I’ve recently become entranced with the idea of curing my own meats. I mean, I’ve got a smoker, I have access to a lot of good raw materials, and I’m pretty handy with a recipe. So why not?
My first attempts, making guanciale out of a hog jowl and a slab of duck prosciutto, were…of mixed success. The prosciutto was decent but too salty and the guanciale got a little too dry during curing. My next attempt, I thought, would be something a little simpler, bresaola.
It worked pretty splendidly. Oh sure, it wasn’t quite perfect, but it came out pretty well. It’s very tasty, and it clearly presents the flavors of juniper and rosemary. A longer aging would probably be of benefit, but i had Reasons to not do that.
The first step was to cure the meat. I bought a nice, reasonably lean eye of round roast, and sealed it in a bag with a cup of TenderQuick curing salt and a melange of ground juniper, rosemary and garlic. After a week of flipping it in the fridge and keeping the cure evenly distributed, i drained it, washed it, and rubbed it down with another cup of the cure mixture. Another week in the fridge.
After two weeks of curing, I washed it, dried it, wrapped it in cheesecloth and hung it from a rafter in the basement to air-cure.
This is where it got tricky.
Winter in WI is dry. Very dry. Despite running a high-capacity humidifier, it’s still pretty desert-like in the house, so the bresaola was drying quickly. A bit too quickly. So while it’s supposed to hang for about two months, after three weeks it was in danger of becoming a pretty expensive chunk of beef jerky. So I took it down a bit early.
The end of it was pretty desiccated, and I feared it was going to be like that all the way through. I lopped off the pointy end, and there, behind it, was the lovely, purplish cured meat that I know well as bresaola. It’s difficult to slice, since I don’t have a meat slicer and it’s best served shaved, but I managed with a mandoline.
I need to go buy some arugula and make a salad.
A retry of the duck prosciutto will be next. And maybe bacon, because, uh, bacon.