Beef Cheese

This is a particularly excellent meat loaf. The recipe comes from Plymouth. It was standard store on certain passenger ships and there is a tradition that Beef Cheese was taken on the Mayflower to America. It kept perfectly for months because the suet floated to the top and covered the meat, which was thus sealed. It was sealed again because a “huff” crust of flour and water was put over the oblong tin in which the beef was baked. It was essential to allow it to cool in the oven by turning off the heat and leaving it overnight. This meant that no bacteria could enter the soft warm crust as the air in an oven which has not been opened since it was heated is sterile.

Today, the way to keep it is to freeze it, so the quantity of suet is reduced and the huff paste (which was thrown away when the Beef Cheese was served) is omitted. Serve hot with tomato or mushroom sauce or brown gravy, or cold.

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Ingredients

  • 3 lb ( kg) good minced beef
  • ¾ lb (360 g) minced gammon
  • ¾ cup (90 g) shredded beef suet
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mace
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cooking brandy
  • ½ clove garlic
  • 6 slices streaky bacon, cut in halves lengthways with rinds removed

Method

Mix the beef, gammon and suet very well together. Stir in the onion. Mix all the spices, herbs and seasonings and then stir them into the meat. Pour in the brandy and stir again.

Take an oblong baking tin or fireproof dish of a size to hold the meat mixture comfortably. Rub all over the inside of the tin or dish with the garlic. Lay the slices of bacon in a lattice over the bottom and partly up the sides. Put in the meat mixture and press it down well, smoothing the top. Cover closely with foil and bake in the middle of the oven at 300°F (160°C, Gas Mark 2) for 4 hours.

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