It all began in 1910 when Ward’s great great grandfather George Henry Roberts moved from New Zealand to San Francisco to leave the family business of salting beef only to revert back to his trade when he arrived to the Bay Area. “They laughed at him for the way he made corned beef,” she says.
Ward says that in early years in San Francisco, those who cured beef placed briskets in large vats of brine and allowed the meat to cure for up to 30 days. Roberts brought the method he took from New Zealand that involves a pump attached to needles that evenly distributes brine into the meat. The process her grandfather introduced takes but three days. “He was the first person to introduce artery brining to San Francisco,” Ward says.
Now that process involves an $80,000 piece of machinery that brines about 3 million pounds of beef a year. Months of cooler weather and St. Patrick’s Day is reason that two thirds of her business is done between January and March.
“It’s not a big summer food. A lady has to heat her kitchen for three to four hours to simmer this big piece of meat,” Ward says.
Outside of the Irish community, Pacific Islanders make up a big part of her business. On my visit, two Tongan bruddahs (each weighing 300+ pounds, easy) picked up $220 worth of Povi Masima or “salted beef” for a family party that weekend.