Yes, you heard that right. Richmond’s iconic Valentine’s Meat-Juice is poised for a come back!
Valentine’s Meat-Juice was once a worldwide sensation. The highly sought after elixir was the not-so-secret ingredient in the famous bloody marys served at Richmond’s Commonwealth Club. And if you think about it, the idea of a small amount of meat-juice in your bloody mary isn’t that far fetched given today’s bacon bloody mary craze (give it a try you won’t be disappointed).
Valentine’s Meat-Juice even played a role in one President’s recovery from an attempted assassination. Per the Findley Antique Bottle Club: “The juice reached its greatest success and acknowledgment in 1881 when President Garfield said, after wounded from a bullet in an assassination attempt, that he breakfasted on Valentine’s Meat Juice along with toast and poached egg to get better.”
This Richmond born Meat-Juice phenomenon spread like wildfire. The elixir was a must have amongst nobility and adventurers who were exploring the vast reaches of the globe. Here is what Richmond Magazine’s Harry Kollatz Jr. had to say about the Meat-Juice sensation:
“Valentine’s Meat-Juice spread throughout the world; the tonic was taken on the Greeley relief expedition to the North Pole and went with journalist-adventurer Harry de Windt through Africa and Asia, on battlefields and in hospitals. German doctors used meat juice to combat cholera, and in England it protected against typhoid. Chinese viceroy Li Hung Chang credited it with his recovery from a long illness, and England’s George V and Emperor Yoshita of Japan also used the tonic.”
So how did Valentine’s Meat-Juice become a thing?
It’s only a natural question to ask: how did such a strange sounding thing as Valentine’s Meat-Juice become a worldwide phenomenon?
It basically comes down to a love story where Mann Satterwhite Valentine Jr. attempted to save his wife’s life in a moment of desperation. Remember, modern medicine was not all that sophisticated during the Victorian era. IVs and vitamins for those who could not eat or drink during sickness did not yet exist. Per Richmond Magazine’s Valentines’ Meat-Juice article by Harry Kollatz Jr., here is what happened:
“Ann Maria Gray Valentine lay ill at her family’s house at 9 N. Second St. on the last day of 1870. Physicians could do no more. But her husband, Mann Satterwhite Valentine Jr., was in the basement with a chemistry set, using his sheer determination and rudimentary knowledge from college courses to concoct a mixture to revive his wife.
For weeks, Maria had been unable to retain any nourishment, and Mann was distraught while watching his wife starve to death. He became persuaded that she needed juice extracted from meat, with its “strength-giving properties.”
He worked night after night in the cellar, and on New Year’s Eve, he administered to Maria the first batch of meat juice.
Mann’s elixir worked, and Maria recovered. When news spread to Richmond’s 51,000 residents, he learned that there was great demand for the stuff.
Mann put his seven sons to work, mixing, bottling and shipping — and Valentine’s Meat-Juice was born.”
So why bring back the Meat-Juice?
Not unlike bouillon, fish sauce, bacon or meat intensive dishes and supplements given the paleo movement, protein is in for a reason. Our hope is to use meat juice in its liquid, concentrated form in vintage style bottles just as the Valentine’s did, and not just to cure the sick…
The idea is to market the meat-juice along the following lines: “Whether you need a little meat-juice for your bloody mary, a splash for your cocktail, or a dabble for your dish, we have your meat-juice needs covered.” According to Church Hill Venture’s Culinary Director Daniel Scherotter who is working on the project, here are his thoughts on meat-juice:
“Vegetables taste better with a splash of meat, as most countries around the world seem to know. The pressed meat that would otherwise be discarded after the meat-juice is extracted will serve as a derivative brand: Valentine’s Meat Sticks or Valentine’s Beef Jerky – high protein snacks that far surpass sugar and carb rich bars you find elsewhere. Since Valentine’s Meat-Juice Co closed, big sugar and big agriculture have taken over the food supply and largely purged it of protein, while filling it with things that are making us sick. We need the meat juice, and we need it now!
We cannot overstate the importance of the umami flavor of meat juice/extract, and how it affects satiety. This is an area where chefs and nutritionists find common cause. The value of meat juice and protein-based condiments lies in that they elevate fries, burgers and such to what they used to taste like when we fried them in tallow and baked with all natural lard and butter and condiments were based on smoked meats and fermented anchovies. Servings could be smaller and more satisfying. By switching to transfat (partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening, aka crisco) in the 1970’s and 80’s and sneaking in high fructose corn syrup to replace the natural body of meat and fat, we simultaneously decreased flavor and satisfaction, leading to super-sizing while increasing health problems, namely obesity and heart disease – a lose-lose-lose. By bringing back meat driven umami flavor, we are not just ‘going paleo’, but also increasing satisfaction and flavor and decreasing the consumption of bad food, a win-win-win. By replacing chemical, sugar and grain-laden energy bars and fried snacks, with pressed, aged and/or smoked jerky/meat sticks, we’re doing the same thing.”
But wait there’s more: Valentine’s Meat Market is Coming to Siegel’s
The Valentine’s concept calls for a Meat Market and processing facility at the Siegel’s vintage Richmond development in Swansboro just west of Manchester. The plan is for Valentine’s Meat Market to sell a variety of freshly prepared meats and seafood on site both wholesale and retail, along with the Valentines’ branded line of Meat-Juice, condiments, and beef jerky.
The hope is that Valentine’s Meat Market, along with the broader Siegel’s development, will become a neighborhood meeting place and destination point. We are hoping to take inspiration from Richmond’s once thriving circa 1886 Marshall Street Meat Market (since torn down to become a parking lot). Given the retro theme of the Siegel’s development where Richmond’s Climax Beverages and Pin Money Pickles are planning to relaunch, the addition of a Valentine’s Meat Market and Meat-Juice seems like a perfect fit. And yes, this is all more than a little crazy. But then again Richmond has an attractive weird streak, a deep culinary and beverage tradition, and a soft spot for nostalgia.
An incredible amount of work will need to be done to bring Valentine’s at the Siegel’s development to reality. We have started by re-forming the company, filing for trademark registration, and researching in every book, museum, and publication where we can find useful information about this old Richmond product. If you would like to follow the project’s progress, you can follow Valentine’s Meat-Juice on Facebook or Instagram for updates.
Long live the Meat-Juice!