File Elena Филе Елена (Elena cured pork)
GTS/ГТС ‘File Elena’ is a specific dried raw meat product made from pork tenderloin. The name comes from the town of Elena in northern Bulgaria, in the foothills of the forested Elena Balkan mountain range.
‘File Elena’ is a pressed dried raw meat product prepared from chilled or frozen pork tenderloin, auxiliary ingredients and natural seasonings. It ha an oval-cylindrical, flattened oblong shape, with no specific dimensions and must have a:
- water content: not more than 55 % of the total weight
- cooking salt: not more than 3,5 % of the total weight
- nitrites (residual amount in the finished product): not more than 50 mg/kg
- pH: not less than 5,4
External appearance and colour:
'File Elana' has a lean, well-dried surface coated with savory and black pepper, the savory imparting a green colour to the surface. The muscle tissue is pinkish red, with a darker hue at the edges, whereas the fat is pale pink to cream-coloured. It has a characteristic, pleasant, slightly salty, with a distinct aroma of the seasonings used, free from foreign flavours and odours and a dense and elastic consistency. It may be marketed whole, cut into pieces or sliced, vacuum-packed, in cellophane or in modified-atmosphere packaging.
‘File Elena' is made from pork tenderloin, chilled or frozen using 100 kg curing mixture for 100 kg of pork tenderloin, which comprises 3,5 kg of cooking salt, 40 g of antioxidant, i.e. ascorbic acid (Е300), 100 g of potassium nitrate or 85 g of sodium nitrate, 500 g of refined granulated sugar. The seasoning mixture for 100 kg of pork tenderloin is 2 kg of savory and 200 g of ground black pepper. The tenderloin is cut away along the projecting surface of the ribs with the aid of a knife, moving down the vertebral column and along the transverse processes. The muscle tissue between the transverse processes of the thoracic vertebrae is then removed. The fat and fascia are trimmed from the pork tenderloin fillets, which are placed in clean containers for salting. To ensure a better distribution of the components of the salting mixture, the nitrates and cooking salt are mixed first, after which the other ingredients are added.
Salting is carried out using the dry method — each tenderloin fillet is rubbed with salting mixture by hand or mechanically. The salted pieces of meat are arranged in several rows in suitable containers and kept in cold stores with an air temperature of 0-4 °С. After five days, the pieces are rearranged (the pieces at the top changing places with those at the bottom) and they are left to rest for at least another five days under the same conditions. When the salting process is complete, a hanging loop made of twine is applied to each tenderloin fillet.
After being prepared in this way, the tenderloin fillets are hung on wooden and/or metal frames (rods) arranged on stainless-steel wheeled sausage racks. The pieces are not allowed to come into contact with one another. They are left hanging on the rack to drain for up to 24 hours at an air temperature not exceeding 12 °С. When drained, they are placed in natural or air-conditioned drying chambers with temperature and humidity regulation. Drying takes place at an air temperature of 12-17 °С and a relative humidity of 70-85 %. Whilst drying, the product is pressed in wooden-panel presses.
The tenderloin fillets are kept in the presses for 12-24 hours. They are first placed in the press when they are slightly dry and a slight crust can be felt on their surface. Pressing is carried out repeatedly until the product has thoroughly dried out and the tenderloin fillets are of the correct shape. The presses must be able to absorb and release moisture and must therefore be made of natural material (wood) which can be cleaned and dried. The product’s final external appearance is determined by pressing. After the final pressing, the tenderloin fillets are coated with a pre-homogenised mixture of ground black pepper and crumbled savory, as per the formulation. The whole drying process lasts for 25-30 days — depending on the size of the pieces of meat — until a dense elastic consistency is achieved.
‘File Elena’ is a product that has won multiple awards at fairs and exhibitions in Bulgaria and abroad, receiving certificates and gold medals from: the 57th International Exhibition, Brussels, 1986; the ‘Taynata na balgarskiya vkus’ (‘Secret of Bulgarian Taste’) competition during the ‘Meatmania’ international meat and meat products exhibition in Sofia (Yubileino izdanie ‘10 godini AMB — 1994-2003’ (Commemorative edition ‘10 years of BADP — 1994-2003’), page 22-30) and the 2010 and 2013 IFFA international exhibitions in Germany. It also received a certificate of excellence in the competition for traditional Bulgarian products organised by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Sofia, 2007.