IMG_0988

charcutepalooza march challenge. brining.


Before we get going with the next challenge, Kim and I have to tell you how totally impressed we are. Seriously in awe. You ‘paloozers really rocked those pork bellies. It’s inspiring. We can’t wait to read all your posts and try some new recipes.

Please take some time today to click over to Michael Ruhlman’s blog. He graciously agreed to write a post on safety and sanity in the charcuterie kitchen just for  Charcutepalooza. He’s covered so many important points, and there’s even more great information in the comments section. Thank you, Michael!

Big thanks go out to Scott for creating the uber-cool Charcutepalooza map – put your city on there, won’t you?

We’ll have more to report in a few days – plans are being finalized for butchery, charcuterie and meat-up events across the country. Just wait ’til you see what we’re up to.


Today, however, it’s all about the March challenge. So far, we’ve salted, added air and humidity, and made prosciutto. We’ve cured meat in salt for pancetta and roasted bacon. Now, we’re adding water, sugar, spices and herbs and getting that flavor right into the meat. Brining.

When we first worked on the Super Secret Calendar of Meat, Kim said “Brining? That’s not very sexy.” Yes, seriously. Sexy. She wanted sexy. I said, “It’s challenging. This is not your Thanksgiving pickled turkey. Let’s do brining like it’s never been done before.”

So there you are. Challenge on.

Brining is magical. Used for centuries and for good reason. Start with chicken, pork, turkey – or cabbage or cucumbers – and watch the transformation. Brining changes texture. It infuses flavor. It’s simple, inexpensive, and an important aspect of food preservation.


In the last few days, brining has filled this house with food memories -and that’s why I call it magical. Warm, happy memories. Maybe you’ll have the same experience.

For the Apprentice Challenge, we want you to brine a whole chicken or pork chops.

For the Charcutiere Challenge, we want you to brine, and then corn, a piece of beef. Brisket is the classic cut. Cow tongue is another option. You choose.

While not part of the challenge, consider some additional brining recipes. Brining and pickling are kissing cousins, after all. Just combine salt, sugar, water and herbs with a vegetable and you’ve got a pickle. Make sauerkraut. It’s so good for you, so healthy, and a great side dish to serve with corned beef and so many other kinds of charcuterie, for that matter. If you live somewhere temperate, find fresh-picked cucumbers and make half sour or full sour pickles. Or pickle some onions. Or carrots. Or radishes. Or jalapenos. How about kimchi? Really, you can pickle just about anything in a flash.

Brining. That’s some serious magic. Sexy? You bet.

D’Artagnan offers 25% off the meat-of-the-month to members of Charcutepalooza. Watch for an email with your secret code, arriving February 15th.

Apprentice Challenge: Sunday Dinner Pork Chop Memories
Shortly after Dennis and I first met, we visited his family in Michigan. Aunt Dorothy, an elegant, affable woman, then in her late 80’s, sat me down . “When Denny was a little boy, he would come over and eat a whole big plate of pork chops. It was pretty much all he would eat.”

Aunt Dorothy and I – we wrote letters to each other about food and gardens, and until her death a couple of years ago, had a wonderful special friendship.  It’s her mother’s bread that remains the Holy Grail of White Bread against which all others are evaluated. Memories of Aunt Dorothy were vivid this week. Brining magic? I think so.

Dorothy grew up on a farm, and, with a twinkle in her eye, would tell the story of the Thanksgiving she recognized her pet turkey on the platter. She couldn’t really fathom why someone would opt to be a vegetarian. Dennis delighted her, she glowed with happiness when he walked into a room, but his food choices remained a mystery.

Now, while eating a primarily vegetarian diet, Dennis prefers ‘meat-reducer’ as a description. To this day, a pork chop dinner vies with roast chicken as quintessential comfort food. Start with the very best pork – in this case, from Stonyman Gourmet Farmer – fresh cut, gorgeous 1-1/2”  pork loin chops, bone in.

I made the brine, brought it to a simmer to dissolve the salt and sugar, then put the pot outside in the snow to chill quickly. (I always find the most challenging part of brining is remembering to make the brine early enough to chill it thoroughly.)

