Thousands of years ago, people developed ways to preserve and store food for as long as possible. In the Maghreb where Morocco is located, sun drying cured meat was one such way. Moroccan families inherited this ancestral method and continue to use it in modern times— particularly during Eid al Adha—to make gueddid (or qaddid) as well as tichtar, a nomadic version of dried camel meat. Many Moroccans also cure and preserve marinated intestines, bones and stuffed stomach.
During sun-drying, the massive reduction of moisture in the meat via exposure to hot and dry air, and a combination of salt and vinegar in the curing marinade, help limit if not stop microbial growth while also protecting against insects. Gueddid and other meats preserved this way can be stored for months in the cupboard at room temperature.
We’re lucky that Eid al Adha has been falling in warmer months for the last six years or so. Not only does hot weather help ensure that gueddid is of good quality and well dried, but it also speeds up the drying process. I once witnessed gueddid made in just four days from start to finish due to a mid-summer average temperature of 104° F (40° C), which is common in cities such as Fez and Marrakesh. It was so hot that the meat was fully dehydrated after three days of sun exposure. Under normal conditions it takes around a week.
For this reason we generally try to make gueddid during hot weather in preparation for winter. However, since Morocco is blessed with sunshine most of the year, we can make dried meat year round if an occasion calls for it. In cooler weather we must hang the meat outside for a longer period of time, and we watch the weather forecast closely in expectation of rain. I can remember sitting in the living room with my family and suddenly my mother shouting, “Drops of rain!” or “Le’ghmam!” in reference to heavy clouds. We immediately jumped into action to save the gueddid from picking up moisture. We ran outdoors, collected the strips of meat from the clotheslines, and were back inside in a split second.
What is Gueddid?
Gueddid is, in a sense, the Moroccan equivalent of jerky, but it is thicker, drier and not intended for snacking. The terms gueddid and qaddid come from the Arabic verb qaddada. In our context, it refers to long strips of meat which have undergone a long marination and drying processes. To make gueddid, strips of calf or lamb meat (or sometimes camel, and recently turkey, too) are left to marinate in a spice mixture for at least 48 hours. After marinating, the meat strips are hung outdoors until direct exposure to the hot sun dries them out, thus preserving them for months to come.
Gueddid is easy to make as both the cuts of meat and spices used are not difficult to find. Once in hand, it’s a simple three-step process: 1) kaddada, which is to slice the meat into long strips); 2) charmala (from chermoula), which is to rub the meat with a marinade; and 3) to dry the meat. Easy enough, but outside of Morocco you may encounter the issue of how to dry the meat, especially if you live in a London flat or somewhere else where sun is limited or you lack outdoor space. In such scenarios, an electric food dehydrator will come in handy, or, if you don’t want to invest in one, you can use a home oven. For the latter, make sure the oven thermostat can be set as low as 160° F (70° C) to 176° F (80° C), as a higher temperature is undesirable.
As the meat fully dries, it becomes hard to the touch with a much darker color. That’s when we can finally give it the name “gueddid.” If you are familiar with South African biltong, then you will have a sense of gueddid’s appearance. But while biltong is used for both snacking and cooking, gueddid is only used in recipes which call for a long cooking time. This includes khlii, a confit of preserved meat which is made by simmering gueddid in fat and olive oil.
What to Do with Gueddid
Think of gueddid as regular meat, only with concentrated flavor, just like anything else that’s dried in the sun or in the oven. As such, it works as a substitute when fresh meat is scarce, especially for those who live far from sources of meat or for those who can’t afford it regularly throughout the year. Many Moroccans, however, simply make and enjoy gueddid as a matter of tradition.
Gueddid is an acquired taste; you either like it or you hate it. I personally don’t like its texture but I do like the flavor it imparts to a stew. It acts as a sort of soy sauce or a cube of bouillon as it really gives a dish some depth and lifts it up. This unique depth of flavor can only come from gueddid; nothing can replicate it.
Gueddid is used in many recipes ranging from couscous to stews to soups. Most of the dishes with gueddid are meant to be winter dishes and the majority are regarded as comfort food. With the exception of khlii, most of the recipes calling for gueddid will instruct you to re-hydrate the meat for hours before adding it to the pot for cooking.
Gueddid Recipe - Moroccan Cured and Dried Meat
Although gueddid is sometimes referred to as Moroccan jerky, it's never eaten as snack food and usually must be re-hydrated before long cooking in traditional recipes. It is not re-hydrated, however, when used to make khlii, a confit of preserved meat cooked in fat and olive oil.
