A Follow Up - Salt Glaces and Marron Beef

So, I felt that a follow up report on my Salt Beef and Marron Glaces was probably long overdue.
On the tenth day (my true love gave to me…..some boiled beef and cabbage) I eagerly drained and rinsed the beef. I tentatively sniffed it. There has been a strange smell being emitted from the fridge for some time now and I just can’t locate it. I suspect it might be a wayward turkey leg but I can’t be sure.
The raw but preserved piece of silverside smelt only of its spices, not unpleasant at all. Obviously some further investigation of the fridge is required.
I plunged the beef into cold water, threw in a couple of peeled onions, some carrots and celery. This was for two reasons: a) to make a nice photo shoot (which I didn’t actually exploit in the end) and b) because I don’t like the smell of meat boiling.
Lots of brownish scum came to surface, which I allude to both the proteins in the beef being discharged and the salt preservative kissing goodbye to its beefy bed of the last 10 days. I skimmed that off, put a lid on the pan and let it simmer in its juices for the next two hours (as per the recipe).
I was intrigued and impressed to see that the beef retained its raw, crimson colour throughout the duration of the cooking time – a sure sign that the curing salt (and saltpetre) had worked.
After two hours, I lifted the meat and its boiled vegetables out of the cooking liquor (which had a curious salty/sweet flavour) and, with the patience of the last ten days finally leaving me, cut straight into it. I was greeted with a bright pink, shredded looking middle – kind of like an interior from a Shag painting. The flavour was vaguely reminiscent of the greasy slabs that we get in tins over here, known as Corned Beef, but considerably more flavourful (and not greasy). It was best in sandwiches, with soft, thick cut bread, smeared with mustard. I can certainly imagine why this was considered a great treat at Christmas time. The whole anticipatory process of salting the beef, all ten days of it, produces the most perfect (and not really that labour intensive) cold meat.


And to the Marron Glaces. Even less labour
intensive than the Salted Beef, the success of these preserved, candied chestnuts relies almost entirely on the quality and age of your chestnuts. Mine were a little bit older, they had shrivelled ever so slightly in their shells and would have been useless for anything else. Once glaced, they tasted pretty much like those expensive ones you buy at posh delicatessens, but visually they were slightly weedier looking. I imagine mine would have been the rejects that the workers at the Factoire du Marron Glace would have been allowed to take home at the end of the week. Nonetheless, scrawny nuts aside, they will be wonderful chopped up and used in all sorts of luxurious desserts and biscuits and cakes. And it saved me ten quid for not much effort at all.
To conclude, things that might initially seem daunting or complicated can actually be very simple. Whilst I don’t have the patience to knead bread dough for 15 minutes (unlike my baking powerhouse of a husband), I can just about muster up the strength of character to turn a piece of meat in salt cure once a day or bring a pan of chestnuts in sugar syrup up to the boil once a day for three days. What’s next? Jerky? Growing my own Cacao Beans to produce my own chocolate? You’ll be the first to know…

4 comments:

Kathryn said...

Well done! The beef looks very nice and the chestnuts look professional! Do you feel like a real foodie?

Kathryn x

FreyaE said...

Kathryn,
You mean I'm NOT a real foodie already???????
Freya x

Kathryn said...

Yes of course you are! I just see 'foodie' as a performative label - we aren't intrinsically foodie, we just feel foodie through certain culinary activities - like making marrons glaces and salting beef!

You really inspire me Freya; you and Paul both. I'd love to have a good chat about food writers some day - thank you for these thought provoking, fascinating posts.

Kathryn x

FreyaE said...

Hi Kathryn!
I know exactly what you mean. Like making your first loaf of bread or baking a cake, you have foodie landmarks that make you feel that you've achieved something previously insurmountable.
I'm glad you enjoy our posts...I find your dedication (and skill) at replicating Jamies recipes really inspiring too, I might even go out and buy the book myself!
Freya x
p.s. Feel free to email me at the address on my profile page if you want to chat!