Bressaola – Dry cured beef

I am making the Bressaola from an Eye of Round roast.  This is based on the Bressaola recipe in  Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. I have converted it to a slat and cure by weight and adjusted the herbs and spices as it is mid winter and my Rosemary and Thyme are only dry now not fresh.

After trimming the roast of fat silverskin and any nicks, it ended up at 1233g.

3% salt = 37g

0.25% cure #2 = 3g

1.5 tsp dried Rosemary

1 tsp dried Thyme

6 Juniper berries

Finely grind the mixture together until powdered in a mortar and pestle. I don’t like dragging out the blender for this and these flavors would not help my coffee.

Divide the mixture in half.

Rub the roast with 1/2 of the mix all over and place in a plastic bag in the fridge for 1 week turning every few days. After 1 week pull it out, drain any liquid and then apply the other half of the spice mix.  Refrigerate for another week.

Remove the roast from the bag, rinse well removing the cure and spice blend. Place on a rack at room temperature uncovered for 2-3 hours. This will dry it enough to be ready for wrapping.

Wrap in 1/2 sheet of collagen, pressing it tightly against the meat and then truss with butchers twine. 2 vertical wraps and 3-5 horizontal wraps.  Make a loop in the twine so it will fit over the dowel in  the dry box.   Prick all over with a sanitized sausage pricker. Dip in a solution of Bactoferm 600 (penicilium mold culture).

Wrapped in Collagen sheet and trussed

Hang in the dry box.    This was taken after 1 week

Here I have it out for weighing after 1 week. You can see mold growth and it is much heavier where it bumped the mold covered pork loin.

Date Weight
01/05/19 1233g Start before cure applied
01/18/19 1250g Ready for dry box
01/23/19 1192g
863.1 target

Beware this is still an experiment in progress. Get the book while waiting for the tasting post.

Sources:

TheSausageMaker.com:  Dry Aging Collagen Sheets for Dry Aging Meats 22″ x 24″ (5 pcs) and Bactoferm Mold-600 (Penicillium Nalgiovense) and Sausage pricker.  You can also order their products via Amazon but it is much more expensive but with free shipping. So if you need several things direct is cheaper.

Dry Cured Country Ham

As I mentioned previously, I really like dry cured ham.  Prosciutto & Speck are great.  However, I am still taunted by my family for the “salt ham” episode where I ordered a “virginia ham” off the internet.  It was not popular.

So, with that lesson and others, I have settled on making my dry cured meats with “by weight” proportions rather than salt box or “cover it with salt” for x days recipes.   The concept is that there is an ideal salt & seasoning to meat weight ratio. This give you lots of latitude  on the curing time vs . immersing the meat in salt and pulling it at “just the right time”.  From the research I have done, the immerse it in salt method seems to be optimized for production curing on an ongoing basis with tons of meat per day. However, at home we are not doing “production curing” we are doing a few pounds per month at most on an erratic “schedule” (try not to run out before the next batch is done) .  So, I want small batch repeatability and the “by weight” salting / curing method wins.

This recipe is for a dry cured, deboned and smoked front leg ham. Yes it is a mouthful. In Italy and Austria it would be referred to as Speck. However the recipe here is not authentic to the region, but is sort of  based on the “Blackstrap Molasses  Country Ham” recipe in “Charcuterie” by Ruhlman and Polcyn . However, I have modified this to my taste (I hope). As I write this the hams are in the dry box. So for all intents and purposes this is an untried recipe as no one has tasted the results so far. That will come in a future blog post.  So for the daring, here is what I did:

Take one fresh picnic ham (front leg) and carefully debone it.  Care must be taken that you are not creating cuts / scars that will harbor bacteria or molds.  The goal is to have a couple of piece of meat with a clean, unscarred surface for curing.  The bone and attached scraps are saved for future goodies whether soups or plain old baked beans. Next, we must cure the meat.  The slat and cure are by weight percentages. The spices assume approximately 1 KG pieces. You should scale up or down accordingly for what you have.

