Collar Beef

Although so far our adventures in archival cooking have been mostly meatless, the recipe books in Penn’s collections contain many interesting preparations for meat, poultry, and fish. From a recipe to “Stew a Hare” to instructions for how to make “English Bacon” and “Pickle Pigeons,” these recipe books reveal a no-waste, “nose to tail” approach. Most either use the whole animal in a single preparation or preserve meat for future consumption. However, many of these recipes do not lend themselves to modern, apartment cooking (especially during the Philadelphia summer). Alyssa and I were thrilled to find this relatively simple recipe for “Collar Beef,” or braised flank steak seasoned with fresh herbs, in Ms. Codex 252. Collar Beef is a flavorful and relatively inexpensive recipe for red meat.

collar beef

The Recipe

To make Collar Beef
Take a thinn flank of beefe lay it water three houres
then take it out of the water and salt it well with spanish
salt and let it ly in the salt 1 dais then wash it clene water
uery well then take a Roleing pin and beat it well littell
then with a knife cut the inward side of it crosse then strue
som pepper nutmegg cloues an mace an beat them small
and strew it on the inside of it then take som sauory
time sage an bay leaues shred them uery small an strew
them ore the spice then roll it up an bind it uery hard with
a pack thred then put it into an Earthen pott fill it up
with Clarett and bak it

The flank steak is prepared with salt, dressed with a mix of savory herbs, rolled and trussed with string, and braised in red wine. “Clarett” was (and still is) a common name for red Bordeaux wines in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England. We used an inexpensive Bordeaux blend. Instead of soaking our steak for three hours and then salting it for a full day, we salted ours for a few hours before we began cooking. At the advice of our butcher, we also did not pound the steak with a rolling pin; instead, he butterflied the cut for us. We couldn’t find the herb “sauory” in our local markets, but we both thought it would be a nice addition to the spice mix to try it if you have it on hand! We also decided to add dry bay leaves to the wine instead of including fresh bay leaves in the roll as they are not always kind to the stomach.

Our Recipe

* Adjust seasoning based on quantity of meat and taste.

1 lb flank steak, boned and butterflied

butcher’s string

2 T fresh thyme, chopped

3 T fresh sage, chopped

1 t ground pepper

1/4 t ground mace

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1/4 t cloves

2 bay leaves

2 cups red wine


A few hours before cooking, lightly salt the flank steak and allow it to rest at room temperature. Wash off any remaining salt and pat the meat dry before proceeding with the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Open the butterflied steak and rub the inside with the dry herbs. Close the steak, then spread the layer of fresh herbs on top. Roll the flank steak (we rolled width-wise, to create a shorter and fatter roll than rolling length-wise) so the herbs are encased inside. Tie the steak in 2-3 places with string.

Place the prepared steak in a dutch oven with a lid. Pour in the wine and add the bay leaves. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes (or until the steak is cooked to your liking.)

Slice into rounds to serve.


The Result

“Collar Beef” was intensely flavored with wine and herbs. The method of salting and braising the tenderized the notoriously tough flank steak. We found that the central slices were the most balanced. Next time, we might add some chopped garlic and parsley to the herb mix.

28 thoughts on “Collar Beef

  1. Indeed please more posts! I am going to make this collar beef for my husband next week 🙂 and I am fascinated by that carrot pudding, it would be a great gluten free dessert for a friend of mine with severe celiacs 😀

  2. Pingback: Cooking in the Archives: Adventurous Eating and Early Modern Cookery |

    • Yes, “sauory” is the herb savory as we note in the link above. I recall savory being readily available in supermarkets in the UK, but we were not able to locate any at the Philadelphia supermarkets and farmer’s markets we frequent.

      • I didn’t see any link above? I am also using a very old version of android, so websites don’t always display properly! If you are referring to the other comments regarding savory, pls note (and I sound like a b**ch saying this) but I replied first? Anyhoo. I am dying to try this recipe myself. I can’t find savory in Houma, La. so will try with sage. There are also no butchers here. Period. Any tips offhand for butterfly-ing the steak myself? If not, I can google it. Thank you for taking time to reply! I look forward to more culinary explorations!

