Cecina all around us…

You’ve no doubt passed by it, maybe even caught the scent of it; it lurks in many corners of the city. You may even have a close friend or relative who is an aficionado of it.

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It arrived from its hometown in the state of Morelos to nourish and cheer even the most remote and unimaginable territories of Mexico, a country full of legends and traditions. Of course, dear reader, I am speaking about cecina negra, the cecina de Yecapixtla. Cecina, or dried and salted beef, is a dish with its own long traditions. In these lands it was a meal that was made for long journeys and has been enriched through contact with countless civilizations throughout the ages.

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Like everything good and tasty in this life, cecina also has its tricks and its own art. For this dish, only the loin and shank of the beef are used; these bits are cut into thin strips, the softer and thinner, the better. The cut goes in the direction of the muscle fibers.

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Then, the most crucial step – resting. The strips should lie on a flat surface, ideally made from a rich wood, for at least half an hour. Next, the strips will need another half an hour hung like small coats in a peaceful place, neither too hot nor too cold; a place free from insects and other disturbances, to just rest there. There are some who would insist that the resting period should include lard, salt and chile while the strips hang in the sunlight, but we’re not here to argue.

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After hanging, the strips are rubbed with lard. They can then be stored in a closed container, or, if you’re ready to eat, browned on a hot griddle or in a pan, usually with salt and chiles. This is just one classic recipe, feel free to add any personal touches, but it’s always a good idea to try the original first. Variations on cecina preparation await you in many corners of the city. Go out and try it! And if you want a little more out of life, make your way to the heart of cecina in the Yecapixtla municipality, Morelos, and spend a few days exploring its beautiful villages.

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