Basturma

Let’s make basturma (pastirma). This Charcuterie comes all the way from the Middle East. Countries like Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, and Armenia (just to name a few) all have their own unique versions of this delicious cured beef that’s hung to air dry. Regardless of where you find it this air dried cured meat is heavily spiced and absolutely delicious.

In today’s recipe We are going to mix it up a little and break from tradition using some modern techniques and appliances that we have available to use. With that being said I will tell you that traditional basturma is generally made in the winter time where it’s cured with salt and hung to dry in an open area till it’s firm. Then a spice coating called “chaman” is placed around the dried beef and rehung till the coating has completely dried.

This often produces a basturma that is very salty, dries unevenly, with a texture that is firm and chewy. This recipe will show you how to avoid those inconsistencies and make a perfectly seasoned cured beef that dries evenly to produce a velvety bite with the perfect texture.

First and foremost we will be addressing the meat and the seasonings. Traditional basturma uses the eye of round cut. This is a great lean cut for curing and drying but I personally find the eye of round a little chewy so we will be using the filet mignon for this project. What I typically do is trim the filet to get rid of any silver skin and cut away any loose flaps of meat that might be hanging off the muscle. If you want to trim off the fat you can do that as well. I like to leave the fat on.. Once finished it’s time to cure the meat.

Curing the meat isn’t a complicated process. We will be using a technique called the equilibrium cure. What this means is that 100% of the cure mix that we will be adding will be used in curing the meat. This method allows us to perfectly season/cure our meat without any concern of over/under salting. What’s also great about this technique is that you can work at your own pace (meaning if you can’t get to the meat immediately and it needs to sit in the fridge a few more days you don’t need to worry about it becoming too salty). This is contrary to the alternative method called “Salt Boxing”. Salt boxing simply means you take a bunch of salt and encase your meat in it. We can talk about the 2 techniques in a different post.

Once our meat has been cured we begin the process of drying. Bastura essentially goes through 2 different drying processes. During the first drying phase we will be regulating the drying by covering our meat in a collagen sheet from the Sausage Maker. These sheets are just like your sausage casings but in a sheet form. They have micro perforations that allow your meat to dry at a slower rate which will allow the meat to really develop it’s flavor while keeping a soft and tender texture. These sheets are fairly large and should be cut to size.

Finally the drying chamber. Unlike traditional methods of making basturma we will be using a drying chamber in this recipe. Drying chambers are not very difficult to build and once you have one you can make all sorts of neat stuff like salami, cheese, wine, and the list goes on. To see the one I built you can check out my post: Building a salami chamber/cheese cave. My drying chamber is regulated to maintain a temperature of 55F and 80% humidity. This is going to be a great place to slowly dry our meat nice and evenly.

I hope you enjoy this week’s video and recipe. If you give this a go be sure to let me know how your came out and if you have any questions ask away in the comment section below.

Here are a few things you might find useful when making this recipe

Enjoy the video and the recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask away. If you make this at home I’d love to hear about how it came out!!

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Basturma

Armenian Charcuterie
Prep Time3 hrs
drying/curing time28 d
Total Time28 d 3 hrs
How much does your whole muscle weigh? 1000 grams

