Sunday, March 19, 2006

St. Joseph's Day

Happy Ethnic-American Saint's Day! Today is St. Joseph's Day (and my brother, Brian's birthday) but we're celebrating with a St. Patrick's Day dinner. I found and altered an online recipe for "Pickled Tongue" (blech!) to create what I think should be the closest thing possible to the Irish American Corned Beef but using the more traditional Irish pork "bacon". In a website I can no longer find, somebody states that in Ireland what we think of as bacon would be called "rashers" whereas any cut of pork that isn't ham could be called "bacon". So pork shoulder must be o.k. for a Bacon and Cabbage recipe. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Three days ago, I started brining my 4lb bone-in pork shoulder. That is I started marinating it in a salt water and spice mixture. Here is the recipe for that:
5 cups water
1 cup salt
2 tsps coriander
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
½ tsp ground allspice (I'd have used whole allspice but I only have ground)
1 big bay leaf
2 tsps bruised mustard seeds
3 whole cloves garlic
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients and bring to the boil. Simmer until all the salt has dissolved. Let cool and place in a strong plastic bag along with the pork. Make sure all the pork is covered, close bag. Refrigerate at least over night or up to 72 hours.

Today I'm going to drain the meat from the salt water and reserve the spices for boiling. I'll fill a large pot up with water to cover the meat by 3 inches. Then I'll take the meat out, put the spices in and get the water boiling before I add the meat again. Why, you ask? ***If you set a pot of cold water to boil with the meat in from the beginning, the meat will lose a lot of flavor to the water. This is how you make a good meat stock (and a flavorless piece of meat to be thrown away). If you want to make a flavorful piece of boiled meat (and throw the liquid away), boil the water first, season it, and then add the meat. Boil for at least 30 minutes per pound, that's at least 2 hours for me. In the last half hour of cooking, you will add your vegetables to the pot. Below you'll see my vegetable SUGGESTIONS. Put more of what you like, less of what you don't. You could substitute anything for brussels sprouts, turnips, rutabagas or any other wintery vegetable you like.

5 carrots, peeled and roughly cut into 3-inch pieces
5 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 small savoy cabbage sliced into 4 thinnish wedges with the center core intact (otherwise they'll fall apart in the pot)
Optional: 3 scorzanera roots, peeled and roughly cut into 3-inch pieces

With 30 minutes to go on the meat's cooking time, add the carrots and if using, the scorzanera. With 20 minutes to go, add the potatoes and with 15 minutes to go, add the cabbage. I prefer cabbage "al dente" rather than overcooked and for me, 15 minutes of boiling is enough.

Remove the meat to a large serving tray being careful to scrape off any of the whole spices from the cooking liquid. Remove the vegetables and arrange around the meat. Strain 1 cup of cooking liquid from the pot and pour over the meat and vegetables to keep them moist and hot. Serve immediately with some Irish brown bread, mustard and horseradish.

**After Dinner Results: Everything was perfectly seasoned and very tasty. I'd definitely try the brining technique again. The 4lb piece of meat was good but barely tender at 9pm after boiling lightly for 2.5 hours. I would have left it in for another 30 minutes to make it fall off the bone. The scorzanera, which looks like extremely long white carrots, was (as it's supposed to be) very bitter. I'd leave it out next time.


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