The chops were thoroughly submerged in the brine and refrigerated for just two hours.  Brian Polcyn’s sage and garlic brine is perfectly aromatic. The chops were seasoned, then simply seared and finished in the oven. I served buttery spaetzle, roasted carrots and turnips, spiced apples, and watermelon radish alongside.

Hands down the best pork chops I’ve ever had. No kidding. And Dennis? He was very happy. I’m having a friend for dinner next weekend and I plan to make the same menu. By making the brine and the spaetzle in the morning, I was able to pull together the entire dinner in under an hour.

And here’s my tip – pay close attention to the suggested times for brining in the Charcuterie book – an over-brined piece of meat is rubbery, pickled, and not at all pleasant.

Charcutiere Challenge: Delicatessen Memories
It’s Rosh Hashana. I’m five or six years old, at Brauer’s with my Grandfather Ben. I’m wearing my go-to-Temple dress, sitting on a high stool at the counter, legs dangling, feet kicking, a stainless steel bowl of sour and half sour pickles in front of me. Mr. Brauer knows I love pickles, and while he slices the corned beef, he kibbutzes with Ben about Temple politics. I’m concentrating. I eat the pickles, one by one, saving the quartered, green tomato pickle for last.


Ben ordered his corned beef “not too lean.” And for Mary, his wife, “make it nice and lean.”  I thought about what that meant when I looked at the brisket. There was a little bit of fat on each side. I thought about trimming it off, and in retrospect, it might have been more attractive if I had, but I have no regrets. I chose the center cut because I wanted those long pretty slices you see at the deli. Really, it was all aesthetics – no scientific reason having to do with fat content or anything.

Once brined, simmering the brisket with additional pickling spices is all you need to do to make corned beef. And since it’s so easy, please make your own pickling spice, ok? Chill the meat completely before slicing thin, or serve it warm with the cooking liquid spooned over the top, alongside boiled potatoes and so on, for your St. Patrick’s Day feast.

Making corned beef was so straightforward, I can’t believe I haven’t done it before.  I started with a 5.8# center cut brisket. After brining for five days, it weighed 6.3# – interesting, right? After corning, the meat weighed 3.8#. Way too much meat for one person – it was time to have a party.

Note to DC area Charcutepaloozer’s – Stonyman Gourmet Farmer at the Bethesda Women’s Market (W,F,Sa) sells Rappahannock County, humanely raised, meats. They are graciously providing meats for my challenge posts, and offering discounted prices for Charcutepalooza members. They do not ship. Email Susan to order. One week notice appreciated.

Party On – The Sandwich Smack Down

The Guests Panel of Judges
Paul and Elaine – grew up in and around Baltimore, going to delis and sandwich shops. They know their corned beef.
Sandi grew up in Pennsylvania, her father a Kosher butcher. ‘Deli’ was the only outside food brought into their house.
Richard didn’t grow up with deli food – his was more of an Oscar Meyer experience, but he’s been married to Sandi for awhile, so he’s learned a few things about good deli.
Gabby’s childhood in New Jersey meant frequent trips to a Paramus deli. She knows herself some deli, that’s what she says.

The kitchen is crowded. Paul’s manning the slicer and the corned beef is stacking up beautifully. We’re sipping Full Montys and munching candied bacon. We’re rhapsodizing about the marvels of the deli counter. Watching the deli man work the slicer. The overfilled refrigerated case. The shiny chubs and whitefish. The lox. That ubiquitous stainless steel bowl of pickles. Half sours. Full sours. Elaine mentioned the ever-present corned tongue and Sandi, Gabby and I all chimed in, agreeing. Actually seeing the taste buds. Fascinated but not appalled. It was all so natural, so much a part of our childhood. Do kids today have that experience? What was it about the tongue? We all grew up eating tongue sandwiches. I have to tell you, for a brief moment, I began to regret corning the brisket and started wishing for corned cow tongue instead. But then, I tasted the corned beef. O.M.G.


Seriously – this is a revelation. It’s silky, salty, sweet, herbal, delicate, moist. It’s incredible.