Ingredients

Meat

  • 1000 g beef tenderloin or use eye of round

For the Cure

For the Chaman Spice Coating

Instructions

  • Trim your filet mignon so that you are left with a whole piece. No flaps or loose pieces should be on your muscle. Remove the silver skin and remove the fat if you want a leaner basturma
  • Weigh your filet mignon and enter the weight in grams in the "servings" section of this recipe.
  • Combine all of the "cure" ingredients and rub them onto your meat. Be sure to include 100% of all the cure spices. Place the meat in a bag and vacuum seal it (or a zip lock bag and remove as much air as possible).
  • Once your meat has been vac sealed place it in a tray with a heavy weight on top (to achieve a flattened look) Place this in your refrigerator for 5 days. Be sure to turn the meat daily.
  • After 5 days your beef has been cured and you can remove it from the fridge. Wash off any excess seasonings, liquid, and blot dry with a paper towel. You want the meat to be moist and tacky.
  • Place the cured beef onto a collagen sheet and wrap. Prick out any air pockets that might have formed. Secure with elastic netting or butchers twine. Weigh the meat and record the weight.
  • Hang in a drying chamber that has a controlled temperature of 55F and a humidity of 80% till 25% of the weight has been lost.
  • After 25% weight has been lost it's time to prepare the spice coating. Combine all of the chaman (spice coating) ingredients in a bowl. Slowly add water till you achieve a paste like consistency.
  • Remove the casing from the cured beef and with a needle weave some butchers twine through the very top and tie a knot. This is how we will hang our bastura. Next spread a thin layer of the spice paste (⅛ inch) all over your basturma. Try to keep the spice paste as evenly spread as possible.
  • Once finished dip your fingers in some water and smooth the spice paste then hang your basturma to finish drying back in a drying chamber set to 55F and 80% rH. In here it will hang for another 2-3 weeks (it really depends on how big your muscle is. If you are using a large cut it may take a little longer). What you are looking for is your spice coating to completely dry out. Once that happens your basturma is ready to eat.. Enjoy.

Equalizing the basturma (optional)

  • after your basturma is finished you can equalize it by placing the dried meat in a vac sealed bag and removing all the air out of it. Then place it in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. This will allow the moisture levels that are in your basturma to equally redistribute throughout the meat. This often deepens the flavor and improves the texture of the final product.

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29 thoughts on “Basturma

  1. Basel Abdo
    Basel Abdo

    5 stars
    Thanks a lot for showing a professional way of doing basturma,
    I have couple questions in here:
    1- How can I air dry it without using the collagen sheets/knitting?
    2- After I cover it with Chamun, how can I air dry it without putting it in a modified fridge? I mean in the kitchen as an example.
    3- Is it possible to build a small chamber, like from cardboard or wood, or big container and hang it inside? because I’ve done it long time ago and I know the smell of fenugreek and garlic is unbearable, for my wife not for me 🙂

    Btw, I started doing it and now it’s in the curing process.
    Thanks a lot 🙂

    1. Eric
      Eric

      Thank you.
      1. You can air dry using a cheese cloth.
      2. After you add the spice past you can continue to dry in your kitchen if your kitchen or outside temperature is cool. If it’s too warm or dry the basturma will dry out too quickly leaving you with a very tough outer ring.
      3. Yes. A plastic box with a bin that has water in it or a few sponges will give you a pretty high humidity and shield the smell a little bit.

      The key to a great basturma though is cool temperature and high humidity. If you can find a place to have that you will be eating delicious basturma in no time 😁

  2. Douglas McMasters
    Douglas McMasters

    I’m curious about using Instacure #1 rather than #2. Could you explain your thoughts?

    1. Eric
      Eric

      Sure. It really all depends on how large your cut is. Mine took just under 30 days to complete so I used cure #1. If you have a large cut you can use Cure #2 in this recipe.

  3. Jeffrey A Gold
    Jeffrey A Gold

    It is advisable to vac seal the basturma after the spice rub dries? Can I also vac seal and freeze to preserve? I know that vac sealing with some spice rubs causes slime inside the package (think mold 600).

    1. Eric
      Eric

      Hi Jeffrey. You can vac seal this product with no slimy effect😁. Just make sure there’s no mold growth on the basturma..

  4. Dennis I
    Dennis I

    Eric – I need your help with cure time in order to select the right cure salt number. Can you confirm the 30-day cut-off for #1 vs #2 includes the “dry time” not just the initial salt cure? And secondly, do we add actual time in the refrigerator for the computation, or just the minimum cure time per the calculator? As you point out, the calculator could be 4 days whereas the actual days could be a month. Thanks in advance, you’ve got me hooked.

    1. Eric
      Eric

      The curing time starts the day you add the cure. So when you cure the meat and place it in the fridge that’s day 1. If by the time the muscle is finished drying it’s 33+ days or whatever, I would go with cure 2

  5. Peter
    Peter

    Hi Eric
    Shouldn’t the collagen be pricked before hanging in chamber?

