14 January, 2009

Remember Real Dried Beef?

Dried beef is not what it used to be. Oh, the little jars are the same - small vacuum-packed tumblers with the snap-off lids - but the meat inside has changed. Once upon a time, dried beef used to be sliced from a real cut of meat; it looked like thin slices taken from a dried roast beef. Today, though, it's all "chopped and formed." Hormel and Armour make their dried beef out of some kind of dessicated hamburger.

A few years ago, when this changeover to cheapness was first happening, I found a bunch of jars of Beardsley brand dried beef in a local job lot store and bought every one of them I could grab. When my stash was all gone, though, I thought that was the end of good dried beef forever. I refuse to buy the chopped and formed stuff.

But joy has returned! Poking through the packaged-meat section of Food Zone International in Springfield, I found refrigerated envelopes of Knauss Dried Beef. I couldn't see through the packaging, but there was nothing on the label that indicated they were chopped and formed, so I took a chance and bought a couple. And to my joy and delight, I found that Knauss does indeed make the real thing (as shown on the left.)

Probably because it's not meant to be entirely shelf-stable, the Knauss brand is not as salty as the Hormel stuff in a jar, so it needed no rinsing or pre-soak to take some of the saltiness away. This morning, I enjoyed a delicious breakfast of that time-honored classic "Shit on a Shingle" - also known by the less-colorful name "creamed chipped beef on toast" and it was great.

I am entirely convinced that the bad reputation this wonderful breakfast has is due to ignorant people who have only heard it referred to as "Shit on a Shingle" or "SOS" and have decided that if it's called something so awful, it must not taste very good. So, here's my recipe.

Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast
Serves 2

1 generous tablespoon of butter
1 package (3 oz) of Knauss Dried Beef
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups of milk (approximately)
Pepper, nutmeg, and Worcestershire sauce to taste
4 slices of toast, buttered lightly

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat until it is foamy. Add the dried beef, breaking it up into little bits as you do so. Stir the beef around in the butter to sizzle it deliciously, and when it is all nicely coated with butter and just starting to brown and curl at the edges, sprinkle it all over with the flour. Stir the flour into the beef thoroughly, then turn the heat down to low and cook for a few minutes until the flour begins to color a bit - just enough to get rid of the "raw flour" taste.

With the heat back up to medium-high, stir in the milk all at once and continue to stir until the mixture bubbles and starts to thicken into gravy. You won't need much salt (and if you do, use celery salt!) but season with a good shot of Worcestershire sauce, some nutmeg, and as much freshly ground black pepper as you like - I like lots of it in this! Keep stirring until the gravy is thickened and delicious - taste and adjust the seasoning if you like, and if the gravy is too thick stir in more milk, just a wee bit at a time, until it's got the consistency you like.

Serve on toast - but if you happen to have a few freshly-made flaky and mouth-watering homemade biscuits on hand, split them and ladle the SOS right on top for heavenly delight.

UPDATE - 30 March 2009:

E. W. Knauss & Sons, the world's largest producer of dried beef, was acquired by Alderfer Inc. in 2004. Click here to go to Alderfer's website; there you will find a search function to help you locate a retailer near you that carries Knauss dried beef. And if you can't find it locally, Alderfer offers an online purchasing option and full contact info so you can write to them if you like.


Anonymous said...

Oh Joy! I used to *love* having SOS! Not only was it good on the budget, it was pure bliss to eat!
Please! give your readers a link for the Knoss beef?


Dave said...

Chris -

I've added an update to the blog entry with a link to the company's website. You can find a retailer there, or order online.

Unknown said...

Thank you...haven't made this for several years because I HATE that ground and formed junk. Can hardly wait!!!!

Bomber12 said...

I want to tell you that I grew up in Gettysburg, PA and our family tradition on Christmas morning was Chipped Beef. I have to rely on classmates from 40 years ago to go to the supermarket and send me some every Christmas. They still slice it in the supermarket in Gettysburg. However, I would love to find an on-line source, do you know of any? Here is our recipe:

1 lb. chipped beef sauteed in butter, then steamed in dry sherry for 5 minutes. Shake up about 2 tablespoons of flour with a cup of milk and pour on top, Stir until thick, then add more milk. When it is not too thick, a bit thicker than soup, add a Tablespoon of Kitchen bouquet. This is not your ren of the mill diner creamed beef on toast.

Dave said...

I don't know of any mail-order or online source that is selling dried beef that could compare to market-sliced dried beef. But I think I might be able to come up with a recipe for making your own, if you'd be interested in it. Making my own dried beef for "chipping" is one of the things I've always wanted to try. And now that the weather is getting colder and my attic is the right temperature for curing meat again, I might have to give it a go soon.

Anonymous said...

If you would like to get an even tastier product, go here:

There is also Dietrich's Meats near Allentown PA.


AlsoDave said...

Alderfers now offers already creamed chipped beef as well, though you have to place your order by phone. This old soldier thanks you very much, Dave!

paco said...

Well, was I ever glad to find this. I completely agree about that horrible formed stuff. In Maryland, supermarkets offer three kinds of packaged dried beef: Knauss, Carson's, and Habersett's. Also Herman's (real gem of old fashioned butcher shop in Newark, DE) sells it fresh sliced. I'm certainly going to try the variations I've read here, but permit me to add my own: 1 4 oz pkg dried beef, 1/2 fine chopped onion, sauteed in butter with a little olive oil, same amount of flour as butter when beginning to curl, add milk to desired thickness. Then add good amt of thyme (dried or fresh) and a handful of frozen peas. Serve over hard, buttered toast, biscuit, or even rice. Enjoy!!

Anonymous said...

Knauss Foods is now a separate company from Alderfer. Please visit our website, knaussfoods.com for more information about our Knauss dried beef.

outtathere said...

Hey thanks for this!

I need to freeze the deer dried beef we had our local (wonderfully old-fashioned butcher Sensenig Meats - good things food come out of Pennsylvania!) make for us and I was wondering how much to put in each baggie so I did a search and fell upon your site.

Anyway I agree with you that things just aren't what they used to be!

Unknown said...

I am so happy I googled dried beef. I have been craving SOS. And I want to use it for a charcuterie plate. I don't want to have to buy all the expensive Euro meats.

Thank You

Tinky said...

I can still get it at my local general store in Massachusetts! Here I am preparing it, if you're interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfwjAjJlOwY

Unknown said...

Here in southern New Jersey, we can get it sliced in the deli section of the local ShopRite grocery store. Not cheap at around $9 per pound, but it seems to be lower in salt than the prepackaged stuff. Great for SOS.

Unknown said...

The Krauss brand is extremely salty.