By Lorrie Baumann
UMAi Dry offers consumers the means of dry-aging or dry-curing their meats at home. Originally targeted for foodservice professionals when UMAi Dry was launched in 2009, the product has attracted the attention of culinary consumers who are using it successfully to dry-age steaks and dry-cure charcuterie and salumi at home.
“Fundamentally, UMAi Dry is a moisture-permeable membrane for dry-aging meat in the refrigerator. It functions as a combination of the traditional dry-aging method and the modern wet-aging method. It allows meat to be exposed to enzymatic activity, which enhances its rich texture and buttery flavor, just like old-fashioned dry-aging methods, but it does so with modern technology, to provide the food safety protection and ease that people need,” said Thea Lopatka, President of Drybag Steak LLC, which produces UMAi Dry. The company was founded by Lopatka, who then brought on college classmate Igor Pilko as CEO in 2013.
To cure a prosciutto, a pancetta or bresaola with UMAi Dry, the user rubs the cut of meat with curing salt and spices, refrigerates it for a couple of weeks to absorb flavor and draw out moisture, then rinses off the salt and spices and vacuum-seals it into an UMAi Dry bag. The meat then goes back into the refrigerator for six to eight weeks until it’s lost 35 to 40 percent of its weight. The company includes recipes with the kits and demonstration videos online for a wide range of salumi and charcuterie projects, as well as a wealth of information regarding how to dry age steak.
“We’ve noticed an increasing interest in capicola and in creating dishes like pancetta, which is rather simple to make because pork belly is now available everywhere,” Lopatka said.
Dry-aging a steak cut is even simpler: a whole subprimal ribeye will go into a large UMAi Dry bag that’s vacuum-sealed and placed in the refrigerator to age for four to six weeks.
“At a butcher or a warehouse club store, you can find the full subprimal piece in the processor packaging, so that it has all the fat attached and the muscle is intact. Whenever possible, try to transfer from processor packaging directly into the UMAi Dry. During the aging process, the meat will develop a mahogany brown bark, and when that is trimmed off, it is best to strip the parts that would be cut off anyway. You want to leave on the fat because that will develop the nutty, earthy taste that’s characteristic of dry-aged beef,” Lopatka said. “After you’ve dry-aged the meat, trimmed off the bark and cut it into steaks, they can be individually sealed and frozen. They freeze beautifully.”
The secret to the process is the UMAi Dry bag, which is made of a special membrane that’s moisture-permeable and oxygen-permeable. This allows moisture to flow out of the meat and into the refrigerated atmosphere around it, and the result is the kind of product that’s usually only available from a specialty meat shop.
The products designed for the retail market have been selling well online since the brand launched them through a Kickstarter campaign that began in April. Those commitments have now been fulfilled, and the company is ready to expand distribution into retail stores.
There are currently three products for the retail shelf: the Artisan Meat Kit, the Charcuterie Pack and the Dry-Aged Steak Pack. The Artisan Meat Kit, which retails for $170, includes a small appropriately designed vacuum sealer, a charcuterie pack for five items and a dry-aged steak pack that allows the user to dry age three full boneless ribeyes or strip loin subprimals (14-20 pounds).
The Charcuterie Pack retails for $30 and includes two large and three smaller UMAi Dry bags, enough curing salt to cure 30 pounds of meat, some juniper berries and VacMouse adapter strips that allow the UMAi Dry membranes to be sealed with the vacuum sealer. (Consumers can use basic model vacuum sealers or the one UMAi Dry offers). The Dry-Aged Steak Pack retails for $28 and includes enough supplies to dry-age three 14-20-pound strip loin or ribeye subprimals.
The kits are available online now, through Amazon and at shop.umaidry.com. Visit www.umaidry.com to learn more.