Maple, Fennel, and Peppercorn Sirloin: Perfectly tender cured beef to sear or serve raw

Holly Davis demystifies the whole curing process so you can try it on the fly at home.

Holly Davis demystifies the whole curing process so you can try it on the fly at home

(Photography by Ben Dearnley)

Cured meat is one of those foods we’ll happily snack on at a restaurant, or purchase from the butcher ahead of a cozy meal in, of small bites and wine, but typically don’t think to prepare it ourselves at home. That all changes with this recipe for cured beef sirloin from Holly Davis’ Ferment. In just a few steps, Davis demystifies this seemingly-intimidating process, leaving us with an easy, homemade addition to elevate any charcuterie board. And if raw just isn’t your thing? These cuts of marinated meat will taste equally great seared and served as steaks.

Maple, Fennel, and Peppercorn Sirloin

By Holly Davis

Here, the seasoned salt and sugar mixture prevents the meat from oxidizing, while drawing out some moisture and adding flavor. The result is intensely delicious, semi-dried tender beef. The longer the beef is left to cure, the stronger the flavor and drier the texture. It is important to use the best quality of grass-fed sirloin beef you can find for this recipe. 

You might slice this thinly to serve raw or thicky to sear and serve as steaks. If serving raw, drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil and serve with a green salad, brined beets with orange and juniper, or finely sliced kumquat, cassia and bay. 


  • 2 lb 4 oz (1 kg) pasture-raised organic beef sirloin

For the cure:

  • 1 ½ tbsp mixed peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 8 ½ oz (240 g) coarse sea salt
  • 4 ¼ oz (120 g) maple sugar or light brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 ½ tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 chilies, to taste (optional)


Take a very clean nonreactive container in which to cure the meat – a small enamel baking tray works nicely.

Trim the meat of any obvious sinew and most, but not all, of the fat capping. Leave the cap on if you will be searing and serving as steaks. 

Combine all the cure ingredients in a bowl. 

CURE: Sprinkle half of the cure mixture in an even layer over the base of the container or tray and lay the beef on top, then cover with the remaining mixture and rub the cure into the beef, making sure to get it into all the crevices. 

Cover the beef with a sheet of parchment paper and weight down using a small plate with additional weight on top, such as a sealed jar filled with water. Place the weighted container in the fridge for 24–72 hours, turning the beef every 6 hours or so. The beef will firm up as it cures and releases liquid. 

Remove the beef from the cure, and brush off and discard as much of the cure as possible. 

Slice into wafer-thin pieces and eat as is or cut into thick slices ready to sear in a hot frying pan. 

Be sure to sear the fat cap well too, and don’t overcook the steaks.

Yield: Serves 8-12 sliced thinly, or 6 as steaks

Excerpted from Ferment: A Guide to the Ancient Art of Culturing Foods from Kombucha to Sourdough by Holly Davis. Photographs by Ben Dearnley. Copyright 2017. Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Chronicle Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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