Thursday, March 3, 2011

Venison Bresaola

Photo is in the public domain

"Bresaola is air-dried salted beef that has been aged 2-3 months until it becomes a dark red, almost purple color. It is usually made from very lean beef top round. 

Served as an antipasto, bresaola is usually sliced paper thin and served at room temperature or slightly chilled. It is most commonly eaten on its own, but may be drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, and served with rocket (rucola, arugula) salad, cracked black pepper, and freshly shaved Parmesan cheese. The similarity to carpaccio, which is made from raw beef, results in that name being used (incorrectly) for bresaola dishes as well." ~ Wiki

I started my first bresaola with 2 pieces of venison on January 13th, 2011. The total weight of the 2 pieces was 1000 grams (a little over 2 pounds). All the instructions I have read suggest that it is a waste of time to try and cure a bresaola weighing less than 3 pounds (in one piece) and that it cures best if it is a rounded tube in shape.

As you can see, I ignored the suggestions because it's what I had available!

Here's my recipe:
Salt: 20g Coarse sea salt
Sugar: 20g Demerara sugar
Cure #2: 2.7g
Coarse Cracked Black pepper: ½ tsp
Dried rosemary: ½ tsp
Dried Thyme: ½ tsp
Crushed juniper berries: ½ heaping tsp.
Nutmeg: about 3 grinds
Ascorbic acid: pinch
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of half an orange
Note: I intended to use dark Muscovada sugar, but I picked up the wrong package off my pantry shelf. It won't matter except it won't have a slight molasses overtone.

The cure was mixed together and half was thoroughly rubbed all over both pieces of venison, and refrigerated in a lidded plastic container. The venison was turned and massaged daily for 6-7 days, then rinsed and the other half the cure applied.

After another 7 days of turning and massaging daily, the meat felt rather dense and somewhat resistant to finger pressure, compared to the initial feel. I rinsed both pieces thoroughly in cold water, and put on a baking rack to air dry for about 3 hours. (Jan. 27th)

Next, I weighed them; they were down to 946g from the initial 1000g, showing a loss of some moisture during the refrigerated cure. Once they felt dry to the touch, I wrapped then in a double layer of cheesecloth. It was suggested to lightly coat with olive oil to keep them from the outside drying out too much and forming a hard "skin". I compromised by oiling just one so I can learn any difference it might make, if any.

On Jan. 27th I hung them in my root cellar, where the temps stay between 34-40ºF and the humidity stays around 70-75%. After one week, the one I didn't oil had lost 11% of its weight. They need to lose about 30% to be considered "finished". (I neglected to weigh the other one after I oiled it before hanging, so I have no idea what moisture loss it has experienced.)

Update, Valentine's Day: The uncoated bresaola has lost 27% of its weight by today. I am sorely tempted to unwrap it and slice a bit... BUT I'm equally determined to do this "by the book" if possible. Both still smell great. As best I can estimate, the olive oil coated one has lost only about 12% of it's weight. So it is definitely aging more slowly. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen! 

I'll be back with a new post and photos of the finished product (good, bad or otherwise) in a few more days, when the loss reaches 30%!

Update: The bresaola reached the target weight while this post was in the queue, so here it is. The surface developed a lovely, very fine white mold, like the dry-cured Italian salumi get... and it smells like a really great (and expensive) cheese! (It's very difficult to slice it thin enough; I may have to take it to a deli counter.) It is really tasty, worth ALL the effort... YUM!

(I also brought in the olive-oil coated one, and unwrapped it. The very top portion where the oil had drained away was pretty hard. I cut off that portion, re-wrapped it sans oil, and hung it back in the cellar for a few days. I don't think it will develop as nicely as the uncoated one, though.)

ps, Jason Molinari posted some nice photos of his Breasaola di Cervo (Deer Bresaola) here.


  1. that looks splendtabulously delicious! I need to try it.. reminds me of the beef in mexico .. have never found it anywhere else

  2. I don't know if it is like what you remember or not... but it;s the best smelling thing to pass under my nose in years! Taste is as good as the smell, too.


I'd love to hear what you think about my posts! We all learn together.