Mrs. Grigson uses more allspice than Mrs. David; we use a little more again along with a greater proportion of pepper.
- 3 lb beef (chuck, rolled and tied, or top round or sirloin)
- 2 oz dark brown sugar
- 2 oz good coarse salt (like Maldon)
- 1 oz coarsely crushed allspice berries
- ½ oz coarsely crushed juniper berries
- 1 oz coarsely crushed peppercorns
- Push the sugar down evenly over the entire surface of the beef and seal it in a plastic bag or put it in a deep nonreactive crock or pot. Refrigerate the meat and turn it over each morning and evening for two days.
- Combine the remaining ingredients and press them evenly into the beef, turning them daily for another ten days: You may need to reapply some of the cure from time to time.
Preheat oven to 275˚.
- Brush as much of the cure as you can from the beef, place it into an ovenproof pot in which it barely fits and add enough water almost to cover the meat.
- Spread a thin layer of shredded suet over the beef, place two layers of silicone paper or aluminum foil over the pot to give it a good seal and cover it tightly with a heavy lid.
- Cook the beef for about 2 ½ hours.
- Remove the beef from the oven but not the lid from the pot and let the beef rest for 3 hours.
- Scrape away any suet that has adhered to the beef, pat it dry and wrap it in plastic, then weight it with as much as 3 lb and refrigerate overnight before serving in thin slices.
-Accompaniments are commonsense; purists consider horseradish sauce essential. Mrs. Grigson liked to serve her spiced beef with potato salad; we like pickled onions and walnuts.
-All in the Cooking, the standard text for home economics class throughout Ireland for some four decades beginning in 1946, includes a recipe for cooking, but not curing, spiced beef. Food in Ireland may generally have been abysmal during that era, but Irish cooks could buy spiced beef.
-According to Mrs. Grigson, spiced beef “will keep in the refrigerator for three weeks. Useful for Christmas.” English Food, (London 1974) 185 All in the Cooking does not explicitly link the dish to the holidays but the inference is clear: The text suggests a garnish of holly.
-Spiced beef is equally good for a cold outdoor supper on a hot summer’s day.
-We have gotten good results without the layer of fat; in that case, barely cover the meat with water when you bake it.
-Alternatively, cover the meat with a thin sheet of beef fat (easier to discard).
-The bfia recipe halves Mrs. Grigson’s and alters a number of her proportions.
-We also have omitted the saltpeter specified by Mrs. Grigson along with other traditional writers because we cannot get it due to the strictures of the health police. Too bad; saltpeter keeps the beef a rosy pink. Spiced beef looks grey without it, but pink pickling salt does restore some color.
-Mrs. Grigson makes a simple and effective horseradish sauce by folding 2 Tablespoons of grated horseradish and the juice of ½ lemon into ½ cup of whipped cream seasoned with a little salt and sugar. If you use horseradish from a jar (entirely acceptable) rather than grate your own, drain it ruthlessly. Nobody wants soggy sauce.