The weather is warm, the cattle are fat and the fences are down. Fortunately my cattle want to stay in their pastures, most of the time. This happens every winter. The farm’s electric fences occasionally get squashed by falling branches, insulators pull out of trees or rotting posts and the fence gets covered in snow and shorts out so there is no charge in it. Fencing repair is a constant activity which is hard to do in freezing weather and deep snow.
Cattle don’t like change so if they are happy in a field with their friends and have enough hay they usually won’t leave, even if a fence is down. I say “usually” because if something startles them or they get running they will charge through a perfectly good electric fence. Two years ago my neighbors set off fire works that exploded directly over my herd. The explosion startled me and it definitely scared the cows. They ran through the closed wire gate, circled around and charged through a fence wire back into the field.
This year we had hardly any snow. The fences held and most of the cattle stayed put until I moved them to a new field. Some apparently did not like this new arrangement and within a day went through the fence and were back in their old pasture. I left these escape artists in their chosen field. If I had moved them back to the new field they would escape again maybe taking others with them this time. Cattle are determined when they want something.
Then there are the “jumpers.” Did you know that cattle are really good at jumping? I’ve seen a cow standing still, tuck her feet and leap cleanly over a 3 foot fence. We had one cow who jumped every fence on the farm. How did we solve this problem? We put her in our “feed program.” She made a delicious “jumper brisket.”
As long the cattle respect the fences I’m a happy farmer and if they don’t, well they might just end up on the table. After all “Good fences make good neighbors,” but only if the cattle agree.
Making your own Corned Beef is a wonderful way to prepare a Brisket without all the added chemicals. It is fairly easy, but does take forethought because of the brining time, but worth it. A couple of things to note: this corned beef will most likely be less salty than a commercially prepared version. It will also be darker in color as it does not have the added chemical (Salt Peter -potassium nitrate or Sodium Nitrite) which would keep the meat, “pink”. You will sometimes see,” Pink curing salt”, listed in some recipes.
· 2 quarts water
· 1 cup kosher salt (I use Celtic sea salt)
· 1/2 cup brown sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
· 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
· 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
· 8 whole cloves
· 8 whole allspice berries or 1 tsp ground allspice
· 12 whole juniper berries
· 2 bay leaves, crumbled
· 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
· 2 pounds ice
· 1 (4 to 5 pound) Miles Smith Farm beef brisket, trimmed
· 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
· 1 teaspoon ground allspice
· 2 bay leaves
· 2 teaspoons salt
· 1 pound diced carrots, approximately 8 small
· 1 pound diced onions, approximately 3 small
· 2 pound potatoes peeled and chopped, approximately 3 medium
· 1/2 pound diced celery, approximately 4 stalks
· 1 head cabbage, chopped, approximately 2-3 pounds
Place the water into a large 6 to 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the ice. Stir until the ice has melted. If necessary, place the brine into the refrigerator until it reaches a temperature of 45 degrees F. Once it has cooled, place the brisket in a large glass jar or crock or large zip top plastic bag and add the brine. If using a jar or crock make sure the meat stays below the liquid. You can weigh down a bowl inside the jar to ‘push’ the meat below the liquid line. If using a plastic bag, seal and lay flat inside a container, cover and place either container in the refrigerator for 8-10 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine.
After 8-10 days, remove from the brine and rinse. Place the brisket into a pot just large enough to hold the meat, add the onion, carrot, potatoes and celery and cover with water by 1-inch. Add seasonings.
To cook on the stove: Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Add Cabbage 30 minutes before done. Remove from the pot and thinly slice across the grain.
For Crock pot: Add all ingredients but cabbage and cook on low for 8 hours. Add cabbage for last 45 min to 1 hour.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: approximately 3 hours (6-8 in crock pot)
Inactive Prep Time: 10 days