Updated on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 by Kim
I am a recovering vegetarian. My 10 year plant-fueled career spanned my formative cooking years. I became a whiz with all things vegetal, but was robbed of a decent knowledge base of meat preparation. Since adding meat back to my diet about 5 years ago, I've had to learn what to do with it. When I decided to eat meat again, I promised myself I would go all out, saving bones to make broth and not cringing at the sight of tendons and fat. But at times I'm at a total loss, and somewhat intimidated by meat. Hand me a rutabaga, and I'm a pro. Hand me a gorgeous cut of meat, and I have to sit and think for a minute (or 10).
I've been trying branch out of my turkey burger/roasted chicken/baked salmon rut. In the last year or so, I've had a growing fascination with charcuterie. I've wanted to learn to cure meats and make sausages and do all that stuff! Salty, smoky, cured meat is my weakness. I know, I know - it's high in fat, it's high in sodium, it often contains nitrates, blah blah blah. I don't care. I love it. I splurge on really high quality cured meats and relish every bite. Everyone needs a vice. And besides, with all the dietary restrictions and lifestyle changes I've had to make the last three years, if I can eat bacon and sausage and speck and chorizo and not get a bellyache, I'm going to do it. And enjoy it shamelessly.
To support my salty meat habit, I recently got a great book: Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. This book is the ultimate guide for the home cook interested in salting, smoking, and curing their own meats. Shortly after getting the book, I saw that Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy were hosting a year-long blog event called Charcutepalooza: A Year of Meat. Not only does that sound like fun, it also is using Charcuterie as a guide! Perfect. The challenge this month was to make something brined, and I opted for the advanced challenge of making my own corned beef. The perfect inspiration to learn, play, and indulge my meaty curiosity.
My former vegetarian self is cowering somewhere in a corner.
Let me tell you about my experience. I used the recipe from Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, with a few small tweaks. I am not posting the recipe here; if you want it, I highly recommend buying a copy of the book. It is worth every penny.
My beef came from Grass Run Farm. I met the founder of Grass Run Farm a few years ago; he was giving samples of his grass-fed beef at the co-op, and I took the opportunity to chat. We talked about our experiences at our shared alma mater Luther College, the beautiful land of the Oneota River Valley, and of course, his beef. When it came time to order my brisket for the corned beef recipe, I was excited to order from the butcher, knowing that I'd be receiving beef very likely raised by a man I've actually met who loves and respects his cattle.