The Hampton Smoker

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Friday, March 11, 2005

We're All Irish

Hello, dear friends and reader(s). Here's a piece I planned to run in the NY Press for St. Patrick's Day, but due to some upheaval, my friend and editor, Jeff Koyen quit his post at the paper. I won't rehash the happenings, but I might make some homemade corned beef hash after St. Pat's day using some homemade corned beef. I'll post some pictures of the process, but below is a picture of the one I made last year after it had been cooked, stored and busted out again for leftover sandwiches-- note the loaf of onion bread under the tupperware top. The outside color may seem odd at first, but it's all good. If you're real squeamish, trim it away. As you can see, the inside is all rosy-pink. On a side note, the knife I used to slice up the meat was given to me when I was around thirteen-- my first real knife! It is a Sabatier that has held up amazingly well. Anywho, go get some brisket, cure it, and enjoy!

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Corned Beef and Cabbage

Few meals have the ability to satisfy like corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. There is something elemental about the richness and simplicity of the dish that compounds the satisfaction it provides.

The name actually doesn't have a connection to Corn. It was most likely a reference to the large kernels of salt that were rubbed on meats to preserve them in the time before refrigeration. A dry cure evolved to include salt, peppercorns, cloves, allspice and other seasonings, as well as saltpeter or similar chemicals used to keep a rosy color in the meat. Corned Beef today is most commonly made using a brine--a salty solution in which the meat soaks. Commercial meats are often 'pumped' or injected with the brine, which considerably reduces the time it takes to cure the meat. Pastrami can be made from corned beef by adding a crust of peppercorns and coriander and then steaming, or smoking the meat.

It's surprisingly simple to make corned beef at home with a brisket and ingredients that are fairly easy to come by, but the ones from the supermarket with the little packets of seasonings are cheap and easy, so most people opt to just use them. I make my own using a curing salt rub, which takes at least a week, so get cracking. Otherwise, use the store bought one and cook it according to the recipe below.

Some say that Corned Beef and Cabbage isn't all that common or popular in Ireland, but I couldn't imagine St. Patrick's Day without it.

To cook corned beef and cabbage dinner:

1 head cabbage, cored and chopped
1 corned beef
2 medium carrots cut in 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
6-10 small, new potatoes
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
1/4 Teaspoon ground cloves

In a large pot or Dutch oven, add corned beef and enough cold water to cover. If the meat came with a seasoning packet, add that as well. Bring up to a boil; skim off any foam that might appear. Reduce the heat to a simmer; add peppercorns, bay leaf and cloves. Cover and simmer for about 2-3 hours. In the last half-hour of cooking, prepare then add the carrots, cabbage, potatoes and onion--add more water if needed.

When it is time to slice the brisket, run the knife perpendicular to the grain. This helps guard against stringy, fibrous meat. If it helps, make a notch or mark in the meat before you start cooking to help remind you which direction to start slicing.

Homemade Brisket

1 5-7lb brisket (cure 5 days for each inch thick)
5-7 Tablespoons Morton's Tender Quick
1-2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
1-2 Teaspoons Paprika
1-2 Teaspoons Ground Bay Leaf
1-2 Teaspoons Allspice
1/2-1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 Teaspoon each, Coriander, ground Cloves

It is important to operate in as clean an environment as possible. The brisket can be cut into pieces to make storage while it is curing easier. Carefully cover the meat on every surface with the seasoning blend. Seal in baggie and cure for time indicated. Temperature must remain between 36-40 degrees for the entire period. When cure is done, soak at least 1/2 hour in cold water to reduce saltiness. Cook as directed above.


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