It is served in Italy as an antipasto sliced very thinly, so thin you can almost see through it (1 – 1.5 mm.)
Bresaola is very moist, not leathery. It used to be much drier than it is now, but production techniques have changed to create a moister, softer product.
The meat can come from the sirloin, the rump or the round cuts of beef.
Not all the beef used is actually Italian beef. Much of it is imported from South America, and then processed in Italy.
It can also be made from horse meat. Bresaola made from horse will be sweeter and darker.
Its importation from Italy into America was banned for some years.
You can’t cut Bresaola the proper thinness at home. You have to have it sliced for you at the deli with their slicing machines.
There is also a smoked version of Bresaola called “Bresaola Affumicata.” It is produced in Val Chiavenna, Lombardy. The meat is dry salted for 10 days, then smoked for 12 hours with smoke from pine sawdust, then dried and aged for around 2 months.
The two best-known versions are Bresaola della Valtellina and Bresaola of Val d’Ossola. Della Valtellina is better known, because it got PGI status for itself, but Val d’Ossola has actually been made longer.
Bresaola della Valtellina
Made in Lombardy, in Valtellina e Val Chiavenna.
Bresaola della Valtellina is made from rear cuts of beef. Though spices vary by maker, in general pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and ground garlic are mixed with salt. Sodium, potassium nitrate, and ascorbic acid may also be added. The mixture is rubbed onto the meat. The meat is let cure 10 days, during which time it is rubbed frequently with more of the salt and spice mixture.
It is then bagged and dried at 68 to 86 F (20 to 30 C,) then air dried at 54 to 65 F (12 to 18 C) and aged at least 1 month, up to 2 months.
Bresaola della Valtellina comes out bright red and isn’t gummy at all; it won’t stick to a slicing knife or blade.
The meat was awarded PGI status in 1 July 1996. In May 1998 a consortium board was created to control the production.
Bresaola of Val d’Ossola
Made in Piedmont, Italy.
In Bresaola of Val d’Ossola the salt is mixed with cinnamon, cloves, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, juniper, white wine, and sugar, and rubbed into the meat. It’s cured for 15 days, and repeatedly rubbed with the salt mixture. Then, it’s bagged, dried 15 days and aged 3 to 4 months.
The meat comes out a purple red.
In Piedmont, Bresaola of Val d’Ossola is often referred to as “salted meat” (“carne salata.”)
Bresaola does not need cooking.
You eat Bresaola as part of an assortment of starters, or perhaps as a starter on its own. Many people like it just spread out to cover a plate, and served with bread.
Others like to drizzle some olive oil on it, and or sprinkle some grated cheese such as Grana Padano or Parmesan.
Some like pepper, salt and lemon juice as well (purists blanch at the suggestion of lemon.)
Allow about 1 oz / 30 g of Bresaola per person.
Store Bresaola in the fridge well-wrapped for up to 1 week, unless it’s purchased in a package that directs otherwise.