      • Oh! Buzzfeed, I believe it was, had posted the link to this blog 🙂 I could be wrong. But it was a major or semi-major online publication 🙂

    • The “U” is the way a “V” was written in English at that time. (English spellings were not standardized). It is NOT a “U”(!), as everyone above keeps asking. Also, it’s possible the recipe said, some “savory thyme” (also spelled “time”), sage, and bay leaves”. I found 29 varieties of Thyme; some are sweet and some are not, so it is possible the recipe was specifying one of the more pungent varieties.

      “SAVORY” (winter savory and summer savory) is a European MINT.

  3. I would really encourage any makers to this recipe to track down whole leaf savory (but dried & rubbed will totally work in a pinch.) But as someone who has made this dish (cripes, it was almost 15 years ago!) fresh bay leaves totally made it. Alternately, I have seen ‘Boef Collars’ also calling to be seethed over fyre (pan fried) & basted in red wine with an herb bundle. But great job in translating the technique.

    • Thanks for letting us know! Next time we’ll definitely make sure we have fresh bay leaves on hand (and continue in our search for the illusive savory.) We’re curious about how you came to cook this recipe almost 15 years ago? Was is from a different historical source?

      • I was a student at UNLV. The Lied Library had a large collection of historical reference materials as part of the Wm. F. Harrah Hospitality College. I was also a member of an anachronistic historical group: The Empire of Chivalry & Steel. I agreed to be the ‘kitchen mistress’ for an event & dove head first into
        secondary source materials, I didn’t have the graduate level clearance to handle the “real things.” And widespread scanning & downloading was not available. I found this recipe, I think (it was a long time ago) as part of a microfiche reel I checked out. [No showing my age there] I do believe there is also an almost identical recipe in Sabrina Welserin’s medieval cookery book. I hope that helps shed light– it’s been a long time, as my historical cooking is now focused on the period of the American Civil War & mid-Victorian cooking. PS. I grow savory in my kitchen garden. Seeds can be found

  4. What’s the significance of “spanish salt” in this recipe?

    Does it simply mean salt that is from Spain? And, if so, why was the origin important?

    Was “spanish salt” some sort of seasoning salt? (Googling around turns up a “spanish salt” recipe that combines lemon zest, paprika, garlic salt, sea salt, and a couple other ingredients to make a dry rub for steaks. However, I couldn’t easily find the origins of this recipe and have no idea whether the “spanish salt” spice rub bears any relation to the “spanish salt” called for in your recipe.)

    Was “spanish salt” even salt at all? The French for “allspice” is “Jamaican pepper”. And “Sichuan pepper” (aka “Chinese coriander” or “prickly ash”) isn’t even related to black pepper (or any sort of chile pepper). Just because these things are called ” pepper”, doesn’t meant they’re actually a variety of plain “pepper”. So, I could easily see “spanish salt” being something completely different from “salt”. Then again, I could also easily see it simply meaning salt imported from Spain.

    Any insights into what the recipe is actually looking for you to marinate your meat with would be appreciated!

  5. Pingback: Cooking in the Archives: Bringing Early Modern Manuscript Recipes into a Twenty-First-Century Kitchen - Archive Journal Issue 4

  6. The cooks who wrote this recipe used both summer and winter savory–an herb that is worth looking for. Penzy’s spices carries it–although they do not say which one is it. Summer Savory is an tender annual, and Winter Savory is a perennial. I’m guessing they used Winter Savory. It is useful in bean dishes, as Penzy’s points out.

    • Absolutely, Mercy! I made this one in the very early days. Now that I’m in a house of my own, summer and/or winter savory is on my list for an expanded herb garden. (In addition to the dried options.)

  7. Hi Marissa, or anyone else who intends to cook Beef Collar anytime soon,
    I’d love to see a Youtube Video of the whole thing, if that’s possible at all. (Right now, I cannot find any Youtube videos on Beef Collar.)

    • I haven’t made a video of this recipe, but it would be great if someone did! I hope the process photos help somewhat.

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