Salt beef and wensleydale reubens

Authentic salt beef takes time to soak and cook and when done, Allegra McEvedy slices hers for sandwiches with a Yorkshire twist
By Allegra McEvedy
Salt beef and wensleydale reubens
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time:
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes plus cooling times, 1 week soaking in brine and several hours soaking
  • Effort: medium


  • 1.8 kg piece beef brisket, or silverside

For the brine

  • 450 g salt beef cure pre-mix - which is 10g sodium nitrite, 40% or 175g white sugar and 60% or 265g salt
  • 10 cloves
  • 6 allspice berries or ½ tsp ground allspice
  • handful black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • few bay leaves
  • 90 g soft brown sugar

For the cooking liquid

  • 2 onions, halved
  • 2 large carrots, cut in big chunks
  • 7 bay leaves, torn
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds, roughly broken up with a knife or in a pestle and mortar
  • 1/2 tbsp black peppercorns, roughly cracked with the side of a knife

For the reubens

  • slices salt beef
  • sliced rye bread, lightly toasted
  • butter, for spreading
  • English mustard
  • dill pickle, sliced lengthways
  • sauerkraut, warmed
  • thick slices wensleydale cheese

Tips and Suggestions

Sodium nitrite is a traditional preservative for salt beef and gives the beef its classic pink tinge.

You can find sodium nitrite online at sites such as Bristol Botanicals. Alternatively, Morton Salt do a good line of meat curing salts.


1. For the brine: put the cure mix, or the individual components, in a large saucepan with 2 litres of water, the cloves and ground allspice if using. Roughly break up all the other whole spices using a pestle and mortar, then put them in the pan with the garlic. Scrunch in the bay leaves, tip in the sugar and bring quickly up to the boil with a lid on, then turn off the heat and leave to cool.

2. When completely cooled, put the beef in the brine and leave to soak for a week in the fridge turning a couple of times.

3. After brining, rinse the beef well in cold water then soak in a large bowl in fresh water for several hours, changing the water every hour or so, until it stops tasting salty.

4. For the cooking liquid: transfer the beef to a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil with the lid on. Skim the surface, tip in the onions, carrots, bay leaves, caraway seeds and peppercorns, then turn the heat right down to the lowest it will go. Cook the beef slowly for about 4 hours ' so gently that there are no bubbles. Keep it submerged with liquid during cooking, topping up with boiling water if necessary. When cooked, leave the beef to cool in the water, then drain well.

5. For the reubens: for each sandwich, warm a few slices of the salt beef, either under the grill or in a frying pan over a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of water. Spread one slice of toast with butter and the other with mustard. Drain the warmed beef if necessary. Pile the meat on the mustard toast, top with slices of dill pickle, then sauerkraut, then Wensleydale. Grill until the cheese has softened, then top with the buttered slice of toast. Serve cut in half to see it's inner beauty.

Rate This Recipe