The best dry cured beef – ever!
I saw this principle in a program snippet of on of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programs, and thought that I should try it.
The principle was simple – good beef should be cured for at least a month or so to be tasty, tender and good. Which is why wet-cured or dry-cured beef is so expensive. But, as I stay on a farm, I buy cheap cuts. I bought a bulk pack of sirloin for R69 per kg. The “aged” beef was R127 per kilo. But, I had a trick up my sleeve and just couldn’t wait to try it.
Dry-curing is where you simply cover the meat with a mixture of salt, sugar and white pepper, and it draws out the moisture from the meat and, at the same time, ages it. Quickly.
The mixture was (in relation) – 1 cup salt, 2 cups sugar and 1 tablespoon white pepper. I made less than this.
Then, simply cover both sides of the meat with the dry mix and let it rest for a few hours. I rested mine for a day. After covering the meat, I packed it in a baking tray on top of a metal rack (so it doesn’t touch the bottom of the tray), and then packed the top of the meat with about quarter of a centimeter of mix.
I put it in the oven we don’t use to keep it away from animals and the maid (who would most probably have put it in the fridge, thrown it away, washed it or filed it in the library. With her, you never know. With respect, of course). When I took it out, the tray was full of watery red juice and the meat was considerably smaller. I rinsed the meat under a running tap (no, I did not have to chase after it). Interestingly, the meat was a bit salty (next time I would use coarse salt, not fine), but not sweet. It is as if the sugar does not penetrate the meat, but the salt does.
Alex did his beautiful mushroom sauce and we flash-fried the steaks in a smoking hot pan. It seared to golden brown in seconds, and I cooked it for less than two minutes per side. They must never touch each other, so do it in batches. I then rested them for about a minute, we covered/ smothered them in mushroom sauce and meal done!
And I have to say, on its own it was a little salty, but with the sauce it was well balanced. And it was decidedly the best steak I have ever had. Ever.
It was incredibly tender and it was as if the taste was concentrated to perfection. I will never buy aged steak. I will buy cheap cuts and age them myself.