolinari said...

Yes to both