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My Corniest Post – Saint Patrick’s Day

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Carrots, Onions, and Potatos

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Carrots, Onions, and Potatoes

One of my favorite meals I remember my mother making was her traditional corned beef and cabbage. We didn’t have it often, but I could always count on Debby cooking up a pot and smelling up the kitchen for Saint Patrick’s Day (although the dish may or may not have any relation to Ireland). When I started cooking for myself I could always count on boiling a big old hunk of corned beef brisket procured from my local supermarket.

Corned Beef seems to have its roots more with Jewish immigrants than Irish ones – And sure enough, my Jewish Father-in-Law goes out of his way to find good corned beef (whisper the word “Deli” to him and stand back to watch the fun!) When we would celebrate Hanukkah prior to celebrating Christmas, corned beef was always at the table, usually procured from one of the main Delis of New York.

Enter the Michael Ruhlman book Charcuterie  and corned beef in my life took on a whole new light – What, I could actually corn the beef myself at home? No more dealing with those slimy, smelly pieces of vacuum-packed beef I buy at the market? And I can season them to the way I like? Awesome!

So I set off to follow his recipe, which was pretty darn good – Better than most Delis (yes, even many New York ones), and light years away from the final product received from store-bought. The next Holiday season, I brought my own corned beef to the Hanukkah table and the family LOVED it.

Now that I knew I could do this at home, and do so EASILY (Yes, it is extremely simple – though it takes days to cure), I needed to go about tweaking the recipe to further refine it to my tastes. First, the seasonings – I bumped up the garlic quite a bit (and everyone who either knows me or even just sits next to me knows, I LOVE garlic!), and even added extra pickling spice. I have not yet assembled my own pickling spice, and Ruhlman has a recipe for that as well, but in the meantime I just use the supermarket variety and add MORE. Ruhlman brines his brisket for Five days – I tend to leave it in closer to ten – Alton Brown is fond of the latter. Seeing a pattern here? Yes, I like my corned beef STRONG – Maybe it is due to too many years subjected to the bland stuff, but I like mine as I like my jokes – VERY CORNY!

Feel free, of course, to adjust to your liking. If you were to adjust anything, I suggest using less seasonings and still brine it for close to, if not, ten days. My last corned beef was only in the brine for five and I noticed spots where the brine had not completely entered. It was still good, but it was perhaps my least favorite of the corned beefs I had done.

A word on Salt – Corned beef is Brined, so alot of salt is used but most ultimately gets thrown out. I never add more salt than is called for, only the seasonings. In addition, I use “Pink Salt” - Aka Sodium Nitrite (also known as Curing Salt or Prague Powder.) In large amounts this can be bad for you, but I use hardly any and much is discarded with the Brine. You can do this dish without it, but pink salt will help cure it as well as help give the corned beef its rosey color. Most bacon and sausages already contain pink salt, and if you come across any natural brown-ish or gray-ish Bacon, it most likely was cured without. You can find sources for pink salt on my links page.

The recipe is based on around 5 Lbs of beef brisket, which usually means 2 pieces. I try to find inexpensive natural beef, but if I cannot I’ll buy it at a upscale market, and a supermarket if the prices are too high there. I once did a test of this recipe with brisket from both the supermarket and a higher-end market and results were the same despite the supermarket’s beef being much cheaper. I’ll look for a cut that is uniform in shape (for both even brining and cooking) as well as having a nice layer of fat on top for flavor.

One hint – Since you don’t want to put the brisket in a hot or warm brine, do yourself a favor and make the brine the day BEFORE you want to start brining the meat – So ideally, you want to start ELEVEN days ahead of when you are planning to use it. For me, the next round will start around March 6th to be ready for the 17th.

You can use a brining bag or a suitable container to hold the brine and the brisket - A large tubberware container would even work if you can find one large enough. Consider going to your local restaurant supply store to pick up 2 or 3 different sized platic containers with lids – You will continue to find uses for them long after using them to brine in. The good ones also have measurements on the sides, making it very easy to measure out quarts, gallons, and liters.

