Smoked beef charcuterie from Franche-Comte
“Brési is made from the top quality cut of meat, from top quality cows,” says Florent, co-owner of The French Comte—namely, it is made from the fillet cut of either the montbeliard or charolais cow, native to the Franche-Comte region whence this special charcuterie hails. “It’s like our equivalent of the angus cow—so very high quality.”
The French Comte only uses producers whose farms are situated above 1,000 metres in altitude: “The reason for that is there is no other agriculture above that height, so the fields are completely untouched,” he explains. “Though it is not certified organic, it means that the cows’ feed is completely natural. The distinct flavour of the meat reflects that.”
While the fillet cut of any breed is naturally low in fat, when added to the fact these hardy cows are free to roam the area’s mountainous terrain, the result is a very lean cut of meat indeed—an unlikely characteristic for charcuterie.
Only the best cut
“Traditionally charcuterie was made using off-cuts so that nothing was wasted, which often meant the fattier cuts,” Florent continues. “While things are changing now, the brési is still very special in that respect. Our producers use only the best cut to make it.”
Once butchered, the meat is cured for three weeks in salt, onions, bay leaves and thyme before being smoked for eight weeks over pine, juniper and spruce bark in a traditional tuye. “A tuye is a long chimney that comes out of the roof of the farm, dedicated to smoking charcuterie. It’s what we call dry smoking. The advantage of that is, because it’s a slow process, the meat stays lovely and tender.”
Rich and beautifully supple, the centre remains reddish-pink in colour—“it does not cook all the way through, much like if you were to cook roast beef medium-rare.”
Served with melted cheese
Bresi is traditionally sliced and served with melted cheese in a raclette. “It is a big thing over here. It is very nice for when you have guests. You don’t want to spend the whole time in the kitchen. With raclette, you can just put it on the table and everyone eats together. It is very special. The other obvious choice to pair it with would be comte, which is of course from the same region.”
If you want something slightly different, Florent suggests pairing brési with another specialist product from the stall: val de loue.
“It is a very subtle cheese which has the texture of goat’s cheese, but it is actually made with cow’s milk,” he explains. “It is washed in marc du Jura, which is what’s left when we make Jura wine. Enjoyed that way you get those meat, cheese and wine flavours all together—which is always a good combination!”