In a previous post on Cured Meats 6 different recipes were attempted. Three of those were tested this week as they appeared to be ready.
The River Cottage Pastrami was excellent with large crunchy pieces of herbs and spices still attached to the exterior. The only variation to the recipe was the exclusion of two steps. The cold smoking was bypassed as Jean felt that it may introduce unnecessary carcinogens into her diet. Since she is the only meat eater in the family that seemed a fair request. Also skipped was the simmering in salted water. The meat was dry cured sufficiently that it didn't need any cooking. Taste wise it was excellent with good herbal flavours and textures and not excessively salty.
The River Cottage Biltong was also excellent, not too dry and chewy. And when sliced thinly melted in the mouth.
The Leith's Meat Bible's Bresaola was also quite good but a little over salty. The fault here may have been not adjusting the salt volume to the meat weight. The piece of beef used was quite thick and the central part was still well coloured. The feeling was that a good rinse with water to remove some excess salt and hanging for another month would provide a more well rounded flavour.
Once the samples had been shaved off and tasted the next step was to thinly slice, vacuum pack and freeze. There was far too much meat for one person to consume in just a few weeks. After some investigation it was clear that the cheapest vacuum packers can be of dubious quality. The other conclusion was that purchasing a vacuum packer made little sense if it was not used frequently.
The vacuum packer was easy to borrow as the boss at our work property had purchased a good quality unit a couple of years previously. We did purchase replacement bags with the conclusion that this is an expensive way to store food. The positive side was that the bags can be cleaned and reused although a little bit shorter each time once the seal was cut off. The cost of borrowing was a few sample packs.
The electric meat slicer was more of an issue. It is something that is not used frequently. There are cheap ones available but being unsure of how well they performed we preferred to borrow one to test the quality. Extensive communication with friends yielded no result and then by chance we came across a former work colleague who had a very old, high quality, restored Hobart commercial slicer. And what a gem it was. All three cured meats were sliced paper thin with ease.
The former work colleagues had become enamoured by meat curing and were heavily involved in making all forms of flavoured, air dried and smoked meats. This including constructing smoking and drying facilities with thermostatically controlled fans and burners. A pleasant couple of hours of slicing and cleaning was followed by lunch. We left with not only a pile of our own sliced and vacuum packed meat but also various samples of their sausages. A pleasant way to spend half a day.
As an aside these people also had an new Aldi slicer which they were about to throw out as it was completely useless for cutting cured meats. Just too flimsy for these drier cuts leaving a ragged edge and not robust enough to produce consistent thin cuts. So it seems size and quality do make a difference in certain areas.
In another month or so the remaining three larger cuts of meat using three other recipes will be due for testing.