Monday, June 16, 2014

A Western Tradition: Brisket

Jan here, with a reminder.

Even though I'm "The Midwesterner" at the cafe, right now we live in the western part of the Midwest.

Cowboy country.

Open spaces, big skies, antelope, coyotes...

...and cattle. Lots and lots of cattle.

What do you think happens when you add multiple-thousands of acre sized ranches with tens of thousands of cattle?

Branding time.

This is what the western prairie looks like in April. By June the grass
is knee-high and emerald green.

Once the grass starts greening up and the spring calves have all arrived, each rancher needs to round up the cow/calf pairs and bring them in to a central location. The calves are roped, vaccinated, given a quick once-over and branded...all in about a minute each.

Starting late April through Memorial Day, ranchers meet at each other's spreads to join in the work - and fun - and the traditional branding day meal.

This branding day spread is a big deal. This is where the rancher's wives can really show off what they can do - I mean besides working alongside their husbands day after day.

One of the traditional meals is brisket.

I don't have a branding crew to feed, but I did get a brisket with the half steer we put in our freezer last January. I knew that somewhere along the way, I'd have to fix it.

So I went to the internet to look for recipes. I could have "corned" it, and had corned beef. (Yes, that was tempting!) Or I could have smoked it (but we don't have a smoker, like Mindy did when she fixed her brisket. You can read her post here.).

I ended up at the Pioneer Woman's website, and found a recipe I could fix in my kitchen. Here's the link to the original recipe.

Of course, I had to change things up a bit so I could use what I had in my pantry. Here's the recipe I ended up with:

Braised Beef Brisket

1/2 envelope onion soup mix (like Lipton)
1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cups Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke 
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
4-6 pounds beef brisket

Now, to begin with, the brisket is a pretty tough piece of meat. It comes from the chest of the steer, and is tough and stringy.

That is, until you prepare it correctly. That's why corned beef is so popular - the pickling breaks down the fibers of the meat. This marinade, combined with hours of slow roasting, does the same thing.

Combine the first seven ingredients in a large roasting pan. (Don't do what I did and try to make do with your 11x13 baking dish - but it was the only one that would fit in the refrigerator.)

Put the brisket in the liquid, turn it once to coat both sides, position the meat with the fat side up, and cover the pan tightly with foil.

Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.

Read that again: refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours!

Remember all those tough fibers? This cut of meat needs that much time.

If you were smart and used a large roasting pan, you can just stick in the oven as-is.

But, of course, I needed to transfer mine to a larger pan.

Set your oven for 250°, and let that meat s-l-o-w-l-y roast for about eight to ten hours.

(Is anyone adding up the time? If you want to serve this meat for Thursday dinner, you need to start marinating it on Tuesday morning. This dish takes some planning ahead!)

About ten minutes before serving, take the meat out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes.

Slice it thin, across the grain.

Serve it with some of the juice from your pan, and you have a delicious main dish! 

And be sure to plan for leftovers!!!

When you're ready for the leftovers, take the cold brisket out of the fridge, and slice it.

Heat it up with some of the leftover juice and a few tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce...

Ever since living in the Kansas City area many years
ago, we've become BBQ sauce fanatics. This brand
is from Blue Springs, Missouri, and delicious!

...and you have Sunday night supper all set to go.

Wait! I forgot to tell you the best part! 

Even though these two meals were hours (and days!) in the marinating and cooking time, the actual prep time was only about ten minutes!

When you're on a deadline, that's priceless!


  1. Love that little cowboy picture! Won't be making this 'cause it doesn't translate into tofu but I can't imagine having enough space in my wee little fridge to leave that puppy in there for a day or more! Being a rancher's wife sounds complicated.

  2. I thought of the fridge space, too, Kav! When we moved to this old house, we inherited the 1950's fridge. It's not anything close to a normal sized fridge, and we've got 8 people to feed! But even though it's probably a huge energy sucker, but we haven't replaced it because the cabinets and counters were built around the fridge... so if we switch the fridge, we have have to redo all the cabinets an the counters. Yikes. So, tiny fridge it is.
    This looks absolutely delicious. An if I had anywhere to store it for 36 hours, I sure would try the recipe!

  3. I never got to Yankee Belle the WHOLE WEEKEND!!!!!! It was just fun and crazy here with edits and Father's Day reversed but it's done now, a great weekend and now BRISKET..... Jan, sincerely, I've been dying to find a recipe for a brisket, I'm not even sure what to buy for the meat, because they don't sell "brisket" here... Is it a round, a shoulder, a leg cut? I must solve this mystery because the draw for me to go to Texas Bar BQ Joint is the brisket. I Love It. I'm so psyched to try this, Jan!!!!!

  4. So prairie smart girl: My Nebraska prairie novella is set in September in 1868.... Is the prairie still green or has it dulled by September. Nice days, cooling nights and the wind is picking up steam. And holy grassland, Nebraska grasses are some thick, root-bound chunks of amazement. No wonder that they made houses out of them. Wowza.

  5. Why have I never had the courage to try making this. Must do that. Thank you, Jan!

  6. I love the short prep time (am nearing a deadline now!). And LOVE beef. Sorry, Kav, I'm such a carnivore!

    Thanks for sharing, Jan!

    1. We love beef at our house, too, Missy! (Shhh - don't tell Kav!)

  7. Jan's been trying to comment, but Blogger is eating her comments! She'll be here as soon as we get it figured out.

    1. I think we got it all figured out. Thanks, Missy!

  8. Yay!!!! Blogger published my comment!!!

  9. Kav, I didn't think this recipe would translate to tofu very well, but I'm glad you liked that itty bitty cowpoke :)

  10. Virginia - my in-laws had one of those cubby holes for their refrigerator. When the old one broke, they were able to find one the right size at the local appliance store (not the big box one). They might have had to special order it, but it sure was better than tearing out the cabinets!

    But with limited refrigerator space, maybe you could use an ice chest? You'd have to make sure you monitor the temperature, though....

    1. We've looked for a long time, but it's either 2 inches too wide, or 12 inches too high. We can get a short and fat fridge, or a tall and narrow. But there are no short and narrows, if that makes sense. The cabinets were custom built (and not in the good way) by the previous owner (who also built onto the house) and so the cabinetry is one huge piece, bolted to the studs and then the walls built around it (under the cabinets, etc. To take out the cabinets, we'd have to gut the kitchen. It's pretty funny.

      When we built on two rooms and another bathroom last year, the contract glanced into the kitchen, did a classic double take and then walked inside to make sure he was seeing what he thought he was seeing. "This kitchen was built from the ground up and everything is connected?"


      It's unique and fun... but not a lot of ability to switch it up. We did place a long counter on one side where there was nothing, but we can't take anything OUT. Funny, funny.

    2. Oh, good thought on the ice chest! I bet that's doable. I could put hubby on that task. He's Mr. Food Safety.

  11. Ruthy - Brisket is brisket. Maybe they call it something else in upstate New York? Our Walmart sells it in the meat department, usually in a cry-o-vac package. I hope you're able to find some!

    And the prairies in beautiful. And what is this, "has it dulled by September"? Think of wheat straw - the golden sheen catching the light as the breezes sing the music of the dance.

    Sometime after September, when the first frosts come, then the grass takes on a grayish tinge.

    Where we are, the grass starts browning in July or so - depending on the amount of rain. Nebraska would be about the same - earlier summer in the western part of the state and later in the eastern part.

  12. Oooo...I do love me some brisket. And when you don't have time to be checking on the smoker every hour or so, this sounds like a wonderful option. After all, long is slow is the name of the game whenever you're dealing with brisket. Yum! I can't wait to try this, Jan.

    1. The only downside is the wonderful aroma wafting through the house all day.... :)

  13. I've actually done a brisket once! of course I didn't get to do the cook all day/night version because my parents were here and my mom couldn't leave anything domestic-related alone esp cooking. she claimed it wouldnt' be ready for lunch at the temp I had it (this was after saying I was thinking lunch the following day...sigh...but a coworker uses brisket to clean out her fridge -all the bottles that have just a bit of stuff in them she dumps in - soy sauce, teriyaki, some salad dressings, mustards, bbq sauces - she said there are a few s he wont' add if they just seem to clash but otherwise in it goes.

    Kav - one of these days when they need someone to fill in with a recipe you should volunteer! I'm a meat eater but I would like to have some good meatless recipes esp tofu- I have NEVER gotten tofu to taste good but I've eaten a couple of tofu dishes that were very good - I just couldn't get it to work. I tried soaking in soy sauce and freezing then stir frying but way too salty. I have 'recipes' for bean based dishes but not a good tofu or vegetable lasagna recipe - stuff like that. a quilt group I may re-join next year has at least one vegetarian in it and everyone freaks when it's their turn to prepare the meal - finally she said she'd just bring a side dish that she'd eat

    Ruthy, I'm in Texas and I don't always notice brisket- it's usualy in that sealed bag - the tough one that shrinks to fit the brisket - otherwise I guess with the heavy weight we'd have briskits all over the floor :-( but sometimes my store has the HUGE ones that take up probably 2-3 slots or go longways the entire section and other times they've had smaller ones that I didn't recognize at first.. I notice them more during the summer holidays - from Memorial throughLabor Day - yay maybe they'll be on sale soon for July 4th!! otherwise there may only be 1 out at a time in my store.

    almost licked this sinus infection -sigh- hate these things. have to work night shft tonight and glad I'm feeling better because the only callout has already been overworked. antibiotic, Sudafed, Benadryl for sleeping, nasal spray feel like drug addict but whatever works I guess..along with lots of HEAT!

    1. Susanna, I'm going to refrain from commenting on why I think you have trouble making tofu taste good....

      The brisket goes on sale around the 4th of July here, too! It's the go-to barbecue meat!

    2. I know the stuff is yuck but I've had a couple of dishes that DID taste good! believe it or not...the stuff really has no taste except wh at it's cooked with but mine came out yucky - but I can never do a decent stir fry either :-( I'm afraid being born a carnivore that it's just my fate :-(