With so many different styles of dried meats in the world, each one with its own nuances, understanding the differences can be intimidating. We are setting out to discover some of the world's most popular dried meats and what makes them different.
Of course we have to start with Biltong. Originally from South Africa, Biltong is a cured, dried meat first created by the indigenous people. Europeans arrived in South Africa and introduced vinegar and spices like coriander, and just like that, Biltong was born. Read the full history here.
Since we mentioned Europe, let's start this series with some dried meats from Italy, Spain, and France:
Bresaola is an Italian delicacy made from a single muscle of beef. This salted, cured meat is mainly produced in Valtellina, a valley located in northern Italy's Lombardy region. It's estimated that 13,000 tons of bresaola are made annually, with as many as 8,000 of these tons being produced for exportation. Top-quality bresaola is made from heart of topside, but this meat can also be made from silverside or eye of round. The production process consists of manually massaging the meat, salting it with a spice mix, and stuffing the spiced meat into natural or synthetic casings. The bresaolas are then placed in humidity-controlled rooms and allowed to air-dry. This world-famous product can be enjoyed on its own, used as a sandwich filling, or wrapped around persimmons and arugula for a palate-pleasing appetizer.
Lomo embuchado, or "lomo", is a popular type of cured pork tenderloin produced mainly in Spain and South America. This dry-cured product is made by rubbing salt, garlic, and pimento into the loin before placing it into a temperature- and humidity-controlled chamber to cure. Similar to cecina in taste, lomo embuchado can be enjoyed alone or with a strong Spanish cheese like Manchego.
Typically produced near the Pyrenees -- a mountain range in southwestern Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain -- jambon de bayonne is the most popular type of French ham. Jambon de bayonne is produced from one of eight distinct breeds of pig raised in an area spanning from northern France's Deux Sèvres to Aude et Aveyron. Traditionally, the pigs were slaughtered in early November. The meat was then rubbed with salt and hung to dry in a drying chamber until early February. While the curing process has changed with modern technology, the principles behind the production of this cured meat have remained unchanged. Today, drying chambers with humidity and temperature controls are used to cure most of the jambon de bayonne enjoyed worldwide.