Asparagus (with leftover milk solids from ghee)

sautéed asparagus with ghee

Not knowing any better, I loved canned asparagus in my youth, as canned vegetables dominated America in the mid-twentieth century.  At that time in my life, I was also enamored with Campbell’s tomato soup, when made with milk instead of water.  These foods spelled enchantment to my young, untutored palette.  Time provided exposure to more excellent options; I no longer like canned asparagus or Campbell’s soup.  Over the years, my taste buds have been disciplined to know the best; thus, I have acquired wisdom, which I humbly share with you.

With its 1795 beginnings, canning drastically reformed the world of nutrition, which started with a French confectioner’s inspiration.  This radical change in the culinary world came at a time that government saw upheaval as well, for the French revolutionaries were revolting against monarchies in Europe (for the history of canning refer to Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad, 2017/10/02).

Originally, this manufacturing process provided armies with needed preservation of foods, but later its prevailing use distracted the American public, taking them away from healthier, tastier, fresh ailments; this occurred likewise in other cultures.  Canned goods monopolized the cooking of the common man; thus, the preparation of fresh fruits and vegetables was lost for a period.  Even canned meats were favored: Spam was popular in the U.S., while bully beef-minced corned beef in small amounts of gelatin-dominated the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.

Campbell’s is the best known name in the global soup-making industry.  In 1869, Philadelphia, fruit-wholesaler Joseph Campbell partnered with tinsmith-icebox-maker Abram Anderson to open Campbell Soup Company in Camden, N.J.; initially they packed fancy asparagus, small peas, tomatoes, minced meat, condiments, jellies, etc.

The year following its new 1896 partnership, the president of Joseph Campbell Preserve Company hired his 24-year old nephew John T. Dorrance, a brilliant research chemist.  This master of organic chemistry had received a doctorate from the University of Gootingen, having turned down faculty positions at this illustrious school, as well as at Columbia, Cornell, and Bryn Mawr.  Young Dorrance applied his ingenuity to his passionate vision for canned soups, for which he had learned the proper seasoning while working at famous Parisian restaurants.  With his vision of a double-strength “condensed” product, this youthful genius gave America its famous Campbell’s tomato soup.

My vivid, introduction to cooked, fresh spinach is sealed in my brain; it took place at my friend Dulcy’s home in Cut Bank, Montana in 1974.  This steamed dish, which her mother had adorned with hot butter and fresh-squeezed lemon, ignited a holy fire in me.  Exuberantly I tried to convince my mom to repeat this, but she refused, professing her hatred for spinach.  I now understand that her reaction came from an impression left by the nasty canned version, which so colored her sensory perception that she totally blocked out the heaven-sent fresh variety.

Both our palates and souls are thus influenced, absorbing either good or bad information, until we exercise our God-given authority over these perceptions.  Throughout our lifetime, events leave subtle marks on us in either adverse or positive ways, hence imbuing our imaginations with emotion, and consequently dictating our choices often.  We, however, can overcome our inhibitions by purposing to resist these impulses, repeatedly speaking words of life over our circumstances.  In this way, we mold new pathways in our brains.  This is true with all soulish imprints, both those brought by unpalatable foods as well as emotional wounds.  May we stand boldly, mastering all such patterns that limit us.

Here fresh asparagus is the piece de resistance, with which I employ the leftover remains of browned casein residue from simple ghee preparation (see Laban Bil Bayd, 2018/03/26, for easy instructions).  The flavor in butter is most highly concentrated in those milk proteins; therefore, when these are separated in the clarifying process, the very strength of its taste is isolated; browning intensifies this even further.  If you have never experienced a food enhanced with these nutty milk solids, be prepared for copious, mouth-watering sensations.

References:

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 283, 345, 354.

http://www.qdg.org.uk/pages/1793-to-1802-103.php

http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history/Ca-Ch/Campbell-Soup-Company.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bully_beef

https://www.taste.com.au/articles/bully-beef-part-of-australian-history/KYnke1FI

http://jamaicans.com/bullyb/

leftover milk solids from ghee preparation

Asparagus (with leftover milk solids from ghee)  Yields: 2-3 servings.  Total prep time: 15 min, when ghee is prepared ahead, which takes an additional 15 min.

1 lb fresh asparagus, or vegetable of your choice

1 1/2 tbsp of ghee  (See simple instructions at Laban Bil Bayd, 2018/03/26.)

