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Martinmass Beef

Meat and Meat Dishes

(Or Martinmas, Saint Martin, Martlemass Beef)

Martlemass Beef by Crown & Queue at Seven Dials food market.
Image: Alex Bray...

Dried, salted beef, it being common practice to slaughter cattle on the feast-day of St Martin, November 11th, to be preserved for winter.

John Wood Warter's 'An Old Shropshire Oak' of 1886 has the rhyme:
And Martinmass beef doth ben good tacke, When country folke do dainties lacke
'Brand's popular antiquities of Great Britain' of 1800 has "Almost no beef, and very little mutton, was formerly used by the common people in Wigton, generally no more than a sheep or two, which were killed about Martinmas, and salted up for the provision of the family during the year. The weather on Martinmas Eve is anxiously watched by the farmers in the Midland counties, as it is supposed to be an index to the barometer for about two or three months forward. That this belief is wholly unfounded, is almost a superfluous remark. The fine weather often experienced about this season is known as "St. Martin's little summer.""

Charles Dicken's Househoild Words magazine (Volume XVII, p306) says of Shakespeare, that; "He accounts meat salted for from one to five days as wholesomer than fresh, but meat salted and hung to dry by the fire,—Martinmass beef, for example—he will "leave as only convenient for labouring men and such as have strong stomachs." He leaves a good many indigestible things to be enjoyed as their fit diet by the rustics:—the flesh of elder sheep, bulls' beef, (it "is of a rank and unpleasant taste, of a thick gross and corrupt juice, and of a very hard digestion. I commend it unto poor hard labourers.")"

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