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Category: Cured Meats and Meat By-products

Traditonal Naegelholt


Traditionele Naegelholt

Naegelholt is a particular kind of air-dried beef, made from various muscles from the hind quarter in particular the "muis". The name probably refers to the hardness of the dried meat: as hard as a nail (nagel), or perhaps to the wooden (holt) nail is was hung onto. For its preparation the meat, preferably from a 2- to 4-year-old cow, must be well hung and ripened, then wet salt is rubbed on the surface and vacuum sealed together with meat; some butchers use a brine bath. After salting (sometimes followed by desalting in water), the beef is hung in the air of the laboratory, at least for a few months. In the Northern part of the country, Naegelholt is also seasoned with spices such as nutmeg and cloves, while this does not happen in the Eastern Netherlands.

Traditionally, in the farms, Naegelholt was hung in the so-called ''wieme'', that is the ceiling next to the fireplace. Some farm women report that their families used to dry Naegelholt for even 4 months, but protecting it from excessive drying by shielding it with a piece of cloth. Nowadays, some elderly people order their fresh Naegelholt at the butcher's and hang it to dry in their own house.

Traditional Naegelholt is produced in four districts of the Eastern part of the Netherlands, historically belonging to "Neder-Saksen": Achterhoek, Veluwe, Twente and Salland. However, there also are some references of production further up north, in the Province of Groningen. A similar product, called Nagelholz, is also made on the western areas bordering with Germany, but the production process differs as speck layers are added, and the meat is smoked.

Historically, only the richer farmers who were keeping cattle could afford to offer some thin slices of Naegelholt to their afternoon guests, together with wheat bread. In historic farmsteads in the area, the places where the meat was hung to dry are still clearly visible. Moreover, the product's strong bond with the territory is witnessed by the still wide diffusion of the family name ''Nagelhout'', especially in some villages in the Veluwe area, such as Elburg.

Nowadays the production amount is limited to 500 kilograms per year, if only producers strictly holding to the traditional techniques are considered. This number increases to 20,000 kilograms per year if considering all of the 35 butchers using the name "Naegelholt" for their product. A pilot group of four butchers was created in 2001; not all of them are strictly following the traditional techniques, though, as especially the 3-month required drying period seems not to meet customers' wants for a more tender product.

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