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Cookery Through Time: Ragout of Beef

Elizabeth Sul-Celline - HHC Docent

Friday Oct 7th, 2022

I first saw this recipe listed on https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/recipes-and-cookbooks/recipe/ragout-of-beef/. 

That website lists it as a recipe from 1890, And states the cookbook was created as a fundraiser by the ladies of a church in Ohio, and was published in several editions.

I did a little more research into the book and found that at least one full publication is available. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping (3rd ed.). (1877) Buckeye Publishing Company
This recipe calls for 6 pounds of beef round as the roast. 6 pounds is a little much for my household so I bought a nice organic beef chuck roast that was a little over 2 pounds to work with. The rest of the recipe I cut in about half to make up for the smaller sized piece of meat.

The recipe says to cut up the tomatoes, but not to what size, so I cut them in larger chunks. I had some small onions from the garden and used about as many of those as I thought was equal to a regular size onion. 

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Cloves are expensive! But I bought the jar that was the best value for the money and figure I can use it for more of these old-timey recipes as it seems to have been a very popular spice back then. I guess you just throw in the cinnamon stick whole, so I did that and then added a big pinch a whole black peppercorns.

Now the fun part … working with the salt pork. The recipe calls for “fat salt pork“ -I was able to find a cured salt pork at the store and a lot of it is pretty fatty, so I plan to use the fattiest parts. The recipe calls for a half a pound of salt pork for the 6 pound roast and since I have a roast that’s a little over 2 pounds I’m going to use around 4 to 6 ounces. The leaner parts of the salt pork I’ll save for another recipe. Oh, now that I open the  package I see the salt pork has a layer of skin on top. I’ll cut that whole thing off and see if I can make some cracklins.

OK, back to the fun stuff, it says cut gashes in the roast and stuff them with the pork cubes. So I cut these cubes into about 1/4 inch sizes and I’m stab holes to into the roast so that they make pockets and don’t have slits from end to end. I think the fat will render into meat better that way. Then add the meat over the veggies and spices, and add vinegar and water. I chose to use apple cider vinegar.

For a pot with a tight fitting lid I’m using my 12 quart cast-iron Dutch oven and I’m going to be cooking this over an open fire on a tripod. The recipe calls for a moderate oven but I don’t really know what that means. I’ll just keep a nice fire going under it and keep an eye on it.

After an hour I pulled the lid off and saw that it was simmering quite nicely. The recipe suggest salt to taste. I did use a salt pork in the recipe so I did a light seasoning of salt at this point.

After two hours of total cooking I decided to turn the roast over and take the lid off the pot to let it reduce a little bit. I used a slotted spoon to strain out all of the excess tomatoes, onions, and spices and then added a couple tablespoons of flour to the cooking liquid to make a gravy. 10 minutes longer on the heat and I have my finished dish.

I served this with fresh boiled red potatoes and wilted garlicky swiss chard from the garden. The final result? Beef that is very tender and you find fun little tunnels of salt pork as you cut into it. The flavor combination of the tomato, peppercorns, cinnamon and clove are delicious. 

 

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It’s a recipe that’s very simple but it comes together very well. We give it in A-. The only thing I would change is I would give the meat a fairly hard sear for color and extra flavor and then put it in the pot with the rest of the ingredients.

Enjoy!