Thursday, March 22, 2012

Corning of the Beef Part II

Success... that's what I would call my first experiment with meat curing. An absolute success. To be sure I was leery about this whole thing, when we have convenience so ingrained in our minds, and how things ought to come in a pre-packaged cry-o-vac format, it makes this sort of homemade product feel almost dangerous or unbelievable. It is difficult to find a good butcher, or baker, (or candlestick maker), we rely on the deli counter, grocery store bought cakes and pastries, and what ever scraps the "butchers" at the grocery store put out for sale.

We see articles about things like pink slime, and while perfectly safe to eat, it's outrageous that scraps that would have been dog food, are now being mixed in as cheap filler material and marketed as quality ground beef, (which raises an interesting question, as to what we are now feeding our dogs if the scrap is now too good for them?)

Anyway sorry for pontificating, but the point I'm trying to make is that I'm learning that a lot of these older culinary skills that my grandparents or great grandparents might have used, are have been lost for the sake of convenience. But the reality is, these things are actually quite simple, not all that time consuming, and infinitely superior to a lot of the things we might find on the grocery shelves. What's shocking to me as I mentioned in the previous post is that I'm finding the raw ingredients can be so much more expensive, than the processed stuff, so my question is what is it in the food chain that adds value, and at the same time reduces cost? Why does a corned beef brisket sell for $2.00 a pound, when the raw brisket ( a crappy cut of meat to begin with) sells for $5. Why can I get "ground chuck" or whatever they are passing off as ground beef on sale for $1.99 a lb, and the cut of beef it originated from is $3.99... to me this seems counter intuitive, but the answer is most likely you are buying garbage like pink slime.

I'm very much looking forward to our CSA adventure that starts in July, and hope to invest in a smoker soon. Using my kitchen-aid sausage maker, I plan on preparing a few batches of kielbasa and andouille, and if I don't poison anyone, I can already guarantee it will be several orders of magnitude better than the junk that Hillshire Farms passes of on the public. Convenience food can be great, it's plentiful, and certainly it has liberated us from a number of mundane daily tasks, but there is a price that has been paid. We have lost valuable survival skills, we eat a lot of junk food even when it's not actual "junk food", and I think it has reduced family interactivity. Instead of working together to craft our own meals, we pop open a can of chef boyardee, toss it in the microwave and interact with what ever happens to be on television instead of each other.

So off the soapbox and back to the success of St. Patrick's day. The corned beef was in the brine for 10 days.

We got out it out of the bag, and the spice smell was overpowering. The only pot that I had that was big enough was the pressure canner I got for christmas, so we went ahead and used that. I boiled the brisket for about 3.5 hours, we had a traditional boiled dinner with cabbage, carrots, and potatoes added in during the last stages of cooking.

Looks like zombie meat!

Set to boil

Jackie enjoying her St. Patrick's Day Ravioli

Why are these pictures sideways?

It was perfectly colored, perfectly tender, came apart with the fork, and the best one died! As a bonus, it also tasted great, some of the best corned beef I've had, and I think we can do even better next time. Once we get the smoker, we can use the same technique for pastrami.

As a bonus, I just picked up an order of Girl Scout cookies at work, and I was looking for something to use them for to help celebrate the holiday. A quick google search presented a solution of a thin mint cream pie and crust!

I simplified the original recipe to some extent, Alison not being a huge chocolate fan, we wanted to go for a lighter filling. Now that I've railed against overusing processed food, I can admit to using My-T-Fine vanilla pudding pie filling, spiked lovingly with artificial green food coloring to give it that festive look of a leprechaun that got hit by a steam roller. The whipped cream was homemade, and I used some peppermint extract to complement the thin mint crust.

It came out pretty well, but the crust was sticking to the pie plate. I'd try this again, but we'll need to figure out how to avoid this, perhaps with a silicone lined pie pan or something.

Jackie also had some fun playing with her buddies.

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