Dry Aging Adopts Creative Flair

Our beef is typically wet-aged, where steaks are sealed in a bag to retain moisture. Another method of maintaining freshness is dry aging. In this more time-consuming process, beef cuts are aged for several weeks or months, allowing moisture to evaporate and causing the meat’s natural enzymes to break down connective tissue. Both approaches allow a chemical transformation. However, only dry aging produces the expensive, luxurious, acquired flavor meat-eating connoisseurs appreciate.
While the surface of the meat dries, the inside tends to remain red and moist. The process helps intensify the flavor while leaving the cuts more tender than when fresh. The taste and texture tend to be unique and sought after by meat-eaters.
How Is Beef Dy Aged?
The dry aging process has been used for millennia to preserve meat beyond brining, pickling, and smoking. The cuts are placed into a controlled open-air space, usually a cabinet. Here, the meat is hung and left to dry naturally. The beef is exposed to bacteria, yeasts, and molds during the drying period, adding to its distinct taste. Dried for at least 40 days, the flavor strengthens the longer it’s left. Producers prefer to dry age for two months to achieve the ideal outcome.
Knowing that meat left out in the elements is likely to spoil, how does dry aging keep the beef edible? The secret is controlling humidity, airflow, and temperature in the drying area. Additionally, the fat and bones protect the meat by drying significantly proportioned cuts. Once suitably dry-aged, the crusted outer layers are removed, leaving intensely flavored, dark-red beef ready to be cut to size.
With dry-aged beef in demand, plant-based product manufacturers have used similar aging techniques to add flavor and richness to vegetables—and cocktail makers to yield unique and novel beverages. How are they doing this?
Dry-Aged Vegetables
According to Julienne Bruno’s chef, Axel Katalan, introducing consumers to plant-based food is about seduction rather than persuasion. His wooing technique is to create layered flavors in vegetables through unexpected and innovative preparation and cooking.
One innovation is to dry-aged vegetables such as beetroot and butternut. The vegetables are slowly roasted to mobilize the juices, then dry for 10 to 15 days. The developed flavor is rich, unique, and versatile. It’s dry, firm, and umami, perfect alone or in dishes. When reheated, the vegetables release delicious “orangey” oils. Axel can cube it, slice it, or add it to sauces.
Other creatives with flair are dry aging vegetables by smoking, salting the selection, marinating, dusting with koji – a fermented rice product – then incubating in a controlled environment. The vegetables are then dehydrated and, if desired, marinated in oil. The thoughtful approach intensifies the vegetable’s flavor and adds a meatiness.
Aged Cocktails
Cocktails are tantalizing; cocktails, plus time, are doubly delicious. Aging adds layering, nuance, and depth. The best options for aging are spirit or fortified-wine-based, stirred options, with citrus-based cocktails not aging well. The technique is for creations such as Manhattans, Negronis, Martinis, and Boulevardiers.
The process involves making a regular cocktail and then aging the mixture in bottles or barrels. Produce the mixtures in batches, taking care not to overdilute with water and use fewer bitters than the final profile requires. Over time, the bitterness of tannins slowly softens, transforming the cocktail from punchy to plush.
Once aged or dry-aged, your cocktail or vegetable dish may need a flavor or aroma tweak. To add or neutralize profiles, rely on natural, perhaps plant-based or organic, taste and odor ingredients.
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