    “Hang in chamber until paste is dried”seems arbitrary, should I count days?in your example above it took 23 days,,is this about average
    Any way to know what the total weight loss while in chamber?
    25% in first placement
    How much in. The second placement with paste?

    1. Eric
      Eric

      The collagen casing can be pricked to get rid of any air pockets. If you don’t have any air pockets you can prick or not.. Up to you. I’ve edited the instructions to reflect specific drying time. The issue comes down to meat size. Depending on the cut that you use will ultimately determine the amount of time it takes to finish. For me the most identifiable thing to look for is the spice coating. Once it is completely dry the muscle is ready. Could take 2-3 weeks maybe longer… You are looking for your meat to lose a total of 35% weight. That’s the sweet spot.

  6. EFE KIRMIZI
    EFE KIRMIZI

    Hi Eric

    I want to make this recipe without nitrite and nitrate.(only salt and other spices)
    Is it possible? I know normally we can do it, But in this recipe you used collagen sheet for bastuma. Is it cause low oxygen and prevent this or because of prick you made in bastuma can still make this possible?

    1. Eric
      Eric

      It is possible. The sheet allows the meat to breath so no worries there. Use 3% salt and whatever spices you like and you’ll be ok.

  7. EFE KIRMIZI
    EFE KIRMIZI

    Also, i wonder the reason why you vacuumed the meat at first: is it only because to increase the level of infusing the cure flavor into meat or is it because you don’t want to mess the humudity balance of your fridge? I am asking you because i have two seperate cooler rooms. One is only regular cooler room( between 0-4C). The other one is with the balance that you recommend. ( Humidity and all as you said ). I am asking because i am gonna produce it on a largely scale. I want to make it better. Vacuuming all those meat is time consuming. How much is this really necessary, Isn’t only putting in the regular cooler room (with the cure for sure) in order to get rid of the dirty blood enough ? After the loosing dirty blood in regular cooler room, i will contunie with the humidity room with your degrees and recipe. Thank you in advance.

    1. Eric
      Eric

      I vacuum seal it to better infuse the spices into the meat. Technically you don’t have to do that you just want to make sure oyu give the meat enough time to absorb the salts and spices. It needs to be done in you refrigerator (0-4). Once it’s cured it can be transferred to the humidity room

  8. Patrick McPherson
    Patrick McPherson

    Do you have a range of time it will take to reduce the weight by 25% if our chamber is 55F and 80% RH? I realize it probably depends on the size of the meat. Maybe a better way to put it is how often should I weigh it?

    Thanks!

    1. Eric
      Eric

      I generally weigh mine every 5-7 days. Depending on the size it should only take 3-4 weeks (maybe less)

  9. John Mefrige
    John Mefrige

    So if someone is going to use the dry age wraps (not the collagen wraps) in the fridge, how would I modify the process? Specifically, dealing with the rind and the outer spice covering given that I will be aging in a fridge. Thanks

    1. Eric
      Eric

      I haven’t tried this yet, but I would imagine if you added the spice coating at the beginning (after the meat has been cured), then wrapped the whole thing in a dry aging wrap and placed in the fridge. It might work. The thing I’m not sure about is if the spice coating would prevent the meat from drying properly.. If you try this before me, let me know..

  10. Patrick McPherson
    Patrick McPherson

    So my basturma has had the spice rub on for a couple weeks and I was about to vaccum pack it to redistribute the moisture, when I noticed some white mold. I saw you told someone else not to vacuum pack it if it has mold. Is this normal? What steps should I take? Thanks!

    1. Eric
      Eric

      I would just rub a little vinegar on the mold to kill it, then I would vac seal it.

      1. Amelia Powell
        Amelia Powell

        I have the same problem
        How can I send you some pics to get advise? Not sure if is good or bad mold

        1. Eric
          Eric

          Wipe it down with some vinegar to get rid of the mold.

