Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

In the Garden and Corning Beef

Dear Folks,

Asparagus up and we are harvesting daily;  kale up in the pot project; and corning beef.

 Our asparagus bed has been going long enough that we can enjoy about 6 weeks of harvesting.  The first official harvest was February 26th, and Deane also took a shot of the bed.  Once they get going they can grow several inches in a day.  We usually harvest in the afternoon and try to catch them at about 8-10 inches cutting off at the soil level.  Any taller and most of the lower portion is too woody for straight eating or sauteing - although perfectly usable for making soups as they cook down well.  In the picture you see green and purple.  The purple variety tends to put out really thick stems.  The older the roots the more robust the growth.

Asparagus straight from the garden is sweet - reminds me of corn in that just cut from the plant the ears of corn are sweet enough to eat raw.
In my project of illustrating the concept of container gardening the next photo shows the kale coming up.  Just to left is one of the sugar peas taking off and doing well.  On the other side of the pot, not shown, one radish seed came up.  Many of the violas planted have died back as the edges dry out far quicker than the center of the pot (one of the points I try to keep pointing out to gardeners).

Got to the original post to view the slide-show video and explanation.  click here.

I will be posting updates on how the pot project goes along - the goal is to have tomatoes, squash, sugar peas and subsequent edibles available.  The questions to be answered are: does it work; how much is usable; cost ratio and related issues.  Stay tuned :-)

Next is a recipe of sorts.  With St. Patrick's Day coming up and the fact that Deane and I love corned beef, I looked into 'corning' my own beef (actually from the farmers market rancher) for a couple of years and finally this year I had the timing right to get it started.

So why bother?  Well, if you are like most folks who shop for corned beef, some of it is really fatty.  That is point one.  Point two is what the heck is in commercial corned beef?

Let me explain the origin of the word and recipe.  Corning is a type of pickling in a salt brine with or without  herbs and spices.  "Corn" comes from and Old English reference to the large pieces of kosher-type salt ("which is used to describe any small hard particles or grains." -- Wikipedia  -- so corning something was the process of curing meat.  In typical commercial recipes potassium nitrate (saltpeter) or sodium nitrite is used to preserve the beef's pink color.  Sample recipes on the internet also call for either of those - sometimes using the term "pink salt."  I really wanted to NOT use either of them and asked Deane if he minded if the result was not pink and he said as long as it tasted good he did not care, it is going to be cooked with cabbage and potatoes anyway.

I will post the completed recipe when the whole meal is finished after St. Patrick's Day.

Like many old fashioned recipes corning came about as a method to preserve food and also make good use of cheap (tough) cuts of meat.  Also, like many old time recipes that were a sort of 'peasant' food it has become an enormously popular meal in America.

A couple of points if you want to go look for a recipe to try yourself.

1)  The herbs and spices are not necessary but add extra flavor.
2)  The meat has to be brined completely covered in the liquid - which usually requires weighing it down with a plate.
3)  The container and plate must be NON-reactive
4)  It must be refrigerated.  In olden days it was done in a crock and kept in a cool dark place.
5)  Some recipes suggest to make absolutely sure you have a salty enough brine you place a whole fresh egg (in-shell) in the brine before proceeding - if it does not float - it is not salty enough.  The Salt is the keep to the preservation.
6)  Brining time is shown as anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks.  Longer is simply saltier.

I am going to brine mine for 2 weeks, and as I have a lecture scheduled for St. Patrick's Day morning, I will be doing the dinner in a crock pot.

One last point.  While the recipe usually calls for the cheap brisket cut, you can certainly - and I intend to also - try a nicer cut of meat the next time to get that nice flavor.  Left over sandwiches here we come!

My Lecture:
The BTA's annual Spring Sale is March 10 - 25 (Friday March 9th is a special preview discounted sale for members - consider becoming a member and supporting this wonderful garden/museum).  My lecture is March 17th, 10:30 - Noon - free with admission - I will be presenting on successful gardening in the desert.

And one more photo of the reclaimed mint bed.  This shows the sugar peas and corn planted Feb 1st and 4th respectively on February 26th doing very well.

I am looking forward to more of the delicious peas (our 3 other mature sugar pea plants are giving us about 1-2 cups of pods per week and are just great to snack on raw and I use them a lot in pasta primavera recipes. Yesterday (March 6th) I planted two varieties of bush beans which should get going about the time the peas may get knocked out by the heat.

I am off to a relatives to stay with her while she has routine surgery.  Back next week.

Have a great time in the garden and kitchen.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady