Photo Credit: Alan Bergo
Meet Chef Alan Bergo
Meet Alan Bergo also known as the Forager Chef. Alan is a culinary industry veteran, former executive chef of legendary Twin Cities' Lucia’s Restaurant, and the Salt Cellar. Author of The Forager Chef’s Book of Flora, he’s one of the most respected voices in the world of foraging and wild food. Bergo is best known as the founder of Forager Chef, his website focused on wild ingredients that reaches millions of readers each year. Learn more about Chef Alan and his hunt for mushrooms, wild and obscure foods at foragerchef.com.
Dry aged venison roast with chanterelles, porcini, demi glace and chickweed. Aging turns the legs as tender as backstraps. Photo Credit Alan Bergo
Wild About UMAi Dry
"I knew dry aged meat was high quality, and available, but the price was so exorbitant I felt I couldn’t justify putting it on the menu. I wanted to keep prices down, but still have a high quality product, so I tried to differentiate by using a farm raising heritage Italian cattle, and cutting hard to find, old-school cuts like bone-in NY strips on a bandsaw in-house. The meat was great, but if I had the choice now, I would have at least one dry-aged option.
Luckily, for you and me, if you have fridge space and like (easy) DIY meat projects, you can dry-age meat and game at home, and it’s easy, safe, and a lot cheaper than the alternative. I can tell you after eating my first dry-aged venison legs and lamb saddle that it’s the real-deal here. The biggest price you’ll have to pay is the opportunity cost of sacrificing fridge space for 30 days.
The secret here was Minneapolis-based (Go MN!) UMAi Dry and their dry-aging meat bags that make it easy to age everything from steaks to whole cuts of venison, roasts, brisket, salami and proscuitto at home, without any fancy equipment or set-ups. There’s other, more “professional” options out there for dry-aging your own meat at home, but, if you’re serious about aging and charcuterie like some of my friends are, you probably already know about them, and have a rig already.
Full disclosure here: I reached out to UMAI since I was looking for a way to age meat without lots of equipment—they didn’t pay me a cent to write this, and I won’t make anything if you want to try some for yourself. I’d never even heard of the bags until a few months ago."
Alan's Pro Tips
A PERFECT SEAL ISN’T NECESSARY
If you’ve used vacuum sealers, you’ve probably come to appreciate the tight, firm, air-tight seal that happens when everything works out as planned. The dry aging bags are a little counter-intuitive It isn’t necessary for the bag to get a 100% air-tight seal. As long as the bag is, say, 80% sealed, a few air pockets are totally fine, and didn’t negatively affect the process at all with any of the venison, lamb or beef I’ve aged so far.
ONLY USE BIG CHUNKS OF MEAT
In a perfect world, you want a whole sub-primal cut. With the deer I aged this year, aging the whole leg (shank removed) was my favorite, and after aging, every roast from the leg was like eating backstrap. If I wanted to dry-age a different cut like a venison shoulder, I’d make sure it was a large one from a big buck. If you don’t live in a CWD area, you could also age backstraps by leaving the back fat on, and keeping them on the bone, trimming off the bone and fat afterword.
GIVE IT AIR-FLOW
Making sure to put the meat on a rack to allow airflow, above a baking sheet. Since the membrane allows water out, liquid can slowly migrate out of the bottom of the bag onto the baking sheet.