Ingredients – or why I love my larder

One corned beef brisket or tongue
3 pints of Bloody Mary mix
Vodka – select your favorite, and pour according to your taste
1 jar pickled asparagus, chilled
1 pt sauerkraut, drained, rinsed, covered with beer, heated slowly
1 pt dill spears, chilled
1 qt. pickled green tomatoes, chilled


Rye bread
, adding 1/4 c toasted wheat germ gives it that special chewiness
Pumpernickel bread, same recipe, substituting pumpernickel flour mix from King Arthur
Marbled loaf, with rye and pumpernickel rolled together, jellyroll style.
Russian dressing – recipe in Charcuterie – I added 1/2 t dry mustard and omitted the onion
The famous Angel’s cole slaw (The recipe is secret. I think I tasted buttermilk. It’s amazing. I wanted to lick the bowl. Ordinarily, I would have balked at the idea of purchased cole slaw, but Paul insisted, and he was so right.)


The Cocktail
The Full Monty – modeled after a drink served at The Woodberry Kitchen
Vodka + bloody mary mix + pickled asparagus + candied bacon

vs

On the Side:
Angel’s cole slaw (I cannot get enough of this slaw. A new obsession.)
Dill pickles
Pickled green tomatoes
Homemade potato chips


The Decision:

We moaned as we ate the sandwiches. We groaned when we were done. There were plans for naps.

We ended with a Solomon-like decision. While we each stood by our life-long favorites, the group suggests the best offering from a deli would be a half sandwich each – the Cloak and Dagger and the Reuben. And some Angel’s coleslaw on the side.

Have a great time with your brining experiments. Post your recipes on the 15th, please, and not before. (We like to create a commotion and 300 posts on one day should do that.)

Share your blog post with Punk Domestics. Cross post and upload photos on Charcutepalooza’s Facebook page and Flickr page. And don’t forget to share all those great original recipes on Food52.

Charcutepalooza loves our sponsors. D’Artagnan offers 25% off the meat-of-the-month. If you aren’t receiving your email with the secret code for Charcutepalooza members, register here. And the trip to France – an awesome grand prize deliciously designed by Trufflepig and Kate Hill at Camont.

97 thoughts on “charcutepalooza march challenge. brining.”

  1. Oh, Cathy & Kim: bless you! I have been craving corned beef & sauerkraut for the past week and now I have a good excuse to give into the craving with utter abandon!

  2. Wow. You’re not joking with these posts–chock full o’goodness! I’m so glad that I have a nice big brisket in my freezer waiting just for this. p.s. do we have until midnight on the 15th to post?

  3. corned beef tongue was my gateway drug, and I’m about to do another batch of sauerkraut when my next winter farmshare cabbage installment arrives. Maybe I should do the apprentice challenge just because those are things I haven’t tried, unlike the tongue. But really, who can have too much corned beef tongue? Or too much sauerkraut?

    1. Are there any big things to know when using tongue? I’d like to do some corned beef, and I’ve boiled tongue in the past for tacos de lengua. Do you basically follow Ruhlman’s corned brisket recipe to the letter and take the top layer of skin off the tongue after simmering?

  4. You made the Cloak and Dagger – I LOVE IT!

    It may have taken two hours longer than the book suggested, but I’ve got some amazing bacon just waiting to be sliced thanks to the February challenge.

    I’ve been making pickles and brining chicken for a while now, but March will be my first crack at corned beef. Thanks for the inspiration and the great stories to go with it!

    DC Meat Up, anyone?

  5. What a wonderful post full of anecdotes and great ideas! I can’t wait to make corned beef, I’m already dreaming about Reubens. Your photos are making me crave one right now, beautiful! We really do appreciate all the time and care you take in putting together these wonderfully inspirational posts for us, thank you!

  6. I had a premonition that this challenge would be corning a beast. My wife and I have a group of friends over every year to celebrate St. Patties day. The meal has always been home corned beef with cabbage and roasted root veggies. We are already planning for this years party so I will blog about the process.