Browned milk solids  (See these, leftover from ghee preparation, in saucepan in above photo.)

Salt, to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. cutting asparagus

    Spray asparagus with a safe, effective, inexpensive vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit for 3 minutes; rinse well.

  2. Dry spears with a towel.  Cut in bite-size pieces, first removing tough ends (see photo).
  3. preparing ghee for sauteing

    Melt ghee in frying pan, saving separated milk solids for finishing touch (see photo); test for readiness by placing a piece of asparagus in pan; when it sizzles, it is time to proceed.

  4. Add vegetable and sauté until desired doneness; do not overcook.
  5. Stir in browned milk solids; salt generously (see photo at top of recipe).  Be enraptured by this heavenly treat!

The Best Corned Beef

corned beef and cabbage

In Ireland, they do not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage, but rather lamb or bacon, on what has long been a religious holiday there. Why therefore does the rest of the world, in particular the U.S., count this dish synonymous with this day that has become so filled with frolic?  It was through numerous developments that the Irish immigrants in America adopted this tradition, with its roots which are actually Gaelic.

These immigrants first arrived here when fleeing the Great Famine, which was brought about by the European potato blight that desperately hit their homeland, starting in 1845.  They disembarked knowing only “about” the corn beef of their forefathers, and that differing greatly from what they began to eat in the U.S.

This dish has a complicated history.  Beef was originally not regarded as an option in the old country, but rather pork and bacon provided the rare meat at a meal (pig is still their favored animal to be bred only for food).  From ancient times on, the common Irishman regarded the cow as a work animal, consuming only its milk products, not its flesh; this latter was primarily reserved only for the wealthy few, and even for them, merely at celebrations and festivals.  Salting was their typical means of preserving meat.

When the English conquered this country in the 16th century, the cow turned into a food commodity.  Since the time of Roman invasion, the English have had a voracious appetite for beef, hence their need to outsource for this.  After their conquest of the Gaelic land, tens of thousands of live cattle were exported yearly across the Irish Sea, until the mid-17th century, when a series of Cattle Acts enacted by the English Parliament put a stop to this export; thus, providing the fuel that ignited the Irish corned beef industry.  These Cattle Acts left Ireland with an inundation of cows, bringing meat prices down, and making it affordable and abundant for their salted beef production, their means of preservation; thus, now even the peasant could consume this food.

It was around this time that the term corned beef became popular, because of the large size of salt crystals used to cure it, for they looked like a kernel of corn.  The word kernel is derived from the Old English crynel, meaning seed or kernel, a diminutive of corn.

Subsequently Ireland became known for its abundant, high quality salted beef, now called corned beef, which tasted more like salt than beef.  In addition to the overflow of cows due to the Cattle Acts, they also had access to the highest quality of imported salt, as their salt tax was one tenth that of England.  (In good corned beef, the quality of salt is almost as important as the cut of beef.)  The demand for this best-on-the-market, Irish corned beef soared in Europe and the Americas, spiking the price so high that the common Irishman could no longer afford to eat it; thus, the potato, which the English had introduced in the 1580’s, became their major food source in the Gaelic land.

This high, European and American demand for Irish salted beef continued until the end of the 18th century, when the North American colonies began producing their own; the glory days of Irish corned beef came to a close over the next 50 years; hence, the economy in Ireland was affected greatly.  This coupled with the Great Famine-brought by the European potato blight starting in 1845-resulted in great destruction in this land, as this plant disease completely destroyed the Irish food source.  As a result, about a million people sought refuge in America.  Being the land of plenty, they could now afford meat, a first in their lifetimes; that which they chose happened to be the affordable “corn beef”.  Here, however, it greatly differed from that of the corned or salted beef of their ancestors 200 years prior.

These immigrants settled in the urban centers of New York and Philadelphia, next to their Jewish neighbors, who had kosher butcher shops, where the Irish bought this product; the Jewish butchers used brisket, a kosher cut, for what they called corned beef.  Being a tougher cut, it called for the salting and cooking processes that rendered the extremely tender corn beef, with its exceptional flavors, such as we know today.  The Irish paired this with their beloved potato and the inexpensive vegetable cabbage.  This “Jewish” corned beef then became the celebratory meal for the American Irish on their religious holiday St. Patrick’s Day.  Time transformed this hallowed feast day into its present, grand celebration of Irish heritage.

