It was that time again - to break out the green, the shillelagh and of course, your own fabulous home-cured corned beef. However, I decided to head this up with a picture of me in Ireland (a number of years ago), a tad prettier view than pics of a slab of beef brisket in brine. This recipe fits in well with our latest Cook the Books Club selection, The Unprejudiced Palate, or as Alice Waters dubbed it, the Prejudiced Palate, by Angelo Pellegrini.
Also, he mentions parts of meat usually neglected by home cooks, though I have to say, that may now be for good reason - you cannot find those parts in most grocery stores any more. Until recently a whole chicken came with the giblets and neck enclosed, which practice seems to have stopped. Unless you butcher the animal yourself, it is not likely you will be able to cook kidneys, heart, tongue, brains etc. In fact, I was going to make his veal suggestion from page 203-4, but was unable to find even veal in the market here. Despite the fact that Hawaii Island has one of the biggest cattle ranches in the U.S.
The memoir sections, from his young life in Italy and early years in America were very moving, especially the evocative cultural and economic contrasts. I had no idea of the extreme poverty in rural Italy at that time. He was so overwhelmed by the contrast in America, that I think it just broke his heart to see waste and carelessness with the precious gifts of abundance here.
As a winemaker myself, though not grape, unfortunately, I enjoyed his thoughts on that subject also. Much of the remainder seemed a bit obvious, perhaps due to when it was written, or preaching to the saved, in the case of our group of bloggers anyway, and I found myself skipping sections. Always addressing or referring to "housewives" in the book was annoying, though another sign of that era, I'm sure.
Corning your beef brisket from scratch would be right up his frugal little alley. Using an inexpensive (supposedly) cut of meat, slow cooking after a long soak in spiced brine, is not at all difficult, just requires a bit of planning ahead. 5 days to be exact. You throw all the spices and salt together with water and add your meat, easy. Leave it to cure and then cook.