Carne De Sol

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Traditional Carne de Sol from Restaurante Picuí Praia. one of the two best restaurants in João Pessoa specializing in Carne de Sol

Carne De Sol is a treasure from Northeastern Brazil. Imagine if Brisket and Beef Jerky had a baby… And you’ll have a good idea of this wonderful taste. I had the delight of eating this the first night I was in Brazil, and I fell in love with it immediately.

Carne De Sol’s history comes from the sertanejos (read: Brazilian Cowboys), who dried their meat in the sun and using salt – much like other cultures around the world. However, the process developed in Brazil involved shorter days and colder nights, drying the outside, while maintaining a moist and tender center.

While it is a common food in the Northeastern Region, it is easy to make, and has become popular around Brazil, so can be found in restaurants across the nation. It is hard to follow the exact traditional (now commercialized) drying process, but here is a simple recipe that approximates it:

  1. Buy 2 kg of Rump Roast (or whatever beef you prefer)
  2. Cut the meat into pieces no thicker than 3-4 cm (or about 1.5″)
  3. Place a very thick layer of salt on the bottom of a Tupperware container. Then place the meat inside and cover in another thick layer of salt on top (Essentially make a sandwich with salt instead of bread), and put in the fridge for one to two days. Check the meat every few hours, draining what we commonly refer to as the blood (Fun Fact: its not actually blood that drains from a steak), and replacing the salt that washed away. By doing this in the fridge, you preserve the moist center, while adding wonderful crisp and salty exterior.
  4. You will know it is done, when the meat changes colour from Red to Brown.

This meat can then be used as the beef in whatever other recipes you are following, to give it a Brazilian twist. IMPORTANT NOTE: you must still cook the meat to a high temperature before it is safe to eat. Salting the meat merely preserves it, this is not a replacement for cooking.

Here are some of the most of common dishes from Brazil containing Carne De Sol: (Hint: use Google Translate for recipes)

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Purê de Macaixeria com carne de sol
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Tabua de Carne is the other main Carne de Sol restaurant in João Pessoa.

Natal

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Mário Monte [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Natal, which was founded on December 25, 1599 (and shares the Portuguese name for Christmas), is a city in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, and has a rich history with a large population of expats. The city was one of the first major tourist areas in the state, largely because of its strategic location during World War 2.

Natal, while not the absolute closest, it is still about as close as you can get to Africa from the Americas, while simultaneously being one of the closest points to Europe in Latin America, and so was a staging area for the North African Campaign during World War 2. As is common with places where soldiers train, many of the Allied Troops fell in love with the city and returned after the war to settle. There are clearly lots of expats and foreigners, because I was pleasantly surprised to find, at more than one bar, hockey was on TV, and English was common throughout the city.  Natal still hosts a major training centre for the Brazilian Air Force.

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Centro de Cultura Espacial e Informações Turísticas (CCEIT)

Natal, owing to its location near the equator, also has nearby the Barreira do Inferno Launch Center, which is a rocket launch base of the Brazilian Space Agency.

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Natal, which is near Praia da Pipa, also has some beautiful beaches, although that leads to one unfortunate consequence for tourists – nothing is open during holidays because everyone expects you to be at the beaches during the day. Places open for brief lunches, but when Minha Noiva (my fiancée) and I arrived after a long drive, nothing was open for supper until late. We eventually found a bar that let us have drinks, but we couldn’t find anywhere to eat before 6. while it is a bit annoying when I’m hungry, I do like the calm and laid back attitude that everyone is just expected to “go relax at the beach.”

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The view from a hill overlooking some of the beautiful beaches of Natal
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Praia do Cotovelo, from the patio of Falésia Restaurant

This is not for a lack of customers though, Minha Noiva and I went to a tourist favourite shrimp and risotto restaurant, Camarões, and it was busy minutes after it opened. Brazilians don’t gorge themselves like some Canadians do though, and when I ate far too much risotto (with desert on top!) I did get some long glances from the wait staff. They even tried to suggest it was too much food I was ordering. (Note: I do not recommend eating as much food as I did, but the cheese and shrimp was just too good to stop)

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The Serving size was for four… I may have eaten the entire thing (Minha Noiva helped)