The Brisket after being Brined

The Brisket after being Brined in a 12-quart Tub.


5 lb Beef Brisket
1 gallon cold water
2 cups Kosher Salt
1 oz Pink Salt
1/2 cup Sugar
1 large head of Garlic, peeled
4 Tablespoon Pickling Spice
1 teaspoon Red Chile Flake

Fill a large pot with the cold water and set on the burner to boil. Assemble all of the ingredients and chop the garlic. A kitchen scale isn’t imperative for the pink salt, but it can really be a useful tool. Add the kosher salt, pink salt, sugar, garlic, and pickling spice into the water and stir. Bring the water up to a boil, then take off the heat and cool and refrigerate.

The next day, add the brisket to the cool brine and keep submerged. If using a container, weigh down with a heavy plate, canning jar, etc. Ensure all of the air is removed if using a brining bag. Store the brisket in the Fridge, and every couple of days, stir the brine and rotate the meat.


2 or 3 Tablespoons Pickling Spice
Any combination of Carrots, Onions, Red Potatoes, and cabbage

Ten days later, take out the brisket, rinse briefly, then put in a large pot of cold water with the pickling spice. Bring up to a boil, immediately turn down the heat,  and simmer for 2-1/2 to 3 hours until tender.

Cabbage is a Given - But add whatever you want!

Cabbage is a Given - But add whatever you want!

Take the corned beef out of the pot, put on a plate or platter and tent loosly with foil. Add vegetables – Put in large pieces first, smaller ones after 10 minutes. I’ll usually halve the carrots and onions, quarter the onions, and cut the cabbage into wedges – But you can certaily cut everything into finer pieces if you like. Cook until tender, 10 minutes or more.  I usually prefer red potatoes over yukons for this dish, but everything you see I picked up at the Farmers Market in February with two feet of snow on the ground! With that much effort on the part of the Farmer I had to use what I found….

Slice the corned beef and serve with the vegetables. I’ll usually spoon a bit of the liquid from the pot on top to keep things nice and moist and serve with condiments of your choice – Mustard, Horseradish, Guiness Beer, etc…

If you want to slice some corned beef for sandwiches, Wait until the next day as it will slice better cold. You can store everything together in the fridge and even save some of the liquid as well – Corned beef tends to dry out, so you want to do everything you can to prevent that. I’ve even frozen slices of corned beef – I’ll freeze some of the liquid first, then chop a hunk off and add to the package before freezing the beef. The liquid will both moisten and flavor the corned been when defrosted and warmed.

I guaranteed that any Corned Beef lover will appreciate the homemade recipe – And you may even win over some that have never liked the dish!

Garden Update 6/29

The "Back 40" Juncgle...

The "Back 40" Jungle...

I have started to harvest some small onions and radishes – Yum! Sliced each thinly and ate with a touch of olive oil and good sea salt….

My Baby!

My Baby!

There are lots of things coming up – Baby squash, tomatoes, beans.

My first Tomatoes!

My first Tomatoes!

First Bush Bean of the Season!

First Bush Bean of the Season!

Catching Up with Tommy in the Garden

My little corner of Heaven!

My little corner of Heaven!

I know what you are saying:

Asparagus, Peas, now Vegetable gardens – Tommy, what the hell is going on? There’s not a PIG to be found! At least cook up a COW, for goodness sakes! I’d even be happy with a CHICKEN!”

And here’s what I have to say: “Relax, ya whiners! The Pork is coming soon!” I just have to take a little bitty break into the Veg Universe – It is Spring, after all! Try some peas, eat some asparagus – And maybe by next month you’ll be able to fit back into your swimsuit and feel good about stuffing your face with BBQ! Think of this as a “Health Break,” before I turn you back around and send you on a one way trip on the Meat Train! Don’t worry, there are good things coming up: Dual Bacons (Maple-Cured and Canadian), Tommy’s Famous Beef Jerky, and maybe even some surprises – Can you say Spatchcocked? Google it and you’ll know what I mean.