Cure:

  • 3% by weight kosher salt
  • 0.25% by weight cure #2  “pink salt”
  • 2 tsp Juniper berries crushed
  • 2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp ground Coriander
  • 1 Tb grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2c cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup rum -decent rum

Mix the above ingredients and set aside.

I started with a 8.5 lb picnic ham – skin on and bone in.  The resulting pieces are:

Meat Salt Cure #2
1245g 37.4g 3.1g
1760g 53.6g 4.4g

The boned out picnic ham should yields 2 approximately equal sized pieces (skin on) .  Take 2 large zip lock bags and place the “halves” of the ham in them. Now pour in proportional amounts of the cure in each bag.  Place in the fridge.  Turn every few days (2-5).

After 2 weeks of cold curing in the fridge, the meat should have evenly distributed the cure. Next  the meat is removed from the bags, dried with paper towels and then set on racks in the refrigerator to dry and form a pellicle (thin tacky skin). Now is the time for cold smoking.

With cold smoking, it is important to understand that we are not trying to cook the meat at this point. The goal is to add smoke for flavor and reduce, if not prevent mold growth during the drying phase.     The meat is cold smoked for 10+ hours. The  Big Green Egg was the smoke chamber, with an A-Maze-N  pellet smoker grate providing the smoke.

After smoking the upper edges of the meat were pierced for butcher’s twine to hang in the dry box (smoke aroma is good but a bit harsh about now). I used Traeger Signature Blend pellets.

The meat is then hung in the “high tech” dry curing chamber and now we wait. The white pieces are the dry cured pork loins.

Weighing after 2 weeks in the dry box

Weights of the pieces

Date small lg
01/03/19 1245g 1760g start -wet
02/10/19 1107g 1655g post smoke
2/23/19 1006 1517
747 1056 Target 40% weight loss

Cold Smoking and Frozen Smoker Entry

I like Prosciutto, however it is bit hard to find round here not in a pre-sliced / pre-packaged form. Once sliced it does not keep well oxidizing  and rapidly develops off flavors.  Speck which is a northern Italian  /Austrian version which is smoked and also has great flavor but is not to be found around here. Plus my wife objects to the $70+ dollar shipments from Amazon, which I order in the winter and then UPS then throws in the ditch by the mailbox rather than delivering up to our doorstep (another long story). However I can cut up the chunk, freezing some. I slice off what I need as I need it and retain the fresh cut flavor.

So after reading a few books on dry curing and watching yet more YouTube videos, I decided to tackle making some Country ham / Speck.  The curing chamber was already constructed. So now the problem was how to procure the raw ham and then cold smoke before drying.  The meat was easy as our local grocer – Woodman’s, had the fresh front legs (a.k.a. green picnic hams) on special.

Meanwhile it is mid-winter in Wisconsin, meaning my Big Green Egg was frozen shut (really frozen shut with > 1/2″ ice covering) and I did not yet have a cold smoke generator.  I have smoked a lot of meat on the BGE but it has always been hot smoked (190-230F smoker temp) but for these hams  we are looking for <90F smoker temp. After some research which lead to both very expensive and very simple / inexpensive options I settled on the A-Maze-N 5×8″ smoker which uses wood pellets. Nice and simple, no modifications to the grill or having to connect air pumps as on some of the more expensive models.

I melted the BGE open the night before for a steak dinner (see yet more http://bronkalla.com/blog/2018/12/31/koji-steak-and-crunchy-cheesy-potatoes/)  and then propped it open with a stick of kindling for the next morning (no snow forecast and -10F temps).  It took a few handfuls of kindling shoved in through the ash dump / vent and lit with a propane torch to get the left over charcoal going.  The metal ring I made really speeds up the process taking the heat and applying it to the frozen gaskets.  This has served me well over the last 3 winters. Go get some sheet metal at HD and attack it with tin snips.  Size is not critical.   Thisis 3x faster than trying to just let it warm up in reasonable (>10F temps) and the only way when it gets really cold (-10 to -20F , -20 is my cut off)

Metal ring used in between the gaskets to thaw the egg in winter.

