Party Day: Three Hours to Go

Who knew that corned beef could shrink so much?

Yesterday I slow-cooked a corned beef brisket all day long while I was at work. When I arrived at home, the two and a half pound roast had merrily cooked itself down into two fist-sized pieces of finished beef. Delicious, yes; tender, no doubt, but tiny. With twenty people to feed, this would not do. I was not planning to feed twenty people on only two pounds of brisket, but I was planning to feed half of them thusly. With premonitions of doom, I slow-cooked my second brisket overnight in the same way. It didn’t shrink quite as much, but it still lost half of its starting weight.

Well.

To the grocery store! (Insert Batmobile theme music here).

A third corned beef brisket has been purchased and is simmering away, this time with its cabbagey cohorts in the same pot. (I had been planning to roast the cabbage, but if I have to mess with a corned beef on the day of, I might as well put the cabbage in with it anyway). As of three hours in the pot, it hasn’t become appreciably smaller (though it is still distressingly tough), so there is yet hope.

Instead of hovering and gnashing my teeth, however, I’m focusing on the most positive part of the day: the mustard. Over the last year I’ve made mustard from scratch several times, with an almost 100% success rate. When I decided to make a spicy horseradish mustard to accompany our corned beef, I brought all of my accumulated knowledge to the bowl with me.

The recipe I used was from Epicurious, albeit one that the comments section indicated had a few problems. The ingredients were simple–cider vinegar, mustard powder, mustard seed, garlic, horseradish, salt–it was the proportions that presented a problem. Apparently the finished product was too thin and liquid to really be considered a mustard; the cooks who left comments tended to solve this problem by adding three times more mustard powder than called for.

To my mind, though, the real problem wasn’t with the ingredients, but the technique: the mustard wasn’t cooked. In all of the successful mustard recipes I’d made, after the ingredients were mixed and left to settle for a few days, they were blended, then simmered down to the cook’s favored consistency; only after appropriate reduction was the mustard potted and aged for anywhere from a few days to a few months. For this recipe I decided to follow the same route.

I put all the ingredients into a mason jar, lidded it, shook it, then put the jar in the back of my refrigerator for two days. After that time was up, I poured the contents of the jar into my food processor and buzzed it until it the mustard seeds, softened by two days soak in cider vinegar, had been completely pulverised. I decanted the blended mixture into a small nonstick pan and turned the flame onto lowish heat for about 30 minutes. I stirred it once or twice, walking by the pan on my way to another task, but mostly it minded itself.

When it was about as thick as the Dijon I buy at the store, I turned off the heat and poured it back into the mason jar. I let it cool for about an hour, with the cap on, but with the ring screwed on but loosely. Once it had cool, back into the fridge it went to be ignored for two weeks. Today I tried it for the first time–quite perfect. Some might argue that it’s too much work to make mustard when it’s so easy to buy hundreds of flavors thereof, of good quality even, at every dinky supermarket. I’m certainly not above buying mustard; I do so 90% of the time. I also don’t claim that the mustard I make is infinitely better than the mustard one can buy in the store. I do, however, claim that it is equally as good, sometimes at least a little better, and the fun of Making My Own trumps what paltry kitchen work it requires.

It’s a good thing I love it so much, though. I might have more mustard than I do corned beef.

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Published in: on March 17, 2007 at 2:18 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] year we had a St. Patrick’s Day party, and I made corned beef and cabbage using an organic corned beef from a local market. It was really […]


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