Sunday, March 17, 2013

Homemade Corned Beef: Delicious -- SAVE THE BROTH!

This morning at Maple Heights Farm, our homemade Nitrate-free corned beef was finally taken from the brine (after sitting for 10 days), rinsed and set in the crockpot with two onions.  At lunchtime, we added about four pounds of potato and all the carrots I could fit into the crockpot.  About an hour before dinner, I poured some broth into another pot and chopped up some cabbage (I wanted the cabbage flavored by the broth but didn't have any more room in the crockpot).  This cooked until it was done.  The whole meal was reassembled on a platter on the table.  

It was delicious and there are precious few leftovers.  I do have enough for one delicious sandwich which will be served with Robinson's Family Swiss -- a local organic cheese and Real Pickles fermented sauerkraut that I was lucky enough to remember to order on Mass Local Food last month!  

I saved the broth.  I normally save whatever broth I have, mostly for the important minerals and gelatin that come from the long slow simmer of the bones.  We didn't have bones in this dish, so the broth is strictly for flavor.  I do enjoy the corned beef, but it is really all the delicious meat-flavored vegetables that I love.  I will be cooking up a few more potatoes, onions, cabbage and carrots later in the week for a delicious side dish.  I am actually thinking a nice colcannon cooked in broth with bacon might be just the thing...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Almost Easter? Our Spring Chicks have Arrived

It is that time of year when the early morning call wakes us.  "You have a package that has just arrived, come get them, NOW".  It seems the company of 175 day old chicks is even company to our busy postal workers.  And there is nothing like these soft, delicate bundles of energy (and noise) as they spend their days jostling for the best spot under a warming light -- and taking their turn standing in the water dish!  It is sort of like "king of the mountain", chick style!

This year, we are starting 150 broilers (and 25 new laying hens) for our June delivery day.  So far, so healthy.  They are feeding on a high quality non-medicated feed and are looking strong and growing quickly.  It is very satisfying to see these birds growing rapidly without the antibiotics that have been added to the "chick starter" medicated feeds.  This year non-mediated chick starter is unavailable at the feed stores in our area so Andy is formulating his own to keep these chicks growing strong.  But, I did notice the other day, he was searching through the refrigerator and I have now found that he has discovered my barley stockpile from Four Star Farm (great, locally grown grains in Northfield) to give to his precious chicks -- goodbye beef-barley-soup!  Those lucky little devils!  Now if I can only keep my wheat berries away from Andy (and his chicks)!

Normally the birds would be going out on pasture after a few weeks in the warm barn, but this time of year, that is not possible and will probably stay inside for an extra week or so, until it is safe -- and dry enough -- for them.  Some of our best grasses grow where these chickens have fertilized our fields.  And their reward is a feast of HUNDREDS of tiny grasshoppers (at least that is what we think they are) when their protective cage is moved twice each day.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Making our own Corned Beef -- Nitrate Free

If you think you cannot easily make your own corned beef, think again.  We like to make this for St. Patrick's Day boiled dinner.  It is easy, tasty, and we like knowing what is in our food.  We may use a brisket for this or a bottom round, or any other braising cut.  

Make enough for sandwiches later in the week.  This is delicious on a dark bread with "Real Pickles" fermented sauerkraut (even if you don't think you will like this, you should try it anyways -- you probably will like it) with Robinson's Farm Swiss Cheese.

If you make two corned beef roasts, you can boil one for dinner and then smoke the other for homemade pastrami sandwiches! 


  • 1  – 5lb brisket or bottom round
  • 8 – Cups of de-chlorinated water*
  • 1 – Cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 – Cup brown sugar
  • 1  – Cinnamon stick
  • 1  – Tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1 – Tsp Black peppercorns
  • 8 – Whole cloves
  • 8 – Whole allspice berries
  • 12 – Whole juniper berries
  • 2 – Bay leaves
  • 1/2 – Tsp ground ginger (use fresh if possible)

·         Combine all the ingredients (except the beef) in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil. Let it cook for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it to chill it completely.
·         Place beef in a large pot. Add the chilled brine along with all the spices.
·         Refrigerate the beef for at least 5 to 10 days, turning it over daily to make sure it brines evenly. A smaller piece of brisket will be done in 5 days; a thick piece might require up to 8 days.
*(to de-chlorinate, just let your water sit for a while.  Chlorine will leave naturally)