 

Next day I add a few big lumps of charcoal as spacers and place the A-Maze-n smoker with mixed wood pellets and get it lit. Once lit, blow out the fie, add the meat and walk away.  Internal temp of the BGE averaged 46F over 10 hours (that is COLD smoking).

 

Dry cured pork loin – tasting

When doing my research on foods, especially fermented or cured,  I have learned  to look first for the “tasting” post or video then decide whether to look at the preparation posting or video. If there is no tasting video – just assume it did not turn out.   Probably the best that I have seen are Gavin Weber’s cheese making videos. When tasting he tells it like it is – not all turn out and some are interesting surprises.

This experiment started back on Dec 15, 2018 and my first post on it was: Making Lonzino – Dried cured pork loin    (Yes, I waited to see if it was a slimy mess or not before the first posting).

Over the intervening weeks ,I took a few photos and weighed the pieces to track the progress.

Jan 5
Jan 12 – note how the mold has bloomed, covering the entire piece
Jan 12 – Weigh in for the spicy piece
More meat into the chamber. In this case it is some dry cured ham similar to Speck. Smells so good.

Starting at 1100 grams each the target for 30% weight loss was then 770 g. Today the spicy one was down to 789g  and I figured it was ready to test. Besides I had to make room for a Bresaola that was going in. T

he last couple of weeks have not been optimum for drying as I had to move the chamber to the garage as I was doing some wood project finishing in the basement and did not want the fumes to impair the flavor. So I have been shuttling it between garage and basement depending on the temperatures (it reached -30F here) and extraneous odors (garden tractor which I use for plowing stinks on start up). This means the ambient temp has been anywhere form 28-58F depending on where the box was – not ideal.   Plus I have been adding more meat and it may be tasing the little fan a bit with the added moisture.

Now is the time for the unveiling…

Spicy dry cured pork loin 2/18/19
First cut into the spicy pork loin and first taste
More slices. YUM

This is definitely a success. The flavor is just what I was looking for with the pork, fennel and pepper.  It is a nice subtle blend. The outer layer of collagen and mold is discarded before eating (although it is edible).   The texture is nice, but I want to dry it a bit more to get it a bit firmer. At this point is just a bit softer than prosciutto. I will probably trim the fat evenly next time. The meat is a bit softer near the fat layer.  The outer layer of meat is a bit darker than the center which could be a bit of case hardening (outside drying too fast) but the texture really does not vary much.

Weights   in grams

Date Plain pepper Spicy  Box RH
12/30/18 1101 1104  75-85%
01/05/19 1052 1056  75-78%
01/12/19 972 965 75-78%
01/19/19 906 914  75-78%
01/26/19 856 868  75-78%
02/03/19 828 840  75-88%
02/10/19 800 814  75-88%
02/18/19  749 789  80-85%
03/10/19  691 75-78%

Stay tuned . More projects underway. Dry cured ham – similar to Speck, and Bresaola which just went into the box today after 2 weeks in the fridge.

I also brought some in to work and ran samples past a few of my friends.   Overall the rating was excellent. Probably 60% would like it a bit drier / firmer but all want more.  So,  the other piece is going to dry to 35-40% weight loss and I will run another test.  Overall, I am very encouraged by the consensus on the results!

Update 3/17/19   The second (plain pepper) piece was dried to 38% weight loss and the group appraisal was that it has better texture.  However the fennel / spicy flavoring has the taste edge.

You really should not just take my first time experience as gospel. I did a lot of research prior to attempting this and I hope you do as well . Some of my favorite references are:

  • Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
  • Olympia Provisions: Cured Meats and Tales from an American Charcuterie by Elias Cairo, Meredith Erickson
  • Salumi by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

Plus a variety of youtube videos. Ignore any that post only a “making ” video but no “tasting” video.

My favorite youtube video is “making capicola”   she reminds me of my grandmother and covers the wrapping in collagen sheets before hanging.