Monday, March 16, 2009

"The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" by Fannie Merritt Farmer - Corned Beef and Cabbage

Date I made this recipe: March 15, 2009

The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer
Published by: Little, Brown and Company
© 1901; this printing 1909
Recipe: Boiled dinner – p. 206

Well St. Patrick’s Day is this Tuesday and this year, I am ahead of the curve. I made this dish on Sunday night so that we could have corned beef hash for dinner on Tuesday. I LOVE corned beef hash but when I was growing up, mom never made hash out of the leftovers. Good old canned corned beef hash was good enough for us.

This is one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made and yet the instructions in this book were a bit vague (cookbook authors in the early 1900’s didn’t have a need to print every detail like today’s authors) and so I cheated and looked online as well as referenced other cookbooks to get a sense of cooking time. I needn’t have bothered since the corned beef brisket I purchased had instructions (although they were teeny weenie and printed at the very bottom) but I liked the research portion of my program.

I chose this particular recipe book because when I think of St. Patrick’s Day, I think of Boston and this book (actually, this famous book) is from Fannie Merritt Farmer’s Boston Cooking School. In culinary circles and among cookbook collectors, this book is still highly prized.

Although I’m sure she did not intend to be funny, Fanny’s description of corned beef cracked me up to no end: “Corned beef has but little nutritive value. It is used to give variety to our diet in the summer, when fresh meats prove too stimulating. (I had no idea that fresh meats were stimulating!) It is eaten by the workingman to give bulk to his food.”

Like most people, when my mother made corned beef, she added cabbage, potatoes and carrots although I’m fairly sure she did not do this to bulk up my dad’s food. My mom also created a special sauce for her corned beef that was made of equal parts of Miracle Whip and mustard. When I told my husband this he gave me look best described as “Ew” and got out the horseradish. I went with mom’s favorite, something she probably developed to make sure we ate the boiled cabbage and just had the best walk down memory lane.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day everyone! Erin Go Bragh! (Ireland Forever!)

Boiled Dinner a/k/a Corned Beef and Cabbage – serving size not indicated
1 corned beef brisket (mine was 2 pounds)
1-2 heads of cabbage (1 used one for two people)
Potatoes (small Irish white potatoes are best but you can use any)
Turnips (if desired)
Beets (?? I’ve never heard of beets in a boiled dinner)

To boil the corned beef
Wipe the meat and tie securely in shape, if this has not been already done at market. (I didn’t tie my meat). Put in kettle, cover with cold water, and bring slowly to boiling point. Boil five minutes, remove scum, and cook at a lower temperature until tender.

Since “until tender” is not a good gauge of time, I looked online and found that 2-3 hours for a 2 lb brisket is about right. I also boiled mine for ½ hour, using the online instructions, rather than Fannie’s 5 minutes but I think it all comes out in the wash so do what you feel is best.

Cool slightly in water in which it was cooked, remove to a dish, cover and place on cover a weight, that meat may be well pressed.

To cook the vegetables
After removing the meat from the water, skim off the fat and cook vegetables (with exception of beets, which require a long time for cooking) in this water. Carrots require a longer time for cooking than cabbage or turnips. Carrots and turnips, if small, may be cooked whole; if large, cut in pieces. Cabbage and beets are served in separate dishes, other vegetables on the same dish with the meat.

To save time, I cooked all the vegetables separately (the carrots, potatoes and the cabbage) and then added them to the corned beef pot just before serving. If I hadn’t done so, I would have had to cook the mixture for another half hour and it was getting late.

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