Ben and Sarah are keeping a couple of steers on our property. One is black and white, and the other is mostly brown with a little bit of white. He’s got short horns that stick out straight from his head. I’m not exactly sure what breed this one is but I’ll have to ask Ben to see if he knows. Both of them bellow when they see us, expecting to be fed.
Ben and Sara have five new Red Angus calves in a fenced field near their home. These are drop-calves that must be bottle-fed twice a day. The one wear a blue jacket was sickly and needed special nurturing by Sara, include a night inside. Sara was also taking care of Maddox (our German Shepherd), and she reported that Maddox would not stop barking at the calf, driving her half-mad.
The coat of the Red Angus is especially beautiful.
I had a good look at the steer this morning as I came to feed him and the sheep. Needless to say, he had a good look at me, too. He was wondering why it took me so long.
On Sunday was our apple harvest party. Despite it being an off-year for the apple crop, we made enough cider for everyone to have some. We had the cider press going for several hours. I have about ten gallons in a carboy to ferment as hard cider. Joe took a carboy of last year’s hard cider and raised it up to the “next level”.
I made a French-style beef stew (daube), a vast amount of salsa, assorted rounds of goat cheese, an argula salad with cherry tomatoes and lemon cucumbers and pasta with a fresh sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. In short, the goal was to use as many of the remaining tomatoes as possible. I tapped a keg of American Ale that I had brewed in the spring. Nancy made zucchini bread, congo bars and corn bread — however, we forgot to put the cornbread out.
John stopped by with his house-truck and gave us tours of his nice wooden house built on the bed of an Isuzu truck. He just left Oregon and he’s off for six months traveling around America with his four-wheel residence.
Sunday was a beautiful sunny day. We had lots of young kids around, enjoying themselves, the dogs and the pool. Lots of friends dropped by to share some food and conversation.
I was too busy to take photos. However, the last thing to be made was a pear tart by Chris and Kim Collett. They poached the pears in red-wine then covered it with a pastry crust and baked it. The tart wasn’t finished baking until everyone had left so Nancy and I enjoyed it after cleaning up. Incredible. I had to take a picture of it, although the photo doesn’t suggest how good it was.
The River Cottage MEAT Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a recipe for making bresaola, an Italian air-cured beef. I had never tried curing meat before and I was intrigued. I chose two cuts of top round from the freezer — meat from our own grass-fed steer.
I began by creating a marinade for the meat with a bottle of red wine and 1-2 pounds of salt. I believe those are the two essential ingredients. Additional spices can be added such as fresh rosemary, garlic, cloves, pepper and zest from lemons and oranges. I put each piece of meat in a ziploc bag, divided the marinade between them and then put them in the refrigerator. I turned the bags over once or twice a day for about a week.
Then, the meat was ready to be air-cured. I removed the meat from the marinade, patted it dry, and then wrapped it several times in cheesecloth. I tied a string around each piece of meat for hanging it easily.
The next challenge is to find a place to air-dry the meat for a period from 10 days to two months. Fearnley-Whittingstall says to hang it in a “cool and draughty place (such as outbuilding or covered porch).” I chose an area off of a sun porch.
I let the meat cure for two months and it was ready just before Christmas. Over this time, the meat becomes hard, as its water evaporates. Checking on the meat over this period of time, I could tell the difference as the meat changed from soft and spongy to rock-hard.
I bought an electric slicer to cut it as thinly as possible. I don’t know if it would be possible to cut it with a knife without hacking it to bits.
I arranged the thin slices on a plate, as below, and sprinkled a little lemon juice over them. You can use it as part of an antipasto platter.
I liked the taste and the texture. It’s similar, of course, to other cured meats such as prosciutto, which is made from pork, but it’s darker and a bit musty.
What fascinates me is that curing meats was an old-world way of preserving meat. It doesn’t involve cooking the meat at all. Today, it’s an arcane practice rather than a necessary way of storing food. Yet making bresaola is satisfying and produces a quite distinctive taste from a rather ordinary cut of beef.