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I’ve started in with the hooligans over at the Mid-Willamette Valley Eat Local Challenge, representing the South Valley, an emissary of sorts. The challenge is to incorporate more local products into one’s summer cooking. Frankly, if you’re not doing this already and you live in the Willamette Valley, you’re missing out on some of the best produce, meat and nuts in the country. I’m going to track what I’ve sourced and talk more about the changes we’ve made to our diet over the past five months since I’ve been back in Oregon in a later post, but for now, it’s all about CORNED BEEF made from local brisket.

One of the chief joys in my life lately is, as I have mentioned, my Family Food Education/Master Food Preserver training through OSU Extension. This week, we learned about emergency food storage and root cellars, and spent several hours making cheese. Does it get any better than that? Why, yes, it does. A few weeks ago, we had a presentation on how to corn beef and tongue. My friend Janet is a tongue fan, so she asked me to provide the recipe. I told her I had to make it first to see if I could replicate the deliciousness, and, after three weeks of prep and curing, it turns out I could!

I bought the 5-lb. brisket at Long’s Meat Market (see under Eugene Marketplace links to the right). The meat is from Knee Deep Cattle Company in Coburg, OR, who also makes an affordable and delicious pound-bag of ground beef that sells at Friendly Street Market for $2.99. (N.b., the cows are not corn-fed until you rub ‘em with spices and let them cure in your corning procedure.)

The Morton’s Tender Quick might cause some issues with those of you — it’s a blend of nitrates, nitrites, sugar and salt used to fix the color and help preserve the meat. Paradoxically, it turns raw meat brown and cooked meat red. Science! I’ve seen recipes without it, and if you’d like to omit the Tender Quick, please don’t alter mine but use another recipe, like this adaptation from Julia Child, at your own risk. Tender Quick can be found at many grocery stores and places that have big canning sections in spring, like Fred Meyer.  (The image is from a product website, so you have a sense of what you’re looking for.  Try the spices aisle as well as the canning supplies aisle.)

This recipe is my adaptation of OSU Extension Service document LC 712, “Deli-Style Corned Beef or Tongue.” Other cuts to try include pork loin (for Canadian bacony taste), bottom round, and shoulder. Check to make sure your brisket will fit into a ziplock bag before the process starts, and plan for several weeks of curing time!

Corned Beef or Tongue

1 beef brisket (or tongue), 4-6 lbs.
2 T. Penzey’s premium pickling spice mix, toasted (or another brand, or make your own, using the ingredients listed here)
5 T. Morton’s Tender Quick
2 T. dark brown sugar
1 t. ground pepper
1 t. smoked Spanish paprika
1 t. ground allspice
1 t. garlic powder
4-5 fresh bay leaves, chopped, or 1 t. dried, powdered bay leaves

Toast spices in the spice mix in a small pan over medium heat until mixture smells aromatic. Crush spice mix spices in a mortar with pestle. Mix together sugar, all spices, and Tender Quick in a small bowl.

Prepare brisket or tongue by removing whatever surface fat you can. In a bowl or platter, rub mixture well into the meat, covering all exposed areas. Place meat in ziplock bag, seal tightly, then place into another ziplock bag for safety, and set on clean plate.

Allow meat to cure in refrigerator for five days per inch of meat thickness (measure at the thickest part). A corned beef brisket is usually around 2 inches wide; tongues are much wider, so plan for three weeks for a large tongue.

Turn bag over every other day.

Place fully cured meat in a large stockpot, and add generous amounts of water to cover. Bring to a boil, skim surface, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until tender, about 3 to 4 hours. Tongue will be done when you can skin it, and you should skin it before serving. Do not do this in room with vegetarians.

In the last 30 minutes of cooking, you may add whole new potatoes and/or cabbage to the cooking liquid.

Let sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing, or meat will fall apart.

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