Allow two days for marinating the meat before drying.
- 8.8 lbs boneless, trimmed lamb or beef (best) shoulder or leg meat, cut into strips at least 12" long and 1.5" thick
- Use a food processor or a pestle and mortar to make the spice rub. One by one, crush or coarsely grind the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds (if using). Set aside.
- Crush the unpeeled garlic cloves. Mix the garlic with the spices, salt, vinegar and water to make a paste. Rub the meat with this marinade. Be generous and make sure each bit of the meat is coated.
- Cover the marinated meat and place in the fridge for 48 hours. Every 12 hours or so (for a total of 3 or 4 times), take time to toss the meat around ton ensure even marinating.
- After 48 hours, remove the the strips of meat from the fridge and give them a last massage before drying with one of the following methods.
Drying the meat with sun
- Plan to hang the meat the beginning of a good sunny day as we know them in Morocco. You can do this on a clothesline in direct sun or under a covered window. It takes anywhere between 3 to 6 hot days minimum to have a dried gueddid, depending on the temperature/humidity.
- Clean the clotheslines with a wet towel. Hang single strips of meat side-by-side without overlapping, allowing some space between strips. Leave the meat outside under the sun as long as it's hot, hopefully for the whole day. An hour before sunset, wrap the meat with an appropriate clean cloth and bring it inside the house until the next day.
- The next day, repeat the same process of hanging the meat before mid-morning or when it feels like the temperature is rising, and then wrapping the meat and bringing it in before sunset. Continue repeating this process anywhere from 3 to 8 days, depending on how hot it is outside, until the meat is dry and darkened.
Oven method to dry the meat
- The oven should be on a very low setting and ideally fan-assisted to distribute the heat evenly. You may need to work in batches. Spread the meat in a single layer directly on the rack. I suggest you start with 160° F (70° C) for anywhere between 8 to 12 hours. Turn the strips of meat occasionally and check after 8 hours by cutting through. (See below for how to check for readiness. Depending on the quality and the thickness of the cut, adjust the required time accordingly. )
Drying using a food dehydrator
- Alternatively, you can use a dehydrator and you set it accordingly. Check below how to know when the meat has turned to dried gueddid. Follow the same logic as mentioned above to check how the strip of meat looks from inside and how it feels overall.
How to know that the meat has properly dried?
- Gueddid is ready when the meat has shrunk after losing its water content. It will be ready when it will have a uniform dark color and its fibers would look as if they are packed long threads. It should become rubbery from inside and hard from outside. It should darken and should have lost any red or pink spot all the way through.
- It’s important that the gueddid strips thoroughly dry out for a better preservation.
- Dried meats of all sorts do develop a distinctive odor, so the gueddid may have a slight smell of rancidity due to the chemical reactions which would have occurred during the marinating and drying process. However, a very rancid odor is not a good sign.
- We used to keep gueddid in sealed clay jars or urns and place them in bit el 'aoula, a room to store anything related to food, which would be equivalent to a larder in our modern kitchen.
Nowadays, we divide the strips of gueddid and store in plastic bags, which we keep in the freezer.
- Alternatively, any dry, air tight container away from light will be a perfect place to store the dried meat.
- The lenght of meat strips: 12" is acceptable if you plan to use the oven or dehydrator method to make gueddid. Otherwise, anything between 15" to 50" is good so it hangs without falling.
- Gueddid is not a dish per se; it is an ingredient in other main dishes or soups. It is therefore difficult to think of this recipe by servings as it really varies on the recipe where it will be used.
- Some families will be picky on the type of gueddid to be used for couscous. As a general rule, garlic is not used in the broth for couscous but it is important to the marinade for gueddid. Therefore, a gueddid without garlic can be made and used solely for special couscous dishes.
- Vinegar acts as a repellent to flies so they don't land on the meat while it's drying on rooftops or in gardens. In addition, we also use light fabrics or long mosquito nets to cover the hanging strips. These will be reserved for this purpose only and they get washed before and after use.
- Before using gueddid, we usually re-hydrate it in a bowl of water for a few hours (except when making khlii) and then rinse it to get rid of excess salt and also any dust which might have landed on it while drying.
- Before cooking gueddid, we prefer to cut it into smaller strips of about 4" so it fits into the cooking pot.