It’s a common practice during Christmas season to exchanged cakes with relatives. In fact every morning during Christmas week we would keep tasting different cakes thanks to these exchanges. For me however the most special cake exchange happens between us and the family of my paternal uncle who along with cake always used to give us a chunk of Salted Beef. Since childhood I and my father used to eagerly wait for this which we would devour with a piece of bread and cheese. This however had stopped for a good two years when unfortunately my aunt had injured herself and was unable to make salted beef. This became a point where my cousin brother decided to make their own portion of this fantastic Anglo-Indian classic.
Salted beef is a form of cured meat where the piece of meat is treated in salt and lemon solution for days and then finally roasted till it becomes completely dry. This form of curing beef was once a standard across many Anglo-Indian and Christian families in Kolkata especially during the winter Christmas season however with time many families either stopped making these or the newer generation never learnt this traditional recipe.
We carefully studied the original recipe from the people who used to make it and talked with them to understand in details about the process which is critical for this dish. The ingredients are simple but the process is complicated and time consuming. The dish takes around three to four days to prepare and during the span of curing its needs to be constantly monitored. Thus armed with all these knowledge we tried our hands to prepare the first batch of salted beef.
Ingredients for Salted Beef
Beef (Shank Portion) = 2 Kilo
Lemons = 20 – 30 Pieces
Salt = 1 Cup (regular tea cup)
Shora (Potassium Nitrate) = 1 Tea Spoon
Cane Sugar Jaggery = 2 Units
Process of Making Salted Beef
- Make sure the meat is fresh and take a shank portion.
- Ensure no fat is present in the meat, any presence of fat will spoil the entire process.
- Carefully remove the fat layers in between the layers also.
- Dab the meat dry with a fresh piece of cloth to take away any moisture.
- Extract the lemon juice into a bowl.
- Ensure the metal bowl does not react with lemon and salt thus use a stainless steel bowl.
- Strain the lemon juice to remove any seeds or other impurities.
- Add salt into the lemon juice mix.
- Add Shora (Potassium Nitrate) into the lemon juice mix.
- Ensure both the ingredients gets completely dissolved.
- Add the meat portion to the lemon juice solution.
- Make sure that the entire meat submerges into the solution thus depending on this add additional lemons.
- Use a fork to punch holes into the meat to let the lemon solution inside.
- Keep the bowl open and do not refrigerate.
- Cover the bowl with a cloth. Make sure this cloth is a light material with pores so as to let the air pass.
- Keep it like this for at least three days.
- During these three days at least three times a day poke holes into the meat with a fork and with a spoon pour the lemon juice solution from top.
- Avoid touching it with hands as this may spoil it.
- On the fourth day add sugar cane jiggery to the lemon solution.
- Start heating the bowl in a light simmer.
- Occasionally keep pouring the boiling solution on top of the meat.
- Keep doing this process till the juice completely evaporates and only a think residual formation is seen.
- After cooling down use a fork to grip the meat chunk and shake it hard to let the extra salt formation come loose.
- Salted beef is now ready and can be kept under refrigeration to prolong its shelf life.
Salted beef tastes best with bread and add some cheese to it and it will be just “perfect”. It tastes a bit salty just like most cold cut meat and some people just like to have them as it is. So this season try something different and make your own portion of salted beef.