Salt beef (also known as 'Bresaola') is a sandwich favourite.
Salt beef may be a labour of love – needing to soak in a pickling mixture for seven days – but once salted and cooked, the once tough brisket is so tender, it literally falls apart to become one of the best sandwich fillings. When soaking the beef brisket in the pickling mixture, it’s important turn the beef so that it cures evenly. The brine combines coriander seeds with juniper berries to give the beef brisket depth of flavour. Although the saltpetre (potassium nitrate) in the recipe is optional, it is this traditional ingredient that will give the salted beef that lovely appetising purple pink colour. See our top tip for where to find it.
- 300g soft light brown sugar
- 350g coarse sea salt
- 2tsp black peppercorns
- 2tsp juniper berries
- 1tbsp coriander seeds
- 6 bay leaves
- 1tbsp mustard seeds
- 50g saltpetre (optional)
- 2kg piece beef brisket
- 1 large carrot, cut into large chunks
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 celery stick, cut into chunks
- 1 leek, cut into chunks
- Handful of parsley stalks
- 6 unpeeled garlic cloves
Place the sugar, salt, peppercorns, juniper berries, coriander seeds, 4 bay leaves, mustard seeds and saltpetre in a very large pan. Add 2 litres water and bring to the boil, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 2 mins. Remove from the heat and leave until cold.
Pierce the piece of beef all over with a skewer. Place in a large clean heavy duty polythene bag or a sterilized plastic food tub. Add the cold spiced liquid and seal the bag or cover the container, making sure the meat is covered by the liquid. Leave in a cool place or fridge for 7 days, turning the bag everyday.
Rinse the meat thoroughly in cold water then roll up and tie with string. Place in a large pan with the vegetables, parsley stalks, remaining bay leaves and garlic. Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 21/2 hrs until meltingly tender. Leave to cool in the cooking liquid then cut into thick slices or tear into pieces with two forks.
Top tips for making salt beef
Where you leave the beef brisket while pickling is very important – make sure you leave it in a cool place or in the fridge for the seven days it’s resting in the liquid. During this time it's also important that you turn it everyday to make sure the brine soaks through the whole beef brisket.
Bresaola is delicious piled onto bagels or rye bread with plenty of pickles and mustard. Cooked salt beef will keep in the fridge for a week.
Traditionally saltpetre or potassium nitrite is used in the salting mixture to keep the meat pink. Youcan buy it from some sausage-making websites, or even Amazon.