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C.C. Hogan

The joy of Salt Beef

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A small collection of village folk arrived at the residence today for a luncheon. Well, in my own way, I felt this middle-class English band could do with some good, honest Eastend Jewish sustenance, so Salt Beef would be the main event.

Where I was brought up many of our neighbours were Jewish, mostly from families who had emigrated to this country arriving in the docklands of London.  Salt Beef was very much a part of their culture and when I visited with my friends, it seemed to be a regular event at lunch. Unless you were sick, in which case you were given a big bowl of chicken soup and told to not breathe on anyone.

Now, I have to admit that I did not do the brining myself this time round as our butchers have a briner and were happy to do the job. They also source rather wonderful beef.  However, I thoroughly recommend you do brine your own – it really is pretty easy and there are recipes everywhere.

So, onto the lunch.

Cooking salt beefCooking Salt Beef

I picked up the beef from its three week soak in the briner at the weekend, and at eight in the morning, started cooking it in a large pot, completely covered with water with added carrots, celery, a whole head of garlic, tablespoon of pepper corns, a teaspoon of nutmeg, some coriander seeds, an onion, and 3 red beetroot.

That lot cooked for four hours at a gently rolling simmer. I served it up hot together with Rye bread I made yesterday and pickled cucumber that we made a couple of months ago – a really, fresh tasting pickle with lots of spices in it.

It went down well, even if the genteel village folk insisted on eating it with a knife and fork. Well, except the one lady from Ohio, who took one look at the fare and shoved a huge pile of beef between two slices of rye, complete with mustard and pickle and sat there happily munching through the lot. Now, that was a lady who knows her salt beef and I am planning on marrying her as soon as I get rid of her husband.

Pickled GherkinsPickled Gherkins

But however you eat it, do eat it! In the UK we have mangled the wonderful salt beef into tins of less than interesting corned beef and seemed to have forgotten this low cost but truly wonderful meal made from brisket. It doesn't even need to be the best beef around. This will make a gorgeous meal out of just about anything.

So, don’t let the trendy London media types in Soho be the only ones to eat great hot piles of beef and mustard, go buy a brisket and get brining! You will love it and make loads of friends in the process.

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North London, 1976. The longest, hottest summer on record. The water is running out and the kids hate their parents. Which bunch of idiots would think it is a good idea to start a band?

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