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Beef Olives

Beef Olives

Watch our historic foodways staff cook this recipe, then try it at home

The British term for wrapping meat around a stuffing, browning it and finishing it in a brown sauce is called an “olive,” although there are no olives in it. Perhaps the word referred to the final “olive-like” shape the meat took when it was tied up and cooked. Beef, veal and even fish olives have been part of the British cuisine since the 16th century.

18th Century

Cut slices of a fat rump of beef six inches long and half an inch thick, beat them well with a pestle, make a forcemeat of bread crumbs, fat bacon chopped, parsley, a little onion, some shred suet, pounded mace, pepper and salt; mix it up with the yelks of eggs, and spread a thin layer over each slice of beef, roll it up tight and secure the rolls with skewers, set them before the fire, and turn them till they are a nice brown, have ready a pint of good gravy thickened with brown flour and a spoonful of butter, a gill of red wine with two spoonsful of mushroom catsup, lay the rolls in it and stew them till tender: garnish with forcemeat balls.

— Randolph, Mary. “Virginia House-Wife”

21st Century


  • 6 lb. rump roast
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 2 slices of bacon, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 oz. beef suet, shredded
  • ½ tsp. mace
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 10 wooden skewers
  • 1 cup of lard
  • 1 pint beef broth
  • 2 oz. flour
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 1 pint red wine
  • 1 cup mushroom catsup or Worcestershire Sauce


  1. Cut meat into slices about 6 inches long and ½ inch thick. Beat them flat with a metal meat mallet.
  2. Make a forcemeat by combining the bread crumbs, bacon, parsley, onion, suet, mace, salt and pepper. Add in the two egg yolks to make a thick sausage-like paste that holds together.
  3. Lay the meat on a flat surface. Spread ¼ to ½ cup of the mixture on each slice of meat. Starting at one end, roll each piece of meat into a tight cylinder, securing the roll with wooden skewers. Try not to squeeze the forcemeat out the ends.
  4. Roll the remaining forcemeat into ½ inch to 1 inch balls and set aside.
  5. Heat the lard to 350 degrees and brown each piece of meat on all sides. When nicely colored, set them to drain on a drying rack until all the meat is done.
  6. Press the flour and butter together with your hands until it forms one mass.
  7. Using a straight sided sauté pan, add the beef broth, wine and Worcestershire Sauce and bring it to a simmer. Add in the butter/flour mixture and cook until it begins to thicken.
  8. Add in the beef rolls into the pan, cover and simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes until tender.
  9. Fry the remaining forcemeat balls as a garnish.

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