Aside from preserving the meat, curing is also about applying different flavours. When looking around for inspiration I came across the idea of flavouring salt with red wine. It is essentially as easy as it sounds to do and there are loads of different recipes available; this is what worked for me. Part of the process involves reducing the wine which concentrates and enhances the flavour. Everyone knows that red wine goes really well with red meat, so using wine infused salt in curing gives the end product a rich, robust flavour while also transferring that amazing colour. The choice of wine comes down to personal preference and budget. I would recommend going with the nicest wine you can get within your budget; reducing the wine removes the water and concentrates the flavour so you’ll want something that is going to taste good.
1 Cup course salt or rock salt
3 Cups of red wine or a 750ml bottle of wine
Pour all of the wine into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil.
Reduce to a gentle simmer – you don’t want the heat too high or it will burn the sugar in the wine and give it a bitter flavour.
Stir the wine regularly to make sure there are no little sticky spots forming on the bottom of the pot.
The wine will begin to thicken up and become syrupy. Closely watch at this point as you can go from ‘nearly ready’ to burnt very quickly. When it is ready you will see a clear path left behind the spoon as you are stirring it. This process will take about 15-20 minutes.
A coarse salt works best for this recipe. If your salt crystals are larger than you would like you can break it down in a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or blender. Ideally you would still have some size to the crystals otherwise what salt will dissolve when you mix it with what wine and you’ll just end up with a salty syrup.
As soon as your wine syrup is ready, take the saucepan off the stove and stir in the salt. Make sure that the wine syrup is evenly mixed through the salt and all of the crystals are completely covered.
Transfer the wine and salt mixture to a lined sheet tray (you don’t have to use the paper if you don’t want to, it just means that you’ll have a super sticky tray to clean at the end.
Spread the mixture evenly across the tray(s), creating a layer as thin as possible.
Sit the tray in a warm dry area. Stir the mixture from time to time to make sure it dries evenly and the salt crystals don’t clump together. Air drying can take a couple of days but you can heat dry in an oven if you prefer; set your oven to the lowest temperature and mix every 15-30 minutes over a couple of hours. If possible keep the door slightly ajar to let any moisture out and monitor closely because if it gets too hot your salt mixture can burn. Easier still, if you have a dehydrator you can use that; the time will depend on the heat settings available.
Store the finished mixture in an airtight container. I made this specifically for a bresaola cure, but you can use it for anything you would normally use salt for. You can break the crystals down to smaller pieces in a grinder or mortar and pestle if required. I think it would be especially good with steak or as a seasoning on a roast.