Part 2 in a quest to make a traditional German-Nashvillian spiced round of beef from a 150-year-old recipe
It takes a lot of old-timey equipment, old-style beef butchery, and a pretty good grasp of chemistry to make spiced round.
With all the chemistry kindly worked out for me by spice-and-seasonings company A.C. Legg, finding the right hunk of beef and doing unnatural things with it were the next steps.
Peter Brown at A.C. Legg cautioned that the beef had to be pristine, not the water-injected toasts usually for sale in grocery meat departments. My beef came from Osborne’s Bi-Rite on Belmont Boulevard in Nashville–Brenda, the butcher, ordered the whole top round. We debated whether to trim off the fat–a Victorian homemaker would have so much knowledge about this. I made the decision to trim it. With her expertise, it was easier for Brenda to trim the fat than for me to trim it after brining. But maybe that would make it dry. Where’s the ghost of Christmas kitchens past when you need her?
The original recipe called for 10 pounds of round. I opted for a more modest 5-pound roast.
I also bought salt meat, which is uncured, unsmoked bacon. Sometimes it’s labeled “side meat.” I cut the fat away from the meat and cut into slivers, then rolled the fat slivers in a mixture of pepper, cloves, allspice and cinnamon.
Those fat strips go into the meat. But how, you ask? And the anwer would be, “Surgery.”
Using a sharpening steel, I poked holes in the meat every 1/4 to 1/2 inch. (Sharpening steel, that long piece of metal that comes with the knife set.)
Then the spiced fat strips are pushed into the holes in a process known as “larding.” If you’ve ever considered a career in neurosurgery, start by pushing lard strips into holes in a 5-pound hunk of meat. The holes are smaller than they look, and they begin closing the instant the sharpening steel is removed. The strips are soft, so it’s like pushing a rope. I developed a technique of pushing them in with the sharp probe of a probe thermometer.
You have a lot of time to think when you’re threading lard strips into 5 pounds of beef. I watched a great nature program on TV. I listened to a backlog of podcasts. Eventually it occured to me that maybe frozen lard strips would go in more smoothly. And a larding needle would also be a good solution.
While the beef surgery was underway, the brine ingredients–salt, pink salt for curing, sugar and water–were boiling and chilled.
Late in the evening, the beef was finally larded. I worried that the strips didn’t extend all the way to the center of the meat. I worried that trimming the fat from the roast would mean a dry texture. But mostly, I was relieved that the larding was done.
Now to find a big non-metal container for holding the meat in its slightly corrosive brine.