What is Jellied Beef Loaf?
Jellied beef loaf is a meat product made with shredded beef which has been mixed with gelatin, poured into a mold, and allowed to set. Typically it is served cold, for example at a brunch with an assortment of other cold prepared foods. For serving, the jellied beef loaf is unmolded, making it easy for people to slice wedges off and top them with assorted condiments. This specialty food item is sometimes available at delicatessens, and it can also be made at home.
This dish is one among a large family of dishes made by mixing various ingredients with gelatin or aspic and allowing them to set. These dishes were immensely popular during the 1950's, as many period cookbooks can attest, although their popularity has since waned in favor of less elaborate preparations of food. Despite being less well known than it once was, jellied beef loaf occasionally crops up at parties and dinners in various regions of the world, along with an assortment of other molded and chilled dishes.
The flavor of jellied beef loaf can vary widely, depending on the taste of the cook. Some cooks like to mix cooked vegetables in with the cooked and shredded beef, for example, to make the dish less heavy. It can also be flavored with fresh herbs and spices, and some cooks even make it spicy with the addition of peppers. The dish can be served with an assortment of condiments like mint jelly, mustard, relish, chutney, cranberry sauce, and so forth.
To make beef loaf, you need cooked and shredded beef. You may be able to obtain this from a local deli, or you can make it at home; a slow cooked beef roast is often ideal for this purpose. If you wish to add vegetables, cook and shred or finely chop them, and mix them with the beef and any desired spices. Meanwhile, dissolve some gelatin in cold water and then whisk it into a pot of beef stock, allowing the mixture to cook until it starts to firm. Mix the stock with the beef, and pour the mixture into a loaf mold of choice to set and chill before serving. Keep jellied beef loaf cool up until the point you plan to serve it, and refrigerate it promptly after serving to reduce the risk of food borne illness.
As a general rule, for every two cups of meat and vegetables, you will need two cups of stock and one and one half tablespoons of gelatin. You can also pour the mixture into small molds, if you wish to make individually molded jellied beef loaves in a variety of sizes and shapes.
I ran across a recipe for this stuff in one of my mom's old cookbooks. I asked her if she ever made it and she said, "Are you kidding? Nobody ever made that! Or at least nobody I ever knew!"
We are from the South, and her considered opinion was that Yankee women must make that sort of thing. it certainly was never popular around here. Gelatin fruit salad? Those appeared everywhere. That other stuff? Not hardly.
The very idea of jellied beef nauseates me. Of course, I'm not an aspic fan, to start with. Savory gelatin? Eeeewww.
These kinds of recipes didn't fall out of favor because they were labor intensive to prepare. They fell out of favor because they were nasty! People made them more to show off their skills than to produce something edible. They look impressive. Taste, however, is another story.
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