Today this beef brisket-cut is generally cured or pickled by injecting seasoned brine (the brisket-cut comes from the area just above the front legs; it rests on top of the shank cut, which is immediately above these legs in the forefront).  Hence today most of our savory corned briskets never actually touch any salt grains, the size of corn kernels or otherwise, like that of the famous salted beef of old.

Though not the typical corned brisket of the former era, in The Hamilton Cookbook, 2017, Laura Kumin cites Richard Briggs’ 1792 recipe “To Stew a Brisket of Beef”, from The English Art of Cookery: “a pint of red wine, or strong beer, a half of pound of butter, a bunch of sweet herbs, three or four shallots, some pepper and half a nutmeg grated.”  Browned, boiled turnips were added at the end, after the liquor-or gravy-had been thickened with “burnt butter”.

The following is my sister’s modern recipe, which calls for braising, resulting in super tender morsels of meat.  Enjoy this effortless receipt, while wearing the green this year.

References:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/is-corned-beef-really-irish-2839144/

http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/complicated-irish-history-corned-beef

http://www.kitchenproject.com/history/CornedBeef.htm

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 289-291.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 2004, 1984), p. 175.

Laura Kumin, The Hamilton Cookbook (New York, Nashville: Post Hill Press, 2017), pp. 90, 91.

glazed meat

Corned Beef Brisket  Yields: 6-8 servings.  Total prep time: 7 1/4 hr for 3 1/2-lb brisket/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 7 hr (or 2 hr for each lb of meat).

3 1/2 lb corned beef brisket

1 lg yellow onion  (Organic vegetables are best.)

8 extra lg cloves garlic, or the equivalent

6-8 red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut in halves

1 1/2 lb green cabbage, cut in sixths or eighths, leaving root on

1-1 1/4 lb carrots, cut in large pieces

2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available in bulk at Costco.)

Yellow mustard

Brown sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s or Costco.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; take veggies out of refrigerator to warm.
  2. preparation for initial braising

    Rub seasonings from spice packet on brisket.  Place in oven-proof stock pot with onions and garlic.  Barely submerge in water (see photo); cover with lid and braise for 1 hour in oven at 375 degrees; then, lower temperature to 325 degrees, if brisket is normal size of 3 1/2 to 4 lbs-if brisket is larger, only lower heat to 350.  Cook meat for 6 hours for 3 1/2 lbs.  The TOTAL cooking time should be determined by figuring 2 hrs per lb (this time includes that needed for the replacement of vegetables for the meat the last hour of cooking); thus, a total of 7 hours for a 3 1/2 lb brisket).

  3. 1 1/3 hour before serving, spray vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse really well.  Scrape carrots with a sharp knife (this preserves vitamins, as opposed to peeling); cut in halves or large pieces; peel the potatoes; if large, cut in halves.  Cut cabbage in sixths or eighths, leaving the root on, and set this aside separately.
  4. 1 hour before serving, remove brisket from braising water, place in a baking dish, covered with tin foil, and set aside.  This should be extremely tender; if not, put a little liquid in bottom of dish, cover well with foil, and place back in oven while veggies are cooking (see photo below).
  5. preparing brisket for further cooking if needed

    Turn the heat up to 375 degrees.  Add potatoes, carrots, and salt to hot broth, cover with additional water, and return to oven to cook until tender, checking periodically.  As vegetables are done, remove to a baking dish, with small amount of broth in bottom, cover with foil, and place in oven to keep warm.

  6. Add cabbage to pot 30 minutes before serving if you like it soft; for a crisper version, add 20 minutes before dinner.  (Be sure to check vegetables to see if cooked, remove to baking dish as needed, and return to oven to keep hot.)
  7. About 30 minutes before serving, prep the glaze, by generously spreading yellow mustard over brisket, sprinkle with brown sugar, and place in oven at 375 degrees.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until it bubbles and glaze is formed (see photo at top of recipe).
  8. Cut meat, cover with foil, and place back in oven, if not ready to serve yet.  When all cooking is done, turn oven down to 200 degrees for keeping meal hot.
  9. To serve, place on platter or plates and surround with vegetables (see initial photo).  This dish is best accompanied with Irish Soda Bread, last week’s post.