In the meantime, you are STUCK with Vegetables – Take a look at the photo above – You’ll see radishes, four types of beans, numerous tomatoes, yellow squash, peppers, and Japanese eggplant. Oh, and those ARE tips of Walla-Walla onions at the very bottom of the frame – You have a good eye! What you don’t see are Bush Baby container squash, zucchini, peas, lettuce, and strawberries. I’m not sure about the last 3, as they all got a late start due to the fact that I completely re-did my garden and added raised beds.

Potatoes - In raised beds and Smart Pots

Potatoes - In raised beds and Smart Pots

The raised beds are nice, but I also bought 4 ‘Smart Pots.’  These are collapsible black containers for growing vegetables, made out of porous fabric. So far, the potatoes in the pots seem to be doing better, even though they were planted below the ones in the beds. I’ll keep you posted on how they do – They might just be the answer for those that do not have much room to grow things.

There is quite a variety here: French Fingerling potatoes, Yukon Golds, Red Bliss potatoes, and the one I’m most interested in seeing, Georgia Jet sweet potatoes.
I have 2 things that always come back after a long winter – Mint and rosemary. The two patches have now grown together! I use the rosemary for almost any meat marinade I do (There ya go – meat content! Now sit back down kid) – Lamb and chicken especially – In fact, most of my rubs for those two animals usually start with rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. If I’m being a minimalist, I usually stop there.
My "RoseMint" Patch!

My "RoseMint" Patch!

Try this – Peel a BUNCH of garlic (maybe a whole head!), add a handful of rosemary(not the twigs please – save those for pickin’ yer teeth later), some salt and pepper, grind this up in a food processor with some olive oil (how much depends on how runny you want this), and slather on chicken or lamb. Keep in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Throw on Grill. Eat. Convince someone else to do the dishes.

The mint is good with Lamb as well – You could blend one large handful with 2 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil for a quick marinade, but I find that, after cooking, the mint gets really muted compared to other herbs. Instead, I tend to use mint with fresh peas (there I go again!), and the ever-present recipe from Leslie’s mother Jane – The queen of all cocktails, Orange Mint Drink – Yup, Orange, Mint, and Alcohol, how could you go wrong? I’ll have to convince her to share her recipe with you, and you’ll never make a Mojito again – It’s THAT good!

A 360-degree micro-sprinkler

A 360-degree micro-sprinkler

I just finished my automatic watering system – I’ve been using Raindrip for years – Debby used to use a drip system, and it really is very easy – And saves water too. I tried some micro-sprinklers this year as I could not find the misters that I like. The jury is still out, although I think I prefer the latter.

These systems can be a pain to set up and change around every year – But the time they save will more than make up for the set up once they are up and running. I even have them watering hanging pots.

I must say, however, and you gardeners out there will probably agree with me – There is something relaxing, refreshing, and Zen about hand watering your garden, which I will still do. But when you’ve had a long, hectic day, and dinner needs to get on the table, it is so nice to be able to turn on one valve, come back twenty minutes later to turn it off, and you are finished!



Both of my dogs are Pound Puppies - Little did I know I’d rescue vegetables as well. I know, I’m waiting for that call to come in “We have a pet Pig we can’t keep!” Try getting THAT one past Leslie! My friend, Mary, had a small pot that she started 2 broccoli and 3 cauliflower in and kept on the windowsill at work – But the time they were 6 inches tall they were not very happy! She asked If I could give them a good home, and thus you see the broccoli up front and  the Cauliflower behind the peppers there. This is my first year doing either, but they are much happier in my yard (except when Ponzi jumps the fence and steps on them – Anyone want a dog?)  


'New' Outdoor Furniture!

'New' Outdoor Furniture!

This photo is not mine but rather was taken by my wife. We inherited this wood furniture years ago when Debby died, and it was ugly and trashed even then. When Leslie saw what the pressure-washer did to our patios, she grabbed it out of my hand and spent the weekend methodically going over our green, dirty, nasty outdoor furniture that no-one wanted to sit on. She then sealed it the next week and it looks brand-new! Actually, it looks better than new. I keep telling her that our back yard is starting to resemble a “Smith and Hawken” catalog…