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2.1 Carne-de-sol

Carne-de-sol (meat of the sun) is a lightly salted and partially dehydrated meat product of limited shelf-life (3–4 days at ambient temperatures), which is consumed in large quantities in the north-east of Brazil. Typically made from beef or goat meat, carne-de-sol is characterised by its distinctive shape (“mantas”) and appearance (dark brown surface colour). It is used as a substitute for fresh meat in areas lacking retailing infrastructure and maintains most of the eating characteristics of the raw material when properly processed and prepared for cooking.

The name carne-de-sol belies the means by which it is usually manufactured since it is rarely exposed directly to the sun during dehydration. A more apt name, and one by which the product was earlier known, is carne-de-vento (meat of the wind) since drying is generally accomplished in covered, well ventilated areas allowing for gradual and controlled desication of the surface tissues.

Conservation of meat by salt, sun and wind dates back to ancient times and has only relatively recently been overtaken by such preservative methods as refrigeration and freezing. In terms of shelf life, carne-de-sol may be considered as being comparable to fresh meat held at refrigerated temperatures. In most tropical and subtropical countries it is possible to find records describing the importance of lightly salted, semi-dried meats in the local diet. The product assumed a particular importance in areas where work forces had to be maintained close to normal centres of population and points of slaughter. The landed gentry who owned the cotton and sugar cane plantations in Brazil during the 17th century might well have consumed meat prepared this way. Indeed, Francois Pirard de Laval who visited Salvador in 1610, recorded seeing large quantities of carne-de-sol exposed for sale. The great success of the product, and the reason for its continued manufacture today, may in part be contributed to the abundant supply of marine salt in the north-east of Brazil, and to the peculiar climatic and social-economic conditions that persist in the region. High ambient temperatures and Lack of refrigeration at the commercial and domestic level have necessitated the production of meat products having an extended shelf-life. These same precarious socialeconomic conditions have also restricted the development of its industrial production. Although consumed in greater quantities than charque, carne-de-sol is still manufactured at the artesenal level in inadequate facilities and without proper control of processing procedures. Consequently the physico-chemical characteristics of the product vary considerably from one region to another and one town to the next.

Carne-de-sol is usually prepared from the whole carcass. Subcutaneous and intermuscular fat deposits vary considerably between manufacturing cuts and these differences affect salt penetration and subsequent water loss during processing. The product is characterised by salt levels between 5 and 6% and total muscle water levels between 64 and 70%. Increases in mean muscle pH of 0.4 pH units and reduction in water activity (aw) of 0.04 (resulting in a final aw of approximately 0.94) units usually accompany processing. The physico-chemical changes during processing that result in a reduction of free water in the meat tissue, lead to a concomitant rise in the proportion of other tissue components, in particular salt.

The manner in which carne-de-sol is prepared for cooking is an important factor in maintaining its appeal as a fresh meat substitute. Since it is lightly and quickly salted, much of the salt remains in the superficial outer tissues. This excess salt can be removed by soaking for one to two hours in cold water prior to cooking, thus producing a cooked meat virtually indistinguishable from corresponding fresh meat.

2.2 Charque

Charque is a meat product obtained by the salting and drying of deboned beef under conditions which permit its conservation for extended periods at ambient temperatures. Unlike carne-de-sol, which may be considered only for local consumption, charque is often transported over long distances and consumed in regions distant from the point of its manufacture. It is not considered as a substitute for fresh meat but rather as an alternative in regions where supplies are limited.


Water activity (aw) - regarded as a measure of the availability of water for microbial growth and defined as the ratio of the vapour pressure of the food to the vapour pressure of pure water at the same temperature.

a) Easily perishableaw 0.95+ 5°Cfresh meat
b) Perishableaw 0.91–0.95+ 10°Ccarne-de-sol
c) Shelf stableaw 0.91No refrigeration requiredcharque

Charque is subjected to a rigorous processing resulting in a distinctive appearance, often considered unattractive. Prepared in large flat pieces (“mantas”), charque is characteristically fully dehydrated on its outer surfaces and has a typical strong odour and taste. In more recent times, charque or carne-seca has been packaged in retail sized vacuum packs giving it an even longer shelf-life and a much improved appearance.

Basically, charque processing consists of the preparation of manufacturing cuts of uniform thickness which are subjected to wet and dry salting, washing, drying and packing. Drying is normally carried out in the sun but where environmental conditions are unfavourable, a process of “winter pillage” is used.

Sun drying, where practised, is controlled to avoid rapid dessication of the surface tissues.

It is generally believed that charque was developed to extend the shelf life of lightly salted, conserved meats such as carne-de-sol. Indeed, early records from charqueadas (plants for the processing of dried meat products) describe manufacturing procedures for carne-de-sertao a name also used to describe carne-de-sol. The first recorded charqueada was established in Pelotas in Rio Grande do Sul in 1780 by Joao Pinto Martins. Thereafter numerous establishments were built and large quantities of charque were exported to the north-east of the country. This movement of dried meat from beef cattle production areas in the south to the northeast has remained at elevated levels, between 60 000 – 120 000 tonnes per year, up to the present time.

Because of the nature and volume of the trade in charque, industrial production has tended to be mechanized and on a large-scale. Plants producing 30 tonnes per day are not uncommon. In general, they are hygienically operated and subject to rigorous inspection by the federal authorities. As a consequence, the characteristics of the product differ mostly in respect to raw material quality and only marginally between sites of production.

Unlike carne-de-sol which is manufactured from whole carcasses, charque is usually made from the flank and forequarter regions removed upon division of the carcass using the “PISTOLA” cutting method. There is no reason, other than the one of cost and competitiveness, why the whole carcass should not be used for the manufacture of charque. Carcass division in these cases would follow similar procedures to that of carne-de-sol.

The water loss during salting and drying is much more pronounced than in the case of carne-de-sol and is achieved over a much longer period, resulting in a product of low total water content (44–45%), relatively low water activitiy (aw 0.87 – 0.91), and high salt content (12–15%). Increase in pH of 0.6–0.8 units usually accompany processing. Enzymic fermentations also occur to give the meat its typical flavour.

The physico-chemical changes that occur during the processing, and result in a drastic reduction of the free water content of the muscle, lead to a concomitant rise in the proportion of other components more especially salt and protein.

Although greatly affected by the nature of the raw materials used, average product yield is in the order of 550 g for every 1 kg of meat and 100 g of salt consumed.

The extent to which dried meat can be rehydrated prior to consumption depends upon the surviving water holding capacity of the muscle proteins. Full rehydration of charque is not possible even with prolonged soaking, but excess salt may be removed by scalding the meat in boiling water for several minutes. The “de-salted” product is usually cut up into small pieces and cooked with rice or beans in dishes such as “feijao”, typical of the region.

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