    Brining chicken, pork and turkey are a commonplace occurrence at my house. In fact last night for Valentines day my wife brined and roasted Cornish game hens and stuffed them with an apple onion and bread stuffing and then topped them with a balsamic reduction. Yum!

  7. Ha! I knew this would be your March Challenge! :o)

    Again, something I’ve done already, but was planning to make some the St. Patrick’s Day anyway… for the 3rd consecutive year. Thanks for the motivation!

    Slante!

  8. I have “corned” before, but I am looking forward to using pink salt this time to get the appropriate corned beefy hue. And I’ll be able to bring out my dad’s homemade whole head sauerkraut! Dad will be proud.

  9. You know, I was thinking that I was going to brine my own Corned Beef for next month anyway – I was hoping this would be the official challenge. :-D I have so many happy childhood memories of Corned Beef. It is So. On.

    BTW does anyone know of a good sour pickle recipe they would recommend? I mean full on NYC style sour, garlic-heavy pickles?

    1. This recipe from Winnie (Healthy Green Kitchen) was posted on food52 last year. I tested it and LOVED it. Your biggest challenge will be finding freshly picked cucumbers. Just substitute garlic cloves for scapes.

  10. What a fabulous post and great challenges! We love corned beef at our house (I’ve had corned beef and cabbage on New Year’s Day every single year of my life!), however I’ve never corned my own. I am thrilled to have this as the push I need to do my own. Thank you ladies for such an amazing year of challenges!!

  11. Oh Cathy, I want to jump through the screen and eat those sandwiches. I cannot wait for this month’s challenge. My mom has a nostalgic love for corned beef and I’m dying to make it for her. I think a dinner party is in order! :-)

  12. What I’m about to write is surely going to make a lot of people jealous. Just know that I’m not gloating but rather “sharing” a wonderful food experience with you all.

    I had the privilege of eating Mrs Wheelbarrow’s corned beef, on her homemade bread with a delightful bloody mary to wash it down. The bloody mary mix was, of course, homemade also by Cathy as was that most amazing piece of candied bacon that garnished my drink. It was, without a doubt, the best corned beef sandwich I’d ever eaten. And I was raised just outside of NY where corned beef was a regular staple, so clearly I have some corned beef cred. Don’t even get me started on the chips (they were faboo).

    Charcutepalooza, I think I love you.

  13. I didn’t get time to post my salt cure but I’m all over this one! I used to cook 250 lbs. of corned beef every year for a parade in my area! Secret family recipe revealed…..

  14. My husband will be in his glory this month!! He absolutely loves corned beef so this is going to be fun! Thank you for creating these challenges…. my kitchen has never smelled so good!

  15. So we’re not participating in Charcutepalooza in an official capacity, but we are following it diligently, looking for inspiration for meat projects–and I showed the husband this and he really wants to make the corned beef (he already is a master at brining pork even when he only has an hour and a half to do it!).

    This is such a fun meme/project/whatever you want to call it!

  16. This is great. I love pastrami in both brisket and tongue form. And I just ran out… your timing is indeed perfect. I also seem to recall that there’s some holiday in March that involves corned beef and cabbage.

  17. Yahoo! Brining I can do!! In fact I do do it…like always especially turkey but I am on for the Chicken Challenge cause gosh: it’s right up my alley.

    I do want to say one thing psychologically…these events are really making the winter pass so quickly that even if I don’t do a challenge I am reading everyone else’s.

    Living in the land of Smoked Meat it would be heresy for me to consider corning a brisket…:)) just sayin’

    There are so many changes happening so quickly I am actually lost now: so can you re-give the ruhls:
    15th of the month u post for the new challenge to be completed by the end of the month and where does one post about it other than their own blog???

    1. Hi Natalie, please complete the monthly post by the 15th. We give you a full month to complete the challenge. We encourage you to post on Food52, Facebook and Flickr. Be assured that posts tagged with charcutepalooza will be seen by Kim and/or me thru the magic of google alerts. You can always review the Ruhls by going to the page under the pull down menu at the top of this page. Have Fun, Cathy

      1. I thought the post had to be ON the 15th, not BY the 15th. Am I mistaken? This is so much fun. I agree with Natalie; it’s making the dreary days of winter fly by!

