In the last few years game meat has become increasingly in demand. This is because the game hunted through correct and respectful hunting, both for the animal and for the environment, comes from specimens born and lived in total freedom and is certainly healthier and richer in nutritional properties than meat from intensive farming.
However before bring it to the table, if you want to maximize its flavor and its organoleptic qualities in safety, it is necessary right from the moment of slaughter to pay attention to the treatment of the wild. Once killed, in fact, a series of biological and chemical reactions give way to a natural stiffening of the fibers which make the meat practically hard and immediately inedible. How can you fix all this? With the maturation.
The technique of maturation of game meat
If you've ever had to eat game that was hard to chew and had an excessive gamey taste, then probably what you came across was badly aged meat.
The maturation it is an indispensable treatment that leads to the transformation of muscle into flesh and that it makes the meat tastier, softer and more digestible.
Aging begins immediately after the animal has been slaughtered and is divided into two phases:
- rigor mortis or cadaveric rigidity, during which the muscles stiffen and become particularly hard;
- Post penalty, where enzymes act making the meat soft and edible.
It is a technique by which the meat is matured within controlled environments with the aim of relaxing the muscle fibers. After maturation, the meat therefore cannot have any unpleasant or rancid tastes or smells. If this happens it is only and exclusively because something went wrong during the maturation process and because the wrong environmental conditions favored the nourishment of the bacteria which ruined the meat.
At the basis of a correct maturation there are essentially three factors:
- low temperature, which must be between 0 and 4 degrees;
- high humidity, between 85% and 90%;
- correct ventilation always constant to allow the meat to "breathe".
During this process, as important as it is decisive for the quality of the final product, you will also have to be careful do not dry the meat, which could lead to rot, ea do not lower the temperature suddenly of the carcass. In fact, you will have to gradually let the meat reach a temperature of about 4°C even in the innermost part, i.e. those near the thigh bone. It is at this point that the enzymes intervene which contribute to the relaxation of the fibers and to supply the meat with that characteristic and particular flavour, concentrated but never unpleasant, of the game.
Aging times and techniques
The duration of the maturation process varies. In fact, the following play a fundamental role in terms of timing:
- the species and size of the animal;
- the age;
- its nutrition.
Based on these factors, it has been seen for example that an adult specimen responds better to a longer maturation than a younger one. This is because adults who have enjoyed a good diet have a more consistent layer of fat which better protects the meat and seals it by retaining liquids and avoiding a significant drop in weight in the cell. Generally speaking, for birds, 3-4 days of maturation are usually enough, while for larger animals it can take up to 8-9 days.
However, there are different maturation techniques, from the faster ones of vacuum to the longer ones of dry maturation.
In vacuum-packed maturation, the cerne is matured in small cuts inside bags at low temperature for about a week. In the absence of oxygen, it tends to expel a percentage of its liquids which will make the fibers soften faster, but will not intensify the flavor that much.
This aging technique can go up to a maximum of 120 days and is more suitable for meat with a considerable thickness of fat and higher quality value.
Over four weeks the meat will have gone from a stage where it was shiny looking and with a tough texture to another where it appears more aged, tender and flavourful. From this moment on you can continue to leave the meat for up to 120 days. In its outermost part, this will have formed a kind of protective crust (a layer of noble mold created by humidity) which, at the end of the process, you will have to remove. At this point you will see the underlying meat come out with its beautiful bright red color and succulent appearance.
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