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What is Cesina? A Guide to This Traditional Latin American Meat

Cesina is a type of cured and dried meat that has origins in Latin American and Spanish cuisines. This tasty meat can be made from different animals and comes in many flavorful variations. Keep reading to learn all about cesina and how to cook it!

What is Cesina Made Of?

The term cesina refers to the main ingredient – meat that has been salted, smoked or air-dried as a preservation method. In Spain, cesina is typically made from cow, horse or rabbit meat. The hind legs of cows are most commonly used, especially for Cecina de León, a famous type of Spanish cesina.

In Latin America, cesina may refer to cured beef or pork. Mexican cesina can come from beef or pork, with each type requiring different preparation methods. Marinated beef cesina is salted, spiced and partially dried, then sliced into thin sheets. Pork cesina is cut into thin slices or cubes and coated with chili peppers, known as cecina enchilada or carne enchilada.

How is Cesina Cooked?

Beef cesina can often be eaten uncooked, similar to bresaola or prosciutto. The salty, savory flavor comes through without any additional cooking needed.

For pork cesina and some types of beef, cooking is required before eating. This helps develop the flavors and makes the meat tender. Grilling, pan-frying or sautéing are common cooking methods.

Cesina makes fantastic tacos, especially when paired with typical toppings like salsa, lime juice, cilantro and onions. The meat also works well in ceviche, paired with citrus and vegetables. For heartier dishes, chopped cesina can be added to soups, stews or eggs.

Notable Cesina Recipes and Regions

Some of the most renowned types of cesina come from specific regions. Cecina de León holds Protected Geographical Indication status in Spain for its traditional production in the León province. Yecapixtla, Mexico is famous for its local variety of pork cesina enchilada.

For authentic cesina recipes like Marinated Beef Cesina uses guajillo chiles, garlic, vinegar and Mexican oregano to infuse the meat with flavor. Another excellent option is the Sinaloa-Style Chilorio, made with pork, ancho chile powder and citrus.

The Rich History and Tradition Behind Cesina

As a cured meat, cesina has ancient origins as a food preservation method. The term comes from the Latin word siccus meaning “dry.” Drying, salting and smoking meats allowed them to be stored for long periods without refrigeration.

Over time, cesina became more than just a practical foodstuff. The seasoned meats took on complex flavors as spices were added to the curing process. Regional varieties emerged, with unique cultural identities tied to local cesina specialties.

Today, traditional cesina continues to be produced in many Latin American and Spanish communities. For meat-lovers and adventurous eaters, exploring cesina’s rich history via your tastebuds is an unforgettable experience.

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Give Cesina a Try!

If you want to experience an authentic Latin American specialty, add some cesina to your cooking repertoire. Seek out quality cesina at Latin markets or butcher shops. Beef cesina can be enjoyed raw, while pork types will need to be cooked before eating. Incorporate cesina into tacos, ceviche, soups or stews for amazing depth of flavor. The next time you grill meat, consider marinating some thin flank or skirt steak to make your own homemade cesina. ¡Buen provecho!