One of America’s Favorites – Salisbury Steak

June 24, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Salisbury steak with brown sauce

Salisbury steak is a dish, originating in the United States, made from a blend of ground beef and other ingredients and usually served with gravy or brown sauce. Hamburg steak is a similar product but differs in ingredients.

Prior to the popularity of minced or ground beef like Salisbury steak in the United States, similar foods already existed in the culinary tradition of Europe. The Apicius cookbook, a collection of ancient Roman recipes that may date to the early 4th century, details a preparation of beef called isicia omentata; served as a baked patty in which minced or chopped beef is mixed with pine kernels, black and green peppercorns, and white wine, isicia omentata may be the earliest precursor to the hamburger. In the 12th century, the nomadic Mongols carried food made of several varieties of milk (kumis) and meat (horse or camel). During the life of their leader Genghis Khan (1167–1227), the Mongol army occupied the western portions of the modern-day nations of Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, forming the so-called Golden Horde. This cavalry dominated army was fast moving and sometimes unable to stop for a meal, so they often ate while riding. They wrapped a few slices of meat under their saddles so it would crumble under pressure and motion and be cooked by heat and friction. This recipe for minced meat spread throughout the Mongol Empire until its split in the 1240s. It was common for Mongol armies to follow different groups of animals (such as herds of horses or oxen or flocks of sheep) that provided the necessary protein for the warriors’ diets. Marco Polo also recorded descriptions of the culinary customs of the Mongol warriors, indicating that the flesh of a single pony could provide one day’s sustenance for 100 warriors.

When Genghis Khan’s grandson Kublai Khan (1215–1294) invaded Moscow, he and his warriors introduced minced horsemeat to the Muscovites. This was later called steak tartare. The city states of what is now Germany took to this ground meat product and created many of their own dishes by adding capers, onions and even caviar to the blend and selling it on the streets. One of the oldest references to a Hamburgh Sausage appeared in 1763 in the cookbook entitled Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1708–1770). Hamburg Sausage is made with minced meat and a variety of spices, including nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, garlic, and salt, and is typically served with toast. A wide variety of traditional European dishes are also made with minced meat, such as meatloaf, the Serbian pljeskavica, the Arab kofta, and meatballs.

Hamburg and its port
Minced meat was a delicacy in medieval cuisine, red meat usually being restricted to the higher classes. Very little mincing was done by medieval butchers or recorded in the cookbooks of the time, perhaps because it was not part of the sausage-making process that preserve meat. Russian ships brought recipes for steak tartare to the port of Hamburg during the 17th century, a time when there was such a great presence of Russian residents there that it was nicknamed “the Russian port”. Trade within the Hanseatic League between the 13th and 17th centuries made this port one of the largest in Europe, its commercial importance being further heightened as it became vital to early transatlantic voyages during the age of steam. In the period of European colonization of the Americas, immigrants to this port were a “bridge” between old European recipes and the future development of the hamburger in the United States.

During the first half of the 19th century, most of the northern European emigrants who traveled to the New World embarked on their transatlantic voyages from Hamburg. The German shipping company Hamburg America Line, also known as the Hamburg Amerikanische Packetfahrt Actien-Gesellschaft (HAPAG), was involved in Atlantic transport for almost a century. The company began operations in 1847 and employed many German immigrants, many of them fleeing the revolutions of 1848–9. New York City was the most common destination for ships traveling from Hamburg, and various restaurants in the city began offering the Hamburg-style steak in order to attract German sailors. The steak frequently appeared on the menu as a Hamburg-style American fillet, or even beefsteak à Hambourgeoise. Early American preparations of minced beef were therefore made to fit the tastes of European immigrants, evoking memories of the port of Hamburg and the world they left behind.

Hamburg steak

Hamburg steak is known by the name “Frikadelle” in Germany since (at least) the 17th century.

In the late 19th century, the Hamburg steak became popular on the menus of many restaurants in the port of New York. This kind of fillet was beef minced by hand, lightly salted and often smoked, and usually served raw in a dish along with onions and bread crumbs. The oldest document that refers to the Hamburg steak is a Delmonico’s Restaurant menu from 1873 which offered customers an 11-cent plate of Hamburg steak that had been developed by American chef Charles Ranhofer (1836–1899). This price was high for the time, twice the price of a simple fillet of beef steak. However, by the end of the century the Hamburg steak was gaining popularity because of its ease of preparation decreasing cost. This is evident from its detailed description in some of the most popular cookbooks of the day. Documents show that this preparation style was used by 1887 in some U.S. restaurants and was also used for feeding patients in hospitals; the Hamburg steak was served raw or lightly cooked and was accompanied by a raw egg.

The menus of many American restaurants during the 19th century included a Hamburg beefsteak that was often sold for breakfast.

Dr. Salisbury
Coming from this history of ground meat dishes is the Salisbury steak, which today is usually served with a gravy similar in texture to brown sauce. Dr. James Salisbury (1823–1905), an American physician and chemist, advocated for a meat-centered diet to promote health, and the term Salisbury steak has been used in the United States since 1897.[18]

Dr. Salisbury recommended this recipe (somewhat different from modern Salisbury steak recipes) for the treatment of alimentation (digestive problems):

“ Eat the muscle pulp of lean beef made into cakes and broiled. This pulp should be as free as possible from connective or glue tissue, fat and cartilage…previous to chopping, the fat, bones, tendons and fasciae should all be cut away, and the lean muscle cut up in pieces an inch or two square. Steaks cut through the centre of the round are the richest and best for this purpose. Beef should be procured from well fatted animals that are from four to six years old.
The pulp should not be pressed too firmly together before broiling, or it will taste livery. Simply press it sufficiently to hold it together. Make the cakes from half an inch to an inch thick. Broil slowly and moderately well over a fire free from blaze and smoke. When cooked, put it on a hot plate and season to taste with butter, pepper, salt; also use either Worcestershire or Halford sauce, mustard, horseradish or lemon juice on the meat if desired. Celery may be moderately used as a relish. ”

Salisbury steak remains popular in the United States, where it is traditionally served with gravy and mashed potatoes or pasta.

United States Department of Agriculture standards for processed, packaged “Salisbury steak” require a minimum content of 65% meat, of which up to 25% can be pork, except if de-fatted beef or pork is used, the limit is 12% combined. No more than 30% may be fat. Meat byproducts are not permitted; however, beef heart meat is allowed. Extender (bread crumbs, flour, oat flakes, etc.) content is limited to 12%, except isolated soy protein at 6.8% is considered equivalent to 12% of the others. The remainder consists of seasonings, fungi or vegetables (onion, bell pepper, mushroom or the like), binders (can include egg) and liquids (such as water, milk, cream, skim milk, buttermilk, brine, vinegar etc.). The product must be fully cooked, or else labeled “Patties for Salisbury Steak”.

The standards for hamburger limit the meat to beef only, and of skeletal origin only. Salt, seasonings and vegetables in condimental proportions can be used, but liquids, binders and/or extenders preclude the use of the term “hamburger” or “burger”. With these added, the product is considered “beef patties”.

Products not made in USDA-inspected establishments are not bound by these standards and may be bound by other standards which vary from country to country.

Hamburg steak is a very similar dish.

The “Hamburger Rundstück” was popular already 1869, and is believed to be a precursor to the modern hamburger.

In Sweden, Pannbiff is similar to a Salisbury steak and is often made by a mix of ground pork and beef, chopped onions, salt and pepper. It is served with boiled potatoes, gravy made from cream, caramelized onions and lingonberries. It is a very traditional dish that is common in the husman cuisine.[citation needed]

Minced cutlet (котлета рубленая, kotleta rublenaya), or, since the late 19th century, simply “cutlet”, is a staple of Russian cuisine. It is similar to a Salisbury steak, with the main difference being pure beef is rarely employed, usually pork or a beef-pork mixture is used. The meat is seasoned with salt and pepper, mixed with finely chopped onion (optionally fried), garlic, and a binder (eggs and breadcrumbs soaked in milk), divided into oval-shaped patties, lightly breaded and shallow-fried in a half-inch of vegetable oil. The transliterated Japanese dish, menchi katsu, is always deep-fried and heavily breaded, being essentially a mincemeat croquette, while the Russian version is always shallow-fried.

 

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