The main ingredient is beef, taken from the animal’s upper thigh or shoulder, the fat and the sinews being removed. Before drying, the meat is treated with white wine and seasonings such as salt, onion and assorted herbs. The initial curing process, lasting 3 – 5 weeks, takes place in sealed containers stored at a temperature close to freezing point. The meat is regularly rearranged during this stage, in order to ensure that the salt and seasonings will be evenly distributed and absorbed. During a second drying phase the meat is then hung in free flowing air at a temperature of between 9 and 14 °C. It is also periodically pressed in order to separate out residual moisture: from this pressing Bündnerfleisch acquires its characteristic rectangular shape. Traditionally Bündnerfleisch was not a smoked meat.
The extent of water loss during the salting and drying processes, whereby the product loses approximately half of its initial weight, is sufficient to confer excellent keeping qualities and a high nutritional value, without the need for any additional preservatives.
Bündnerfleisch is served with bread, sliced very thinly. It is often part of the traditional dish raclette, served to accompany the cheese of the same name alongside ham and vegetables. It can also be served in soup, cut into strips or little cubes.
Most Bündnerfleisch is consumed inside Switzerland, but some is exported within Europe, to Canada and the United States and to Japan.
Bündnerfleisch appears to be related to the dried meat product from the Besançon region of France known as 'brési'. It is also very similar to bresaola, which is produced in the neighbouring Italian province of Valtellina; unlike Bündnerfleisch, bresaola is not pressed, though.
On September 25, 2010, Switzerland's finance minister Hans-Rudolf Merz, reading in parliament a nearly incomprehensible text which had been prepared by bureaucrats, started giggling uncontrollably when he reached a mention of Bündnerfleisch.
- Davidson, Alan (1999), "Bindenfleisch", Oxford Companion to Food, p. 74
- Wissenswertes über Bündnerfleisch, English version Bündnerfleisch - Air-dried beef from the Grisons