  18. WooHoo! Corned beef for the month of March. I have made it a few times and am always excited to share it with friends at our annual St Patrick’s Day party. It’s pretty simple, really, and far superior in texture and taste to “store-bought”. I always wonder why I don’t make it a few times per year!

    Last year, we decided to have a Corned Beef Challenge. I brined a couple briskets, of course, plus one friend brined a brisket in a similar style. Someone else brought one from Costco, and another person picked one up from a well-known “corned beef house” located here in Seattle.
    The home-cured briskets blew the others right out of the water! (Or should I say “the brine”!) People said to me “I never even thought I LIKED corned beef until now…..” What a compliment :)

    I had never cured pork bellies/ bacon until your Charcutepalooza Challenge, and now I am hooked on the process. I look forward to your future challenges with great anticipation, and I know that even though I have made my own corned beef, I feel the need to find a way to “step up my game” because of all the talented people I am sharing this wonderful journey with.

    Bring on the briskets & brine!!!!

  19. Hey everyone! Coming to you from the northwest side of Chi-town (Jefferson Park). I did the bacon challenge and everything turned out pretty well. I only did 2.5 pound belly and it turned out reasonably well. I need to listen to Ruhlman when he says “measure by weight” not volume because, while my wife liked the bacon, I thought it was just a bit too salty. Although I am sure that I could have done the pancetta, I just like bacon better. Something about the simplicity.

    Anyway, I am going to go all out and do the corned beef brisket. I have had the Charcuterie book for over a year and I have been making & stuffing my own sausage for over 2. I have wanted to try to make the corned beef and this gives me a perfect excuse. I also think I am going to make my own Saurkraut during this challenge (my father’s been doing it since he was fourteen) since I got a crock for my birthday this year. If I can get my wife to try to make some rye, I can have truly homemade rueben sandwiches. Yum.

    Cheers!
    Matt

  20. Alright, already…you got me now, I’m totally in! Ruhlman got me to make my own bacon, but now I think I’m ready to take on something else and this looks like the perfect thing. Thanks!

  21. So excited about this one. I have to admit it was not what I expected but definitely something I want to do. Already have so many ideas and thinking through our plan of attack :-)

  22. Taking down my guanciale from last month tonight (needed an extra day in fridge before hanging) can’t wait for some bucatini (also extruded at our house) to give it a spin.

    I hope it’s OK that I brine a buffalo tongue for this months challenge – I’m only posting here but am enjoying it all – thanks again for starting all this and letting us “non-bloggers” be a part.

  23. I’m officially excited. Nothing I like corned beef and sauerkraut! I’m definitely looking forward to making this along with various pickled items. I tried some pickles last fall and I’m ready for the chance to try more. I must admit that sadly I have never had the tongue version, what are you thoughts on the two? Taste wise and in terms of working with them.

    Great job on everything, you rule!

  24. My travel schedule doesn’t support corning a brisket this month, but last week I brined and smoked 8 pounds of Canadian Bacon. I guess that will have to do…

  25. What a great inspiration you folks are, and thanks for that and the wonderful recipes!! I’ve done the brined beef brisket, so will try tongue this time. That will be a new one for us. And, a new type of pickle as well.

    Also, I had a question about altering the humidity in a fridge. I’ve set pitchers of water in there for the curing guanciale, but my little humidity gadget still reads below 50% usually. It fluctuates, I think struggling to get that moisture out. Was 20% when I came in this morning. Now is 39%.

    1. Try draping a kitchen towel across the wine fridge, with one end dipped into the pitcher of SALTED water. This will wick the moisture and distribute it through the fridge, and was recommended by Bob delGrosso, who’s a genius about these things.

  26. Oh, one more thing, I use Ruhlman’s method for quick cooling of the brine solution, by adding only half the water to boil, and the rest in ice cubes when done.

  27. I am so on this! I didn’t even realize that I was included in the group because I never saw that it was alright to use a library copy of the book and participate. However, I have duck that our friend shot for us, plus from our farm raised ducks, I have pork from a pig we bought from a local farmer and beef from a steer my six children picked out in the field. Corned beef, here we come! I’ll try to post the other two as well.

