What is beef dried meat (Cecina) and how many types are there?
Cecina is a type of dehydrated meat similar to ham of a Spanish origin, but made by curing beef, equine and less frequently goat meat, and even rabbit, donkey, ox or hare meat. In Spain, there are two Protected Geographical Indications of this product: Cecina de León, extracted from the cow and cecina from Vegacervera, extracted from the goat (baby goat).
Today we will focus on the cecina de León for being the most popular.
Although it has been cataloged since 1994 as a Protected Geographical Indication, history tells us that the Cecina from León has had great importance throughout the centuries in the province. In fact, Lucio Julio Columela (4th century AD) has already picked it up in his pages on the "Treaty of agriculture" (Tratado de Agricultura), as would also appear on fable fable VIII "The mouse of the court and the Field" (El ratón de la Corte y el Campo) by Felix María de Samaniego, or in universal works of Spanish Literature as in “El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha” by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.
The characteristics of the Leon orography allow the breeding of native breeds and help in the subsequent elaboration, drying and wind healing of the meat, especially in the northern half where the altitude is greater than 800 m.
Characteristics of the cecina
- To obtain it, four parts of the selected leg quarters of the cow are used: cover, stifle, contra and hip. These must be a minimum of five years of age and a minimum live weight of 400 kilograms.
- Once the pieces have been selected, the healing process is divided into six stages:
Profiling: allows adjusting the shape of the pieces.
Salted: common salt is added to the piece of meat to contribute to dehydration of the pieces and their perfect preservation, in addition to contributing to the development of the typical color and aromas of cured products. This process duration is equivalent to the weight of the product, which minimum is 0.3 days and a maximum of 0.6 days per kg of weight.
Washing: it is done with warm water to remove the adhered salt.
Settlement: it is done to eliminate the combined water, so that the salt penetrates in a homogeneous and uniform way, producing hee characteristic microflora and channel the biochemical processes of enzymatic hydrolysis that will give its aroma and flavor. This phase lasts between one month and 45 days.
Smoked: in this phase, oak wood is used. This phase lasts between 12 and 16 days.
Drying: this is the last stage, pieces are classified according to weight and shape. This phase is carried out in natural dryers equipped with windows with adjustable aperture that allows both temperature and humidity control until pieces mature.
The whole process has a minimum length of seven months and can reach up to 22 months from the date of salting.
The appearance and final color of the cecina will always be of toasted and brown tones, similar to those of ham, with a little salty flavor a characteristic aroma due to the effect of smoking during the ripening process and without fibrous consistency. Although in its appearance and elaboration it may seem ham, cecina and hams have nothing to do in taste.
What do we know about its properties?
Beef is necessary for healthy growth, cellular replacement and the realization of body functions. In addition, cecina has a high protein and low fat content: for each 100 grams consumed, 39 grams are protein, and only 9.5 grams are fat. It also contains minerals such as calcium, iron, sodium, zinc, potassium and phosphorus, as well as B vitamins such as folic acid.
Cecina in other countries
Although the cecina has Spanish origin, it is also a product consummed in other countries such as Mexico, where it is dried in the sun, with salt and lemon and wrapped in a roll. The cecina huasteca, the cecina ranchera and the cecina Toluca styled stand out.
In Italy, it is known as bresaola, although it is less tasty and with less healing time than our cecina. In this case, they have a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI): Bresaola della Valtellina, from the region of Lombardy (Italy).
In Paraguay, the healing process differs from that of the cecina de León in which the meat is cutted into long strips 2 centimeters wide and hung in an airy place to dry. Once dried, they are stored, and they can be salted or seasoned with sour orange juice.
We hope we have helped solve the doubts, and now, would you try the Cecina de León?