This lady, who was newly married, was making a roast for dinner. The first thing she did when she got out that beautiful chuck was to cut a big chunk off of one end and toss it in the trash can. The husband, who was likely in physical pain from watching meat simply get thrown away, cried out, ‘Why? Why did you do that?’ ‘That’s… that’s how you make roast. That’s the way my mother always did it,’ the wife replied, confused. The husband was in too much pain from witnessing the casual, brazen waste to reply.
The woman immediately called her mother. ‘Why did you always cut the end off of the roast?’ ‘Well… that’s the way my mother always did it…’ said the mother. Now they had to find out. They got ahold of the woman’s grandmother, who was, thankfully, alive and well in a Miami retirement condominium. ‘Grandmother, why did you always cut the end off of the roast?’ ‘Because, honey, my roasting pan was too small.’
The moral of this story is that we should question assumptions and traditions, because sometimes the ‘right’ way of doing things was simply the most expeditious method of execution in a very specific circumstance. Many instruction sets, for recipes, all kinds of things, have a lot of this hearsay ‘knowledge'; the instructions are the way they are more because of tradition than logic and optimization.
Then again, some steps are there because they actually work.
I thought that I could get away with brining my roast beef for a mere week. I thought that all the blogs instructing one to let the meat sit in the brine for at least ten days were just being overcareful, that the writers were conservative followers unwilling to experiment and find the ideal, the lightning-fast, the sublimely delicious, the FERAL solution to the problem of corning cow.
Turns out they were right and I need to get over myself, because after a week of brining, I cooked my meat and got this:A blurry picture, apologies, but you see it, don’t you? Let’s look closer to fully appreciate the problem here:THAT, my friends, is what happens when you don’t listen to your fellow bloggers and try to get away with just brining your beef for a week instead of the commonly recommended ten days. The curing solution only penetrates the first few inches of meat, leaving you with a center that is just good ol’, regular beef. So in essence, I made myself a corned beef stuffed with a small roast beef.
On the other hand, I did get my curing salt, so now I can start making all kinds of delicious home-cured meats: bacon is definitely gonna be in the works as soon I can get ahold of a pork belly, and I think I’m gonna try making something like ham out of a turkey breast. I’ve also seen some recipes for salami out there… I’m excited.
Here’s the deal with curing salt: it’s full of nitrite. Nitrite is what gives cured meat its red or pink color and particular flavor. There’s a reason it says ‘KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN’ on the label there. It’s because, if you just straight-up eat the stuff, it won’t take a whole lot to kill you. That’s also why the manufacturer colors it pink, so that you won’t get it mixed up with the regular salt and accidentally kill yourself.
There’s been a lot of vilification of nitrites and nitrates lately. Heck, I even said in the last paragraph that the stuff is toxic above certain quantities. But here’s the thing: WATER is gonna kill you if you drink enough of it. Nitrites are found in nature, in celery and spinach and a bunch of other vegetables. Your OWN BODY makes nitrites and secretes it in your saliva. Your tongue is practically swimming in nitrites right now. Cured meats are a pretty insignificant source of nitrites, and the argument that nitrites are inherently harmful is pretty flimsy in the first place. I’d say, everything in moderation, and don’t give in to a culture of fear. 1
So enough of that. The point of this whole post is that, even though it is a week past St. Patrick’s day, and even though it came out a little weird, I made corned beef and it is really tasty. Now I just need to get to work on some sauerkraut and Russian dressing…
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- 2 cups water
- .5 cup salt
- .25 cup molasses
- 2 Tbsp pickling spice
- .33 tsp pink curing salt
- another 4 cups cold tap water
- 2 lb. top round roast or brisket
- Put the two cups water in a saucepan and add the salt, molasses, pickling spice, and pink curing salt. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
- In a large pan or pitcher, combine the brine with the four cups cold water.
- Pour the cool brine over the meat, either in a plastic or glass container or a large freezer bag. Make sure the brine covers the meat.
- Put in the refrigerator and let marinate for ten days, turning the meat every couple of days to make sure the brine is evenly distributed.
- After ten days, remove the meat from the brine. Discard the brine.
- Put the meat in a stock pot or dutch oven large enough to accommodate it, cover it with fresh water, and cover the pot. Bring to a simmer.
- Simmer for three hours, then remove from heat and let cool.
- Eat with cabbage, in a Reuben, in a hash, or however else you think corned beef is tasty.
- For curing salt, look on Amazon for DQ Curing Salt #1. It will be pink, and be described as a combination of salt and sodium nitrate. BE CAREFUL WITH CURING SALT, IT IS TOXIC IN LARGE QUANTITIES.
- I think the ‘culture of fear’ is a factor in the Paleo community, as well. A lot of people seem to have solved a lot of health problems by following Paleo principles, but I think it’s narrow-minded and damaging to the movement’s credibility to claim that grain consumption is some kind of slow-acting poison, while the majority of the world’s population lives almost exclusively off of the stuff. I went Paleo because grains made me gassy. That’s it. If grains work for you, you eat them and feel healthy, that’s awesome! I think our own bodies know what we need a lot better than any nutritionist’s theory. Okay, rant done. ↩