Cured alpaca is something that I have been wanting to do for quite some time. Getting alpaca meat in Tasmania, however, proved to be somewhat of a challenge. I spent a fair bit of time searching online to try and find a supplier. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally found an alpaca farm in South Australia that breeds alpacas for meat. The farm is called Fleurieu Prime Alpaca (check them out here); with a bit of correspondence back and forth with the owner, I was able to get alpaca meat sent to Tasmania. Fleurieu Prime Alpaca produce a high quality lean meat, fine and uniform fleece, and quality pelts for local and overseas markets.
1522g alpaca back strap (100%)
3.8g insta-cure #2 (0.25%)
45.6g Olsson’s macrobiotic raw sea salt (3%)
38g raw sugar (2.5%)
7.6g Tasmanian pepperberries, coarsely ground (0.5%)
3g pepperberry leaves, crumpled (0.2%)
5-6 juniper berries, crushed
2-3 sprigs of rosemary
(I ended up with about 1066g finished product from the above weights)
Note – If your unable to get alpaca meat, you can substitute with any whole muscle piece that you may have; topside or eye of round cuts of any lean red meat would make good substitutes. Tasmanian pepperberries can be substituted with black pepper and pepperberry leaves with bay leaves.
The ingredients used are shown as a percentage of the starting weight of the meat. I’ve noted the percentage next to each, so you can adjust what you will need based on the weight of your meat.
I was very impressed with the service I got from Fleurieu Prime Alpaca. Arranging deliveries to Tasmania and making sure the correct cut of meat is sent can take some organising, but they were so helpful throughout the whole process. The meat was sent frozen inside an esky with freezer bricks via express mail. The quality of the cut was also excellent. Alpaca meat is very lean and high in protein and has a extremely low fat content making it perfect to make bresaola with.
I found this salt in the Italian Pantry in Hobart. Olsson’s Macrobiotic Sea salt is made by the action of sun and wind on sea water from the Great Barrier Reef. When the salt is ready, it is harvested by hand and then allowed to drain (of excess sea water) in the sun before being packaged. It is free from any processing, it is unrefined, unwashed and free from any additives or preservatives.
I also wanted to use freshly foraged Tasmanian pepper berries. After much searching, I now have a couple of top secret foraging locations up my sleeve. You can torture me, but I’ll never tell! I love pepper berries and I use them in almost all my charcuterie cures now. They are also pretty good steeped in vodka! The pepper berry leaves can also be used as a substitute for bay leaves.
Because the meat came frozen I waited for it to completely thaw out and then patted down with paper towel before starting. As always, I then gave the meat a bit of a trim to remove the sinew and silver-skin. The colour of the meat was incredible! If it wasn’t frozen and I hadn’t already planned the bresaola I would of loved to have used it to make a carpaccio.
Collect all of the remaining ingredients.
Crush the pepper and juniper berries in a mortar and pestle. Loosely chop the pepper berry leaves and rosemary sprigs then place all of the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and give everything a good mix.
Gently massage the ingredients into the meat, making sure to completely cover the meat this may take a couple of minutes. Place the meat in a ziplock or vacuum seal bag making sure to completely squeeze out all the air from the bag. Then place the meat into fridge to begin the curing process. Depending on the starting weight of your meat, it will generally take about 10-14 days in the fridge. You can tell when it’s ready as the meat will be firm to the touch. I left mine in the fridge for about 12 days.
After the fridge time is up, run the meat gently under some cold running water to wipe of any remaining cure and spices. Make sure you rinse it quickly not to soak the meat. Its completely fine if some of the herbs and spices is still left on the meat. Then pat dry the meat with paper towel and leave it on top of bench, on a wire rack for 2-3 hours to dry out and firm up a little. Afterwards, weigh and record the weight of the meat; you will need this weight to help determine when the meat is ready – it should lose around 30% of its weight when ready. If you would like to tidy up the shape of your meat just tie it up with a bit of kitchen twine as required. I tied mine so it was a more consistent shape along the length of the cut, which helps it to dry more evenly. I like to wrap my meat in cheesecloth for extra protection from the environment, and to prevent the meat from drying out to quickly. If you have access to natural or collagen casings you can use that also.
Hang the meat in a cool ventilated area, making sure to check the meat at least twice a week to start of with, to record weight loss any to check for any signs of mold as the first couple of weeks is critical. Once you have achieved the correct weight loss, the meat should feel quite firm to touch. This can take anywhere up to 4-6 weeks, all depending on the temperature and humidity. Since I don’t own a curing chamber and cant control the temperature or the humidity I was particularly worried that this meat would dry out to fast because of the cut of meat it is very lean and had no fat at all.
Once you have reached the desired weight loss, it is ready to slice up and eat. I couldn’t wait for this to be ready as this was something on my wish list for some time. It was one of those things that seemed like a really good idea, but in reality I had no idea if it would actually work.
It turned out far better that I had expected and this is definitely something that I will be making again in the future!