  11. Glenn
    Glenn

    Eric,
    Thank you for your great content. I closely followed your Basturma recipe, and I am now in the home stretch. Recently, I noticed just a couple of white patches on the meat. I have never used penicillium nalgiavense for my charcuterie, but I am wondering if my drying chamber has become self-innoculated. This just doesn’t look like the typical white patches I see on your charcuterie. I wish I could include a phote, but it seems I can’t on this email. Thanks and looking forward to more content.

    1. Eric
      Eric

      Send me an email through my contact tab and I’ll shoot you a place to send me a picture..

  12. Johann
    Johann

    5 stars
    Hi Eric – I’m planning to try this as John Mefirge mentioned above, in the fridge (I don’t have a regular drying chamber). If you’ve given this a go in the fridge as yet, please give your thoughts?

    One question that occurs to me with beef (here for basturma, also for bresola and biltong, which I haven’t yet attempted) is the age of the muscle. Does it matter?

    Consider that a cryovac packed beef tenderloin bought today (10 April) will have a “use by” date that is 5-7 weeks from today. When I buy cryovac’d muscle like tenderloin or cryovac’d subprimals to break down, I usually let them get closer to that use-by date before I break them down. My thinking is that the “wet aging” is helpful for tenderness and flavor. Not quite the same as dry aging, but I think it helps.

    Now translate this into whole muscle charcuterie. Have you tested “new” muscle vs. muscle that sat in the fridge in the original cryovac pack until it was close to the use-by date? I’m just wondering if letting it go until the last week of the use-by time prior to curing would make for a more flavorful eventual salumi.

    Thanks! again for providing all this fantastic info!

    P.S. You have another Johann posting (surname Herbst) – I just wanted to clarify that I am not that person. I do realize now that I’ve sometimes used Johan (one N) and Johann (2 Ns). Sorry for any confusion!

    1. Eric
      Eric

      I haven’t done any testing but maturing (aging) the meat is never a bad thing😁. I personally like the flavor development. Might have to be something I experiment with

      On another note, I’m actually making a basturma right now in my fridge. Today I’m coating it with the spice blend.. So far so good!!

      1. Johann
        Johann

        Thanks Eric, great to know. Please come back and let us know how it goes. I’m behind you quite a bit with respect to time – my basturma (tenderloin version) is going in to start the first (25%) drying tomorrow using the steak dry aging wraps.

        I also am putting a bresaola in to start drying at the same time (also using the dry aging wraps) – I’m using the eye of round but did not dry age it as in your recipe. Instead, it was near the end of its sell by date so we’ll see how that goes.

        I’ve also done Lomo Curado, Copocollo, and the Calbrian tenderloin. I’m finding that my old fridge is rather extreme in both temps (very low) and humidity levels (also very low). So the meats are either getting to desired % moisture loss with a hard rind, which you’ve discussed with others, or even getting to the point where daily moisture loss after about 30% loss is so low that I’ve decided to bag for equilibration (still in the dry aging wraps) for a few weeks then continue drying thereafter. I’ll report back how that goes, after about 3 weeks or so. For all of them I did sample a few thin slices and the flavors on the Lomo and Capocollo are just super. I only need to try to get rid of the dry rind by equilibrating.

        The thing here for readers to understand is that refrigerators differ a LOT in there humidity levels. I think that although your refrigerator-reconfigured recipes may work for some, the real solution is to build a humidity-controlled chamber as you show in that video. If I continue with making meats this way, I’m convinced that’s the better avenue. The other alternative is to put a warm water bath in the fridge a couple of times a day to increase humidity and avoid that over-quick drying that seems to be common with refrigerator drying.

  13. Christopher J. Hussussian
    Christopher J. Hussussian

    I see mention of curing salt #1 in the comments and in “things you may find useful”, but I don’t see where it is used in the recipe. Most basturma recipes I find do not use nitrates but the best basturma I have tasted includes them in the recipe. I would assume they are added in the initial cure but I don’t see an amount. Do you use these curing salts in your recipe? Thanks!

    1. Eric
      Eric

      In this recipe it’s optional but if you wanted to add the curing salt, I would reduce the salt level to 2.5% and add .25% cure #1. Do this during the initial curing step

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