  28. I made sauerkraut last fall following R & P. For Christmas my step-daughter gave me a fermentation pot designed for making it, and I made it again in Jan. So far I haven’t been completely satisfied with the results. It’s good but different from store bought and not necessarily better. My Polish wife says it’s not quite right, so I know I need to try another recipee or technique. She suggested “inoculating” it with some store bought kraut, but I wonder if the right microbes would still be alive? I also was thinking of trying Korean kimchi soon.

    My brisket is on day 2 in the brine. Cabbage, swiss cheese, and marbled rye are on my grocery list for this weekend. I don’t have time to make sauerkraut again right now, but I prefer the slaw version of a Reuben better anyway having lived just outside Baltimore for the last 25 years.

  29. I finally got my Charcuterie book in the mail! Under Guanciale (mine is still curing) he says to “Hang in a cool, dry place until completely stiff to the touch…” So why the attempt to get the humidity up to 70%?

  30. I just ran across you this morning and am so excited about “the year of meat!”. I LOVE Charcuterie, and have been wanting to do more of it-what a perfect opportunity! I’m sorry I missed out on the Duck and Bacon (hands down two of my favorite things, but I’m sure I’ll have many more fav;s as the year goes on). I’m planning on jumping in on the March challenge, and catching up with you! This is going to be a lot of fun!

  31. yum! i have about 6 pounds of brisket brining and almost 3 pounds of tongue as well. i can’t wait for corned beef sandwiches, with matzo ball soup, like i used to have with my dad at the deli as a kid. that’s about as jewish as we got, but i hold strong to it! the tongue was just for the extra challenge of working with a piece of meat i’m not so familiar with. exciting!

    1. I’m really starting to want to brine a tongue. Every person who mentions it makes me want to do it more and more!

  32. In reading about Corned Beef they mention that it was used on ships because it kept well on the long voyages. Ruhlman and other places say it can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days after it’s been cooked. Is there a difference in the way we handle it today or in the way it was stored back then for the long voyages?

    Thanks,
    Brian

  33. Just finished brining a 6# brisket using Rhulman’s recipe from Charcuterie. I then cut it in half and braised the first half in the traditional corned beef style, then sliced it and made some seriously delicious Rueben’s (although I confess while I did use homemade rye bread I used store bough sauerkraut, I have yet to pluck up the courage to try my hand at kraut.

    The other half, I dredged in cracked coriander and peppercorns and smoked for 3 hours over hickory chips and finished by steaming in the oven to make the most fantastic pastrami I have ever ingested.

    Here’s to charcuterie as both an art and a science! To anyone wavering at the edge of the pool wondering if they should jump in, JUST DO IT. Your taste buds will thank you.

  34. Awesome site – really looking forward to having a good delve and post some of the my own in the next few weeks. Curing cabinet will be up and running in the next fornight so I can start with my first cured meats rather than cooked in the smoker.

    Just a quick one to say hello from sunny NZ and really looking forward to making some of your recipes!

    we have a huge glut of tomatoes at the moment so I think the paste will be on the cards later this week!

    Liam

  35. Call me crazy, but I titled my blog post “Creating the Best Corned Beef. So easy, an 8 year old can do it.”

    I know, it’s a goofy visual, but my goal at Learn To Preserve is to make the art of preserving easy, and I think even brining a brisket can be childs’ play.
    You’ll see when you read my blog. I’m not kidding: http://bit.ly/i9TLmX

    Thank you again for another fun-filled month!

    B

  36. I messed up and didn’t include my link here in the comments, I sent it to you via the contact form! So now, I am finally linking up my Charcutepalooza corned beef post:
    http://www.affairsofliving.com/imported-20100106014405/2011/3/13/charcutepalooza-homemade-corned-beef.html

    I also made Corned Beef Hash! http://www.affairsofliving.com/imported-20100106014405/2011/3/14/corned-beef-sweet-potato-hash-gluten-free.html

    Thanks for a great event.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Powered by sweet Captcha