Monday, March 12, 2007

Who put the corn in....

corned beef?
First of all, what is 'the corn'?
Very simply - pickling spices. The corning is the pickling. It's all about the brine (you can taste, and almost feel the salt in that word, can't ya?).

As for 'who?' - it's likely to be the Irish, seeing that the eating of beef that has been pickled & brined then boiled to a state of tenderness - is traditionally associated with St. Paddy's Day.

Even so, there seems not to be a definitive answer as to who 'corned' the first beef brisket.

Did you know that old-style corned beef is grayish in color and very salty?
Nowadays, almost all corned beef has less salt and is bright rosy red (sometimes startlingly so).

The things we do to meats to keep it from rotting.
How absolutely ingenious the ways people throughout the ages and the world over - have learned to preserve meat (fish, veggies).
Salting, pickling, smoking and drying fresh foods = eating = surviving.

Though we no longer need to preserve our foods in these ways, our taste buds yet crave - the salted, the pickled, the dried, the smoked (as well as the baked and the fried and the suspended in oils).

I really do love to eat salted meats. I actually love eating cabbage too - especially when stir-fried with salted, dried baby shrimp (ah....another post for another day....).

My Dad made the bestest corned beef and cabbage every St. Patrick's Day. It was tradition, what with our family being part Irish and all (NOT). Nevertheless. Eating, feasting and celebration was what we were always about.

How vivid my memories of the family on St. Paddy's Day back in the 50's and 60's: Sittin' round the little kitchen table in our Chinatown flat - we were sure to be wearing green (so we wouldn't be pinched). Happily wolfing down heaping platefuls of corned beef n' cabbage served with rice or boiled potatoes.

With my family-of-origin food traditions + the fact that HubbyDear has Irish in his ancestry, we keep the corned beef n' cabbage meal going most every year.
Over a week ago, we bought our beef brisket for the meal. It's already 'corned' and sealed very tightly within a heavy duty plastic, with spices a-floating. I could see that it might keep forever in that packaging. But come this Saturday, it'll be opened and ready for the boil.

Last weekend, whilst strolling through SF Chinatown, I saw for the first time, a Giant Tropic Hybrid Cabbage. That's it pictured above. Giant Tropic Hybrids are HUGE cabbages. The curious thing is how they grow shaped flat on top and bottom. Not round like a ball - more like a big flat cabbage disc.
Easier to slice, that's for certain. How brilliant!

Wish I could get my hands on one of those for the meal...

So - corned beef and cabbage meal it is on the 17th.

No worries: reuben sandwiches on rye with seasoned sauerkraut. Corned beef hash - fried until the edges are crispy...

(I'll be sure to wear a bit o' lucky green when eating all of the above. Et vous?)

P.S. Check it out: Butte, Montana.
Once again, those people know how to party.

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