Vegetarians, look away. Guests who have enjoyed the food program at Chan Chich Lodge, and have visited Gallon Jug Farm, normally come to know our commitment to fresh, all natural menu items. Including some of the finest beef in the world. And fresh tortillas. And bright cabbage slaw. Habaneros nearby. And a cold Belikin beer to accompany the meal. As Chef Ram explores all the options that the farm allows for his kitchen, we can imagine him making good use of the book below, brought to our attention by the Food Editor at the New York Times:
…You can do it easily, said Michael Ruhlman, a passionate advocate of the process and the author, with Brian Polcyn, of “Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.” You need only start by corning your own beef. “You can achieve tastes that aren’t available in the mass-produced versions,” he said. “Also, it’s a genuine thrill to transform plain old beef into something so tangy and piquant and red and delicious.”
Corned beef takes its name from the salt that was originally used to brine it, the crystals so large they resembled kernels of corn. Curing and packing plants in Ireland used that salt in the 19th century to cure slabs of beef that went into barrels, later cans, and onto ships to feed, among others, British colonists, troops, slaves and laborers across the globe. Eventually someone in Boston or the Bahamas fished out a cut of beef neck or a brisket and boiled it into submission with a head of cabbage, and that was dinner.
We live in different times. The curing process may now lead you down long alleys of taste experimentation as you consider what pickling spices to use in your brine: Coriander, mustard seed and black peppercorns, for sure, along with maybe allspice, ground ginger, bay leaves and cinnamon — or just a few tablespoons of a blend from a spice market or grocery you trust.
But it does require, Mr. Ruhlman suggested, that you go out of your way to find the curing salt that turns the meat pink: sodium nitrite. The substance was used originally to forestall the growth of bacteria. That may not be an issue for the refrigerated, modern age, he said, but it still delivers big, complicated flavor to home-corned beef.
It won’t harm you, he added, for the benefit of those who fear nitrates and nitrites. He was vigorous on this point. Mr. Ruhlman’s view: We already ingest a lot of nitrates in the form of vegetables that draw nitrogen from the soil. A few tablespoons of sodium nitrite added to a gallon of brine once or twice a year isn’t going to cause anyone problems. “It’s not a chemical additive,” he said. “It’s not red dye 40.”…
Read the whole article here.