Spiced Beef

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

spiced beef a kind of preserved beef which is a traditional festive dish in many countries. In Ireland, for example, heavily spiced beef is an important part of traditional Christmas fare. The beef is soaked in brine, brown sugar, juniper berries, and spices which can include black peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, and pimento for any time between three weeks and three months. Beef is sometimes cured in cider casks to impart additional flavour.

Elizabeth David (1970) remarks that beef prepared in such a way has also been called Hunting Beef or Beef à l’écarlate, and that various forms of the recipe have been known in England for at least 300 years. Her prescription involves brown sugar, saltpetre, sea or rock salt, black peppercorns, allspice, and juniper berries; she gives characteristically precise instructions for cooking the beef, commenting that it ‘will carve thinly and evenly, and has a rich, mellow, spicy flavour which does seem to convey to us some sort of idea of the food eaten by our forbears’.