Things to do when you can’t sleep (xii)


xii:  Drink beef tea

– assuming you have made some earlier, as it takes time.  I make mine in the slow cooker.

Our Victorian ancestors swore by beef tea for the sick, but it has been rather debunked since. We forget that they had to nurse very sick people at home, who would now be straight off to hospital with an IV drip put up. I don’t know anything about its nutritive properties, but suspect that beef tea was useful as a rehydration drink, containing all the salts and suchlike leached from the meat, but no fibre, no acid, no fat – absolutely nothing to place demands on a dysfunctional digestion.

 It is a curious fluid, and smells unappealing; the first time I made it I nearly put it down the sink.  But you know what, it really does slide down most comfortably.


4 responses »

  1. Lots of different versions on the interweb, but the one I do is as follows:

    1lb cheap but lean beef such as shin – connective tissue is fine, but remove as much fat as possible, then cut meat into small cubes. Add a bay leaf, maybe a sprig of parsley.

    Cover with 1 pint cold water and heat very slowly with lid on until barely simmering (that’s why the slow cooker is good). Allow to infuse at this barely-simmering level – different people give different lengths of time from 1 hour to about 6 – I’m usually somewhere in the middle.

    Strain the liquid off. Depending on the size of your sieve, some tiny beef particles may come through – this is fine though not pretty. Chill, then remove every particle of any remaining fat.

    Sometimes it forms a soft jelly, sometimes it stays runny. In any case, reheat gently and drink.

    You can re-use the meat in something, but it looks pretty flabby by then, so as a recipe it is a bit extravagant. Which presumably is why the poor had to wait for the benevolent rich to give them some!

    This very simple and underseasoned version just slides in. Variants include seasoning or sometimes vegetables, but to me it loses its supremely absorbable character.

    The original recipe came from Jocasta Innes’ ‘Pauper’s Cookbook’.

    • Well if you do I would be fascinated to hear what you think – bear in mind that my nearest and dearest regard it as a totally revolting beverage and can’t believe I consume it (though NB none of them have ever tried it out!)

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