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Bresaola at a Glance
Valtellina, Northern Italy, South Central Europe
Type of Charcuterie
Dry Cured Meat
Beef sirloin, kosher salt, sugar, curing salt, black pepper, garlic, spices such as juniper berries, marjoram, sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano
Lomo, lonzino, apokti, pastrima, bindenfleisch, brisaola, bresaola della Valtellina
Bresaola is an Italian salumi that is dry cured and air dried. It originates from South Central Europe in the alps of the Northern Italy in Valtellina valley. This charcuterie product has long been a traditional product of the region. However, it only became popular throughout the rest of Italy after the Second World War and throughout the rest of the world in the 1960's.
Where the name Bresaola comes from is not exactly clear. Some say that the term comes from the local word "brasa" which means embers or coals. Early production of this preserved meat included drying it in charcoal chambers. Other accounts of the words origin trace it back to the term "brisa" which was used to describe a salty bovine gland. The term brisaola was coined and eventually became bresaola.
The production process for this traditional charcuterie begins with an entire beef muscle taken from lean cuts with all the fat trimmed off. A rub is made out of salt, sugar, curing salt, pepper, garlic and spices. The combination of spices may vary from region to region. This is then liberally massaged onto the meat while any excess is saved.
The meat is left to cure for several weeks. Any liquid that builds up must be poured out and the spices re-applied. After the curing period the meat is stuffed into casings then air dried for several weeks more.
The finished Bresaola may resemble prosciutto in appearance with a bright to deep red color that may have some hints of purple in it and no traces of fat. As a whole the meat is firm but once it is sliced thinly the texture is soft and delicate. Its smell is usually musty and slightly sweet, while its flavor is similar to, but stronger than prosciutto.
The most common way that Bresaola is served is as an antipasto. The thin slices are drizzled with olive oil, lemon and black pepper. This may also be served with arugula and cheese to make a salad. Given the versatile taste, Bresaola may also be used in many different ways.