Rediscovering Carrots

I’ve been thinking a lot about carrots lately. Or I should say rethinking. While carrots dug from the ground or bought at the local farmer’s market, leafy tops and dirty crevices still on show, are often sweet and delicious and … Continue reading

Corned Beef and Cabbage

My mother, a full-blooded Italian-American, loves corned beef and cabbage this time of year. In fact, of the dishes I remember her making many times when growing up, the big pot of corned beef and cabbage is the only one that comes to mind that doesn’t involve red sauce or Italian spices. Thus, when Charcutepalooza’s third challenge was to brine our own brisket for corned beef, I immediately thought of my mother. Unfortunately she is five hundred miles away, but I still have a pot of brining brisket in my fridge at the moment in her honor.

Interestingly, I haven’t encountered much corned beef and cabbage in my past decade-plus of inhabiting the very Irish city of Boston. And this despite that my husband is a musician who regularly plays most of the Irish pubs within a three mile radius (which is many more pubs than one who has not spent time in the Boston area might imagine). I also never noticed it on a menu when I accompanied him on an Irish tour a few years back, where we enjoyed meals of mostly lamb stews or shepherds pie with beef at a dozen or so pubs and restaurants around the west and south of Ireland. So I did a little research and discovered that corned beef and cabbage is not an Irish dish. In fact, Ireland provided much of the meat for cured – or “corned” beef – that was then shipped to England, France and the English colonies from the 1600s to the mid 1800s, often at the expense of the nutrition of the Irish. Some Irish, when they arrived in America, began eating corned beef because of its associations with luxury in their home country coupled with its modest price in their adopted country.

Come to think of it, the corned beef that I have most recently eaten has been in a reuben sandwich from a Jewish deli – and might have been labeled as brisket or brined brisket and not “corned beef”. However the term “corned” refers to the Old English word for “particles” or the salt that was used to preserve the meat, so any salt-cured meat could be called thus. Yum, reubens. I’ll have to make at least one with my cured brisket. Which will be ready in three days and twenty two hours. I am already counting down… Sorry you won’t be able to taste this, Mom!

Corning – or wet-curing – brisket is easy. I heated the salt, sugar and spices to help them dissolve in the water. Note that I heated them in a smaller pot and then cooled that mixture to add to the larger pot with the meat. I could have done in all in the same pot but this way I can start curing sooner because less has to cool before I add the meat.

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Once the brine was assembled and cooled, I submerged a four pound brisket into the pot.

 

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And then put a bowl on top to keep it submerged. I will let this sit for four days in the fridge and then will simmer this in a pot with fresh water and spices for about three to four hours, adding cabbage, carrots and onions to the broth in the last half hour or so. Then I will call my mother and tell her that I am thinking of her.

 

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Leaf Cover In Action

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I plucked this very carrot – this rather large Atomic Red carrot grown from seeds purchased from the http://www.rareseeds.com catalog – from beneath my six inches of leaf cover in my community garden this past weekend.

Saturday I stopped by the garden for the first time in a few weeks. We’re still getting our semi-weekly farm share, and I have been stocking up in my make-shift root cellar, so I had not needed to tap into the last hardy rows of kale, leeks and carrots left at the garden. But I was having a little holiday get-together and I thought that these red beauties would make a nice addition to my veggie plate.

Sure enough, the ground was frozen rock solid. The air temp was above freezing, however, so I plucked the last of the blue lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale) leaves, which were doing surprisingly well having weathered a few weeks of cold weather. If you plan to leave your kale in the garden past the frost date, I read that it is best to pick the leaves in weather that is above 32 degrees because the thawing allows the water to redistribute and ensures better storage and taste. After a few weeks of freezing and thawing while living in the garden, the leaves looked as healthy as they did in October. The ground was too frozen to dig up the stalks, however, so I guess those are staying in til spring cleaning.

I also pulled the leaves back that were covering the roots of the row of leeks that I left in the ground. I was pleased that I could get my shovel in where my leaves had been insulating the dirt and the leeks were healthy. Same with the carrots – the leafy green tops were just starting to die down beneath the mound of leaf cover, and it was easy to dig out a few Atomic Reds to show off that evening on my snack table.

Verdict: the leaf cover experiment worked!