New England

A Favorite St. Patrick’s Day Dish

March 17, 2018

It’s that time of year again, in America, when the beer turns green and the aroma of corned beef and cabbage fills the air. The dish is so comforting, but just what is corned beef? The term has nothing to do with corn, but was the English term for a small granule, such as a grain of salt. In days before modern refrigeration, salting meat was a way to preserve it and keep it from spoiling.

Corned beef is an Americanized addition to the traditional Irish diet. While colcannon (boiled potatoes, cabbage, and leeks in buttermilk flavored with wild garlic) was a common Irish dish, as was brown soda bread, corned beef was produced primarily for export to England. Upon arriving in America, however, it’s thought the Irish chose to celebrate their holiday with food that was typically not available to them in their home country, so corned beef was added to the menu, as was white soda bread studded with currants and caraway.

Corned beef is typically made from beef brisket, which is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest, but the rump, bottom round, and even tongue, can be used. In America, the term “corned beef” is used to describe both the cured meat and the canned stuff found on grocery store shelves. In Britain, they call the canned stuff “salt beef.”

To make corned beef the meat is simmered in a blend of corned beef spices that usually include peppercorns, garlic, mustard, tarragon, thyme, parsley, cloves, and nutmeg.

In New England, you most often see corned beef served as a St. Patrick’s Day main dish or in a sandwich. As the main ingredient in New England Boiled Dinner, corned beef often pairs with potatoes, carrots, turnips, and cabbage in a hearty, savory, brothy bowl of goodness. When used in a sandwich, the most popular corned beef sandwich is the Reuben. Considered the quintessential Jewish deli sandwich, a Reuben is toasted rye bread stuffed with hot slices of corned beef, usually piled high, and topped with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and either Russian or Thousand Island dressing.

In New England, a frequent point of interest is also whether you prefer red vs. gray corned beef. The difference is “Red” brisket is cured with nitrite, which gives the meat its signature color. “Gray” corned beef, which is considered the authentic New England variety, is not cured with nitrate, so color forms naturally as it brines.

If you have corned beef leftovers a New England favorite is corned beef hash, which is typically served for breakfast.

“Work With What You Got!”

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Autumn Farm Markets

November 2, 2017

I love shopping at autumn farm markets and am currently planning the Thanksgiving meal. I love shopping for local and seasonal produce. God Bless local farmers!

Fall Baking

September 7, 2017

Even though summer is not technically over I’m in the fall baking mood. Yesterday was a rainy day here in New England. I made Gooey Rocky Road Brownies and I had to stop myself from eating the entire batch.

Family & Thanksgiving

November 16, 2016

Family & Thanksgiving

More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving has evolved as a time to gather together. On Christmas most Americans stay at home, but on Thanksgiving, many pack up and leave home to spend the holiday with relatives and friends. This is nearly as old a custom of the day as having turkey and pumpkin pie.

The reunion tradition arose in the early eighteenth century as families began dispersing across New England to settle on the frontiers of New England (western Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine). Gradually, before and after the Revolutionary War, New Englanders pressed into New York State, Ohio, and even parts of the southern colonies and territories. In the nineteenth century, hundreds of New Englanders went west during the Gold Rush and subsequent westward migrations. And as Boston, New York, and other towns grew into cities, young people left farms to join businesses or to work in industries in urban centers. Thanksgiving was the time people chose for family reunion, to go back to the old homestead for a visit. It still is.

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2016 All Rights Reserved

Boots & Ice Cream

October 19, 2015

The New England weather has turned. This weekend I had to put away my beloved sandals and search out my colder weather boots. Yesterday it even snowed a bit and it’s not even Halloween! The creamery closes October 30th, which prompted me to get my last licks in this weekend.

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

A Beautiful Sunday Fall Morning!

November 2, 2014

Such A Beautiful Sunday Fall Morning!

Constitution Week – Foods of Our Forefathers Part IV

September 20, 2013

Revolutionary War 2Constitution Week – Foods of Our Forefathers Part IV

The longer winters in New England produced a diet somewhat different from that in Virginia.  Not as many varieties of fruits and vegetables grew as in the South, and emphasis was put on those which would store well or which could be converted to something stable through drying, salting, or pickling.  The staple grain in the early days was rye, in addition to the new grain, Indian corn.  A common bread was called “Rye’ n Injun,” and was baked from a yeast dough of rye, cornmeal, and molasses.  Wheat did not grow well in the harsh climate, and the small amount of wheat flour available was used “for best,” as was the refined sugar.

Sweet potatoes and other root vegetables and cabbages were major items on the menu.  All cooking was done in cavernous fireplaces, either in kettles or on spits.  The cooking range, although invented by Count Rumford in the late 1700’s, didn’t become popular until the Civil War era.  The New England boiled dinner of corned beef, potatoes, cabbage and whatever else was available, was a natural outgrowth of fireplace cooking.  Beans baked in a pot set in the coals also fit the New England style of cooking and the available found supply. 

Although mutton had been the main meat supply in England, pigs were more attractive than sheep in the new land.  For one thing, sheep usually had only one lamb at a time, while a litter of pigs a dozen strong was not uncommon.  Also, pigs could forage for themselves at an earlier age than sheep, and thrived on the vegetation in forest and field. 

Cattle were kept largely for milk and cheese, and although they were scarce at first, they reproduced prolifically in the Northeast.  In fact, the Reverend John Cotton once remarked “milk and ministers were the only things cheap in New England.” 

In other parts of the country, settlers found more new foods and used them in new ways.  In Louisiana, for example, French settlers adapted their old world recipes to accommodate such new foods as tomatoes, okra, crayfish, red snapper, catfish and, of course, corn.  The climate was amenable to growing fruits and vegetables year ‘round, making a varied diet easy to get – even if it didn’t taste like home. 

In the Charleston and Savannah areas, rice cultivation began very early, in 1694, and soon became a major business.  Much of the rice was exported.  Oranges were also grown in the Charleston area. 

In the Southwest, the Spanish had developed a cuisine all their own, as they moved north from Mexico and Latin America.  New varieties of beans, plus the ever-present corn, were cooked with traditional Spanish spices plus something unknown in Spain – hot peppers.  With the continual warm weather were also possible, at least where water was available, and there was little emphasis on preservation.  In the more arid areas, however, variety was as limited as during winter in New England.  Beans, corn and squash were the order of the day. 

As time went on, Americans moved west, and the frontiersmen had an entirely new set of problems to meet.  Trappers and explorers traveled light, and that usually meant living primarily off the land. Many subsisted almost exclusively on meat, killing bear, venison and small game as they went.  One of Pierre LeSeur’s men wrote in his journal of consuming about 10 pounds of buffalo meat each day, plus four bowls of broth.  While buffalo meat apparently took some getting used to, this particular explorer wrote that “it made us quite fat, and none was sick.”

One “recipe” called for bear steak fried in tallow and covered with whisky – meat and drink in one meal!  Pemmican, made from dried meat, fat and berries ground together, was travelling food.  Beef and buffalo cut into strips and dried in the sun was called “jerky,” and kept well, even though it was tough chewing!

Bread was almost unknown, but occasionally a hardtack or ship biscuit could be obtained at a trading post. 

The frontiersmen, including migrating settlers, also found the edible wild plants to be helpful sources of nutrients missing from the dried and salted staples.  These included such things as dandelions, polk sprouts, sassafras, grapes and various nuts and berries.  When they found a place to stay for a season, corn could be planted by simply making a hole with a pointed stick or ax, dropping several kernels into the rich soil – and a crop would grow; plowing simply wasn’t necessary. 

To Be Continued…

 

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