Bully beef is a type of corned beef. Basically, it is a brisket cut of beef that is cured or pickled, finely minced, and packaged with gelatin in a can. The name is an anglicized version of the French boeuf bouilli, which means boiled beef. It became a staple of the British army during the first half of the 20th century, and is sometimes served in slices on bread as a sandwich, or combined with potatoes to form a hash.
In the United States, corned beef can refer to the canned variety as well as the cured and pickled type that many delicatessens sell. The deli version is prepared in the oven, much like roast beef, whereas the canned variety is cooked before canning. In the United Kingdom, the term "corned beef" generally refers only to the canned version.
During the Boer War, which lasted from 1899 to 1902, bully beef was introduced as a ration for British soldiers. The war, also known as the Second Boer War or the South African War, was a conflict between the British Empire and two Boers of South Africa. The Boers are descendants of Dutch settlers who speak Afrikaans, a Dutch-based language native to South Africa.
Soldiers were often given tins of beef along with hard tack, a rigid biscuit that looks like a large cracker that is made from flour, water, and sometimes a pinch of salt. It is known not only for its portability and shelf life, but also its ability to chip teeth. Bully beef was often spread on the hard tack or eaten straight from the can. In 2009, the British army announced that tinned corned beef would no longer be included in soldiers’ rations.
Hash is a dish that combines beef, potatoes, onions, and spices. It is quite common for corned beef to be used, especially in breakfast hash recipes, along with eggs and potatoes. Cowboy hash is different from most recipes and is made by combining a can of corned beef, a can of beans in tomato sauce, and a can of corn. The mixture is heated through and seasoned with salt and pepper, and it is usually served with some form of crusty bread.
Another dish that is sometimes made with corned beef is shepherd’s pie. It is a casserole made by layering beef, mashed potatoes, and sometimes corn or other vegetables. Shepherd's pie can also be made with canned rather than fresh meat. Bully beef is also a popular ingredient in some Jamaican dishes.