Drying is one of the most ancient ways of preserving food. In all times preserving meat in various climates and conditions was an issue to resolve, especially in areas where temperatures are high most part of the year. Long trips and voyages also required a good stock of food rich in proteins as well as saving meat for seasons when food was scarce or wild animals hard to hunt. So people started to dry meats first for their domestic needs and later for travel and sale.
Now it is hard to trace the first recipes of meat drying, but the very fact, that this food processing technology still remains nowadays and is in use worldwide, speaks for itself.
There are plenty of dried meat recipes variations throughout the world. Poultry, beef, or more “exotic” horse and goat meat, goose, deer and boar meats are used for drying in various countries as part of national cuisine. Dried meat is quite a healthy diet food as it is usually produced from lean fresh meat, which means it is low in fat and, consequently, in cholesterol or calories.
Some of the most popular names include:
- American and British jerky, beef trimmed of fat, cut into strips, marinated, and dried.
- Cecina, lightly smoked, dried, and salted meat from Spain
- Pastırma, Turkish air-dried salted and spiced meat.
- Rougan, Chinese salty-sweet dried meat sheets.
- Bindenfleisch, air-dried meat made in Switzerland.
- Bresaola, air-dried salted beef originally from the Valtellina valley in northern Italy.
- Carne-de-sol, sun-dried salt beef from Brazil.
Borts, air-dried strips horse or cow meat was used as travel food or to last the winter in Mongolia. It is often grounded into powder and mixed with water to create soup.
Dried meat is popular in Taiwan where it is made from beef and called “Jougan”. It is spiced with soy sauce, dried till it is covered with thick crust and then dried again in an oven. Meat juices stay inside.
Jerky, low-temperature air-dried meat, is widely used in USA and Europe, where it was known after Napoleon wars. The recipe was borrowed by the Europeans from the Quechua people (the Indian word ch’arki means “dried, salted meat”) who dried meat as survival food. Since 1996, jerky has been selected by astronauts as space food several times for space flight due to its light weight and high level of nutrition.
Biltong originated in Southern Africa and is produced from various types of meat, ranging from beef and game meats to fillets of ostrich from commercial farms. Biltong is dried and subsequently sliced whereas jerky is sliced prior to drying. The meat is first marinated in a mix of salt, brown sugar, pepper and coriander and then is air-dried for several days. The classic recipe was born in the bush of Southern Africa and then improved by the Dutch colonists in the 17th century by using vinegar and spices.
Basturma or Pastrima dried beef is popular in countries that used to form Osman Empire and in Russian southern regions. Whole-muscle salted fillet is put under pressure to dehydrate, then it is then covered with a cumin paste called çemen (lit., ‘fenugreek’) prepared with crushed cumin, fenugreek, garlic, and hot paprika, followed by thorough air-drying. Cured meat has been made in Anatolia for centuries, since at least the Byzantine period, and called apokti.
Wherever dried meat technologies are used this product is considered a delicacy of extra-class thanks to its nutrition values and remarkable taste.