The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Corned Beef & Cabbage My Way

April 23rd, