Baron of Beef- Defined with History
Baron of Beef—One of the olden-time dishes of Great Britain's banquet tables, the term applied to two short loins of beef left whole, resembling a saddle of mutton.
Baron of Beef, A very large joint of the ancient kitchen. It consists of both sides of the back, or a double sirloin, and weighs from 40 to 100 lb. It is always roasted, but is now rarely prepared, except at some festive occasions of the English Court, or at some great public entertainment. It is generally accompanied by a boar’s head.
BEEF, THE "BARON” OF— “In accordance with the custom the Queen’s table was furnished at Christmas with a splendid ‘baron’ of beef, weighing about 300 lbs., which was flanked on either side by a boar's head and a woodcock pie.
The huge joint, as is customary, was roasted at Windsor Castle and thence dispatched to Osborne. By the way, why the ‘baron’ of beef has so lordly a title is not quite clear. As the joint consists of the beast’s two sirloins—or ‘Sir Loins,’ as some people spell the word—not cut asunder, the name may possibly have been given on the principle that ore baron is equal to two knights.”
The hind-quarters are usually considered the choice quarters, as from them are cut or taken the large and famous “ Baron of Beef," which the English hold in the highest estimation as the crowning dish for the Christmas dinner. This joint is seldom prepared in this country, but it is cut much like a saddle of mutton; that is, by leaving the two sirloins together; when being dressed, the hind-quarters of the animal are not separated, but cut so as to saddle or baronize them, by taking off the buttocks, rumps, sockets, tops of sirloins, and a part of the suet, which leaves almost a square looking piece, first known in England as the baron of beef and this enormous piece is roasted whole.
The principal dish, from time immemorial, for the sovereigns of England at their Christmas dinner is the “ Royal Baron of Beef/’ In an English print I read that “it was this year (1854) cut from a fine Highland ox, fed by Prince Albert, and weighed eight hundred and forty pounds. It was put down before an enormous fire on Saturday afternoon, and for fourteen hours was watched and basted by relays of assistants under the head cook, after which it was trimmed and decorated, with the holly and mistletoe apparently sprouting from the outside fat of the meat.”
I also find the following advertisement for the Christmas festivities: “A Baron of Beef will be roasted on Wednesday next at the Merchants’ Dining Rooms, Lancaster Buildings, Exchange-street, East Liverpool. Will be placed on the table at one o’clock, ’ etc.
In this city I have found several instances where this great dish was prepared and served, and a few these evidences the fact are now in my possession in the shape old bills fare. About the first found on my list was given by William Sykes, who kept one ... the best public houses at the period which this “baron of beef” was given, then called the “New York Coffee House,” and located at the corner William-street and Slote-lane (Beaver-street.)
This took place on the 8th of October, 1823, in honor of the union of the Erie Canal waters with the Hudson River, on which occasion he served up “a 'baron of beef' measuring nearly four feet in length, and weighing one hundred and twelve pounds. It was placed upon a marble slab and surmounted with a white silk flag, bearing the arms of the State, and painted for the occasion.”
Then at the Agricultural Society’s dinner, which took place on Friday, the 31st inst. following, at a place called “ Mount Vernon,” located on the East River, just above the (Youle’s) shot-tower. Another “baron of beef,” weighing but one hundred and nine pounds, was furnished by Thomas Gibbons, No. 60 Fulton Market.
The year following (1824), the corporation gave a dinner, on Monday, the 5th of July, in the City-Hall, when a large baron of beef was on the table ; and the next year they gave another, quite as large as the previous one, on Monday, the 4th of July. I am also much indebted to Charles H. Webb, Esq., the almoner of St. George Society, who informs me that this Society has had several barons of beef served up at their Anniversary dinners, which were principally prepared by Mr. and Mrs. William Niblo.
The following incident will show one of the mistakes which occurred with perhaps the largest and finest baron of beef ever prepared for, or attempted to be roasted in New York, or elsewhere. This, no doubt, occurred from the anxiety of Mrs. Niblo to outdo all former efforts of giving this choice piece in the greatest perfection.
She gave the order and lier instructions to Mr. Andrew C. Wheeler (butcher, Ko. 19 Fulton Market), that it should be the largest and finest that he could procure. It was taken from a very choice animal, and, when trimmed, weighed some two hundred and eighty pounds then sent to Niblo—who then kept his famous garden and hotel corner of Broadway and Prince-street—the day before the grand dinner of the St. George Society was to take place.
The same night, late, Mrs. Kiblo was about to put it down to roast. She found it so large and unwieldy that she could not spit it, let alone roast it; so, about midnight, she sent for Mr. Wheeler, who came, and, after cutting some one hundred pounds or more off of it, they were enabled to get it spitted, and near enough to the fire to commence this great roast for the next afternoon’s dinner.
They had, however, almost given it up in despair before they succeeded; but it was said that it was superbly cooked and served up, as every thing else was with which Mrs. Niblo had to do.
Dividing the baron of beef exactly through the centre of the loins, or back-bone, produces two sirloins—a name which has become extensively known and commonly associated with this choice part of the carcass. It is said that the name originated with Charles IL, who jocularly knighted that part of the animal Sir-Loin.
The baron of beef, which comprises both sides of the back, or the double sirloin, a huge joint which may range from fifty to a hundred pounds in weight, is always roasted, though seldom prepared now, except on festive occasions at the English Court. The saddle of mutton—the two loins undivided—is a more convenient joint.
At the breakfast which Lady Margaret Bellenden gave Claverhouse in the great hall of Tillietudlem were no tea or coffee, rolls or toast, but viands solid and substantial—the priestly ham, the knightly sirloin, the noble baron of beef, the princely venison pasty ; the silver flagons mantled with generous wines or foamed with amber ale. Scott’s ideas of hospitality are generous and commendable.
The hind quarters are the choicest parts of the whole beef; from them is cut the famous “Baron of Beef,” which is always served at the Christmas dinner of the queen or king of England.
The “Baron of Beef” divided in the center makes two sirloins, which are cut into roasts and sirloin steaks. The tenderloin steak or fillet de bœuf is very delicate, but not so nutritious as the regular sirloin steaks.
It is better for young housekeepers to find a good reliable butcher and depend upon him, until they have learned the different cuts and qualities of beef and signs of good meat.