Many people might not know but bresaola is the close cousin of the Italian prosciutto. While prosciutto is the final product of curing pork, bresaola is the final product of curing beef. This explains why bresaola is normally more expensive at the delicatessen.
At Maldonado Bistro we make our own bresaola using local beef from Gozo. Every week when the butcher receives his latest beef carcass, he immediately saves us the eye-round, or as we call it in Maltese ‘il-lucerto’.
The eye-round looks like a nice piece of lean beef, very similar to the tenderloin. But looks can be deceiving as this cut of beef is not ideal for grilling as it can be quite tough and dry. Hence it is more popular to dice up for a slowly braised stew or roast. It is also an ideal cut to make beef carpaccio. To do this just freeze and use a ham slicer.
Once you have the finished article, then everybody will be lining up for a slice, or two!
It can be a little time consuming and inconvenient to make the bresaola. You need space in your fridge to salt the beef, marinate it and then dry it. It can be annoying to other people you need to share the fridge with in the same household. But once you have the finished article, then everybody will be lining up for a slice, or two!
The method we use is inspired by a cook book we have by Steven Lamb and his team at the River Cottage. We really like the content they create through their publications and digital media. Very straightforward and simple in their way of explaining. Yet detailed and full of practical knowledge and insight.
WARNING: Prevent Cross-Contamination
Here is some basic advice we would like to share with you on trying this recipe. First of all, make sure you are working in a sterile environment. Throughout the process you are aging beef and the older it gets the meat can spoil. This can only happen due to cross-contamination which can easily be avoided. Ensure your work surface, containers and utensils are properly clean. You obviously need to wash your hands. Make sure you cover the meat at all times during refrigeration. And be a little patient and avoid peaking around your meat from day to day.
- Mortar and Pestle
- Plastic container with lid
- Muslin Cloth
- Butcher's String
- Butcher's Hook
- 4 kg Beef Eye-Round (lucerto)
- 75 cl Red Wine (We use the local Gellewza but a Merlot or Cabernet are just as good)
For the cure
- 120 grams Sea Salt (3% of weight of beef)
- 12 Sprigs Rosemary
- 12 Bay Leaves (torn)
- 1 Tbsp Black Peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp Red Peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp Green Peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp Juniper Berries
- 1 Tbsp Coriander Seed
- 1 Tbsp Fennel Seed
- 4 Cloves Garlic
- 1/2 Tsp Sodium Nitrate (optional)
- If this hasn't already been carried out by your butcher, ensure the beef is trimmed of any sinew or fat on the outside.
- Using the mortar and pestle, apart from the salt and sodium nitrate, roughly crush all the ingredient to make the cure. The aim is to release the natural oils and not to make a fine powder.
- Mix the crushed cure ingredients with the salt and sodium nitrate.The sodium nitrate is optional as it serves as a preservative to retain the red colour of the meat.
- Place the meat in a small container and coat it with the salt cure mix. With clean tongs turn a few times, cover the container with a lid or clingfilm and refrigerate.
- For the next 4 days turn the meat every day with clean tongs each time. You will notice that the salt will be drawing out the water within the meat. No need to discard the liquids.
- On the fifth day of curing, fill the container with the red wine and refrigerate. Marinate the beef in the red wine for 5 days turning the meat every day with clean tongs.It is important that the meat is fully covered with wine at all times. Consider using a smaller container or top up with more wine. Also you can weigh down the meat with a small plate.
- After 5 days of marinating, remove the beef from the wine brine and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Roll up the meat in a few layers of muslin cloth and tie it up with the butcher's string.The tighter you make the string the better to shape the meat.
- Using a butcher's hook, hang the rolled up meat in your fridge for the next 4 weeks.It is essential that the rolled meat makes no contact with other items in your fridge. This encourages cross-contamination and can spoil your meat.
- After 4 weeks hanging in your fridge, the meat will feel firmer and should be ready to be unwrapped.Unwrap the meat from the string and muslin cloth. You will notice white mould on the surface of the meat. As long as the mould has not turned green, you have nothing to worry about.To stop the growing of the mould we normally rub the finished bresaola with white vinegar. This cleans the surface from the mould and sterilises the bresaola.
- Slice thinly to serve and wrap with clingfilm and refrigerate to store.