Monday, November 5, 2007

Corned Beef

Yet another post about food. Do I ever stop talking about this subject? Upon reflection, no, I don't think I will. First off; a note. The party actually went really well; there were two rooms, and so the people who wanted to dance around in the dark and drink wine were in one room, and the people who wanted to sit sedately in chairs and talk in another room (guess where we were). The food went over very well, and I took pictures of it, but now I don't know where our camera is, so until I find it this post will be pictureless, but you should keep checking until pictures arrive, because they're very important to everything here. Especially the main topic, of which I took pictures of to document.

On to the post; Corned Beef. Lately, being pregnant, and so able to develop sudden irrepressible cravings for food I like, I decided that I needed to eat Corned Beef. I love corned beef, although I never had it until I married Avram, I have fallen fast in love with it ever since. It's so yummy with the potatoes and cabbage cooked in the corned beef water, and with homemade wholewheat soda bread on the side. Mmm, I love corned beef. People in America are always saying that Corned beef isn't really an Irish meal, although people eat it on March 17 a lot to celebrate St. Patrick's Day (which is hardly an Irish holiday either, so I guess it works out fine). And yet on the other hand, I've also always known that the British eat corned beef. After all, in the very British book Indian in the Cupboard, the boy brings his living Indian toy some corned beef.

It turns out both are true. The British do eat corned beef, sort of. It's all canned. Even the deli stuff looks like you dumped it out of a can and sliced it. So we got to the store, and had to buy canned corned beef to replace our lovely brisket I had been dreaming of. I made sure we bought the premium corned beef, so that it was made out of real beef and everything. (side note here; according to Wikipedia, the Irish when they came to the US started eating corned beef, because they couldn't find/afford Irish bacon (which if it's anything like British bacon is actually ham) and so found this cheaper alternative. Hence, it is an Irish food, just an exclusively American Irish dish).

We bought two cans, which together weren't that cheap, and brought them home with the best of hopes, and the worst of fears. A key is included on the side of the can, but we couldn't figure out how this was supposed to open the can. I looked on the internet, and found people who complained about how hard it is to open corned beef cans (they're odd shaped, kind of like a trapezoidal cylindar), but no one who actually shared the secret of how it's supposed to work, so we just pretended on our own. After fiddling with it for a long time, Avram finally succeeded in hopelessly breaking the key off, after opening one centimeter of can. So then we turned to a traditional can opener, which did the job just fine.

But then we realized our mistake; we had accidentally bought dog food, instead of actual corned beef. At least, it looked and smelled like dog food. Avram named it Rover's Royal Repast, but still we (I; Avram never had any faith in the beginning in this venture) held out our hope that it would at least taste right, even if it had the texture of expensive dog food.

I felt better remembering a story that Avram's maternal grandfather, Papa Juju, had shared with me. When he was a kid, during the great depression, and was staying with his uncle, a friend/salesman of his uncle dropped off a can for him to try. So his uncle opened it up, and to them it looked like scrapple (a pennsylvania regional dish of nasty pork parts mixed with cornmeal, molded, sliced, and then fried), so they fried it up, and ate it for breakfast. Juju said it wasn't great, but wasn't too bad. A while later, the friend came by, and asked what they thought of the dog food he had given them to try on their dog.

If Papa Juju could eat real dog food, and live to tell the tale, I could at least eat canned corned beef.

Avram sliced the corned beef, and started frying it, but it soon fell apart into all of its nasty bits. Being the good, kind and caring parents that we are, we let Lydia have it first. Lo and Behold, she loved it, and made yum, yum noises throughout eating it. At one point she even in her excitement dumped a piece of it into a bowl of milk that remained on the table from breakfast, and then fished it back out again and ate it. Avram and I, even making sandwiches with swiss, and mine with a lot of mayo, his with a lot of mustard, barely choked it down. Avram mused on this sort of reason being why England had developed such a strong mustard tradition, because in a seafaring nation, where the sailors would often had yucky food to eat (here I presume he meant the corned beef) they needed something to mask the flavour, and so developed biting mustards.

After our best efforts, there's still about a third of a can's worth left in the fridge, waiting to be used by us, not to mention an unopened can. I wonder if they have food banks we could donate to here....

I still crave corned beef, though. Yesterday I had Avram boil me some cabbage in water, but it just wasn't the same without the corned beef. I looked up ways to corn our own beef, but it takes seven days, and a lot of kosher salt and fridge space, and frankly is rather overwhelming. All of this searching did turn up Salt Beef, which is a preserved beef they have here. It doesn't have any of the same spices as corned beef, but Avram's mom is going to buy corned beef in America, take out the spice packet, and then send it to us, and we're going to combine it with this said Salt Beef, and see if we can't turn up something more edible than our last experiment.


  1. I am glad the Halloween party turned out fine and will look forward to your pictures. Corned beef--Thora, you tickle my funny bone. I laugh until I cry. I love your posts. Feed the rest to Lydia if she loves it so much or find a dog you can feed.

  2. I too never had corned beef until I was an adult. The name alone made me wary to try it. But I was on a date with a good looking boy and i didnt want to be rude. We were at a big family party of his who must have been irish i suppose because they had all this corned beef and cabage. I am also not a big cabage fan but had never tried it cooked. I took a portion only big enough to seem like a real portin ( so as not to be rude to his grandmother who cooked it) and hesitantly took my first bite. I descovered that I like corned beef and cabage!! in fact I loved it! I had seconds even, and thirds! I felt a little like the guy in green eggs and ham that doesnt want to try it but when he does he likes it.

    well now you have me craving it. I have not ever made it myself. maybe I will google it and see if its hard. I wonder if cory would like it?? Hmmmm

    Sorry the canned stuff is gross. It sounds gross. I am not a big fan of canned meat though, remember the canned turkey chunks from DI? I wanted to vomit when ever I smeelled or tasted or saw them! ewwwww!

  3. You can buy a corned beef brisket in most supermarkets; Costco usually has them. They're cheapest around March, but they're yummy all year round. I was nervous too, about corned beef the first time I had it. It's pretty strong, so I especially like eating it with bread.

  4. Have you tried creamed chipped beef on toast? The American military always calls it SOS, but it's GOOD. I believe it's originally a Brit food.

    I have been hungry enough to knowingly fry up some dog food and eat it. I figured if it wouldn't kill a dog, it probably wouldn't kill me, either. It didn't. About the best I can say for it, though.

  5. I'm not sure about the Marmite and the Red Wine (who cooks Hash with wine? I mean really, it's not like it's beef bourguignon hash) but the rest of it sounds (to me) like a good way to dispose of the rest of your tinned corned beef.

    But then, I don't mind a high cereal content in my sausages, so your mileage may vary.

    Also, I can't help but notice they do all their measures here by weight, instead of by volume like Christians. But look on the bright side, you could be craving Jellied Eel and Mushy Peas (Mmmmm.. Mushy Peas)

    * Servings: 4
    * Level of difficulty: Easy
    * Preparation Time: 15 minutes
    * Cooking Time: 35 minutes


    * 25g Butter
    * 2 Onions, chopped
    * 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
    * 1 tsp Marmite
    * 350ml beef stock
    * 150ml Red wine
    * 375g corned beef
    * 2 tbsp flat-leafed parsley, chopped
    * Salt, and freshly ground pepper

    For the topping:

    * 250g Potatoes, peeled
    * Salt, and freshly ground pepper
    * Milk, for mashing potatoes
    * 25g Butter
    * 50g Cheddar cheese, grated
    * 25g breadcrumbs
    * dressed green salad, to serve


    1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6.

    2. First prepare the potatoes for the filling. Boil the potatoes in a large pan of simmering, salted water. When they are just cooked, remove from the heat and cool in cold water. Drain, dice and leave to one side.

    3. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a frying pan. Add in the onions and thyme and fry for 3 minutes.

    4. Add in the marmite, stock and red wine and cook briskly until reduced by half.

    5. Add the corned beef and parsley and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

    6. Cook for 5-10 minutes, breaking it up with a fork.

    7. Season the diced potatoes and mash them thoroughly with milk and the butter.

    8. Place the corned beef mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with the mashed potatoes.

    9. Mix together the grated Cheddar and breadcrumbs.

    10. Sprinkle the mixture over the mashed potatoes and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

    11. Serve hot from the oven with a dressed green salad.

    And if all else fails, there's always Indian food.

    - Matt

  6. An addendum to the above based on my late findings and experimentation:

    Okay. So I admit it really is a bit of overkill for /hash/, so I made some myself, made a trip to Reams and bought a tin of Hereford brand Corned Beef (product of Brazil), and an onion, and proceeded with a greatly reduced version:

    One tin Corned Beef (I think it was around 360 grams.. I can't remember, just one standard sized tin) One large Walla-Walla sweet onion (or two smaller onions should be fine) Butter, Beef stock.

    Saute onions in the butter for a couple minutes, until they look right, then dump in ~350 ml of stock. Cook until reduced by half. Add Corned beef and mash it in with a fork, or spatula. Simmer until most of the liquid is cooked off.

    Salt and Pepper to taste.

    Serve over fried potatoes, with an egg.

    No fiddly little green bits, or savory twigs to mess around with, no red wine, and best of all, no Marmite.

    Sarah liked it too.

    - Matt

  7. Is it legal to send you corned beef in the mail?

    We'll do it if you need it.

  8. As soon as I read this post, I started hunting for mail-order corned beef. And I found a lot, but none that would ever dream of shipping to the U.K. So there went your Christmas present idea. Sorry.

  9. All of my friends concern on our behalf really touches me (Thora). Aww, that you guys would even think of sending us a corned beef, or go out on our behalf and make your own corned behalf; truly, I'm vaklempt.

    Matt, because of your dedication on our behalf, tomorrow we're going to make a corned beef hash off of your recipe and inspiration.

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