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Brisket 101

May 8, 2013
By Jerry Nelson , Marshall Independent

It's curious how, if you wait long enough, things that have gone out of style often come back into vogue. Everything old is new once again. Betty White is a prime example of just such a thing.

Clothing styles are highly susceptible to the restless tides of change. This makes sense as there are only so many ways to hang cloth on the human body.

It may be hard to believe this, but there once was a time when I was at the cutting edge of the world of fashion. I didn't even realize it myself until many years later.

My wife and I were at a large shopping center when we espied a knot of teenagers strolling past. What caught my eye was their blue jeans, which were tattered and torn and generally in poor repair.

"Look at those poor kids!" I said to my wife. "They can't afford a decent set of jeans and have to wear their work clothes to the mall!"

"That's the style now," she replied. "They probably paid pretty good money for those clothes."

To think! I could have raked in a fortune if only I'd had the foresight to hang onto the duds I had worn to shreds on our dairy farm!

Another practice that has come into vogue lately is the idea of eating local. The term "locavore" has been coined to describe the practice of consuming victuals that were produced locally.

Turns out that my family was at the cutting edge of this movement long before it was even a twinkle in the eye of trendiness. Eating local was about the only kind of eating that we did, be it veggies that sprang from the soil of our garden or a steer that sprang from the lions of our dairy herd.

Another eating trend is the "slow food" movement. And no, this does not involve consuming slugs or snails. It's more of a pushback against our fast food system. In other words, instead of food being described "fast" and "blah," it's "leisurely" and "yummy."

Martha Stewart and others have made careers of demonstrating idealistic food preparation methods, sometimes taking the slow food concept to an extreme. I am ready to offer similar advice based on the knowledge gleaned when I recently smoked my first brisket.

Begin the process by purchasing some Jersey steer calves. We got ours as started calves, which means that someone else had handled the difficult task of raising them from babies. We didn't feel like dealing with all those calf bottles and calf diapers.

Fatten the steers until one of them looks "finished." Don't ask me how to tell when the critter has reached this point as I am a poor weight guesser. All I know is you want it to weigh more than a porcupine yet less than a hippopotamus.

Next, take a steer to your local abattoir. Note: if your wife, like mine, is a bit tenderhearted, it might be best to exclude her from this part of the process.

Ask the butcher to save the brisket. Take the brisket home and coat it with your favorite rub. Your rub recipe can be as simple as salt and pepper or as complex as a Rubik's cube -whatever flavor profile floats your boat. Let the massaged brisket rest in the fridge overnight. Tomorrow is its big day!

Fire up your smoker and set it to "low and slow." Place the brisket in the smoker. Be patient! It took some while to get to this point; what's a few more hours?

If you like, you can baste the brisket as it smokes. Some folks use a beer-based baste. I figure the steer can no longer appreciate beer at this point, so I apply it to my mouth instead.

Basting has the added benefit of infusing your person with a wonderfully smoky aroma. Were you to walk into a crowded room while smelling thus, numerous heads would turn and mouths salivate. This fragrance should be bottled and sold as "eau de smoked beef."

It's important to sit back and enjoy this leisurely process. I noticed that my smoker sat a dozen paces from the cattle yard where the brisket was raised. Just beyond the cattle yard is the corn field that grew the grain that grew the beef. It simply doesn't get any slower or more local than that.

As you can see, anyone could easily duplicate this process. And when you carve that succulent smoked brisket, bear this in mind: if Martha Stewart had raised this beef, she would have used hand-woven Egyptian cotton diapers.

 
 

 

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