Spiced beef is a specially seasoned beef dish associated with the southwest region of Ireland, particularly County Cork. As it takes several days to prepare, it is generally considered a dish for special occasions, especially Christmas. Spiced beef is made by rubbing a cut of beef with a blend of salt and spices, allowing it to marinate for approximately one week, and then simmering it for several hours.
Due to the salt and saltpeter used in its preparation, spiced beef can remain fresh for up to a month. Thus, it is possible that Irish cooks devised the recipe as a way of preserving meat in the days before refrigerators were invented. As of the early 21st century, however, spiced beef is a dish loved by many for its distinctive flavor. Since it requires approximately a week of preparation, spiced beef has generally come to be considered a food for special occasions. Many Irish families, particularly in the southwest region of the country, eat it as part of Christmas dinner.
Usually, spiced beef is made from a cut of beef taken from the hindquarter section of a cow. Additional ingredients traditionally include saltpeter, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, juniper berries, allspice, water, and stout. Many cooks modify this spice mixture to create a flavor that suits their taste. While saltpeter was once widely available, in the 21st century its availability may be limited due to the belief that large quantities of the compound may be hazardous to the health. In some countries, it may be obtainable only from a pharmacist.
The first step in making spiced beef is trimming the beef cut of excess fat. Next, the salt, saltpeter, sugar, and spices are ground together. The beef is then rubbed well with this mixture and set in a covered container in the refrigerator to marinate. Every day for approximately one week the beef should be turned over.
Once the spiced beef has marinated for a week, it is ready to be cooked. It should be removed from the refrigerator and transferred to a casserole. Water and, if desired, stout should be poured into the casserole until the beef is submerged. The casserole should then be covered, and the beef simmered on the stovetop for three to four hours or until cooked through. When ready, the beef is removed from the casserole, thinly sliced, and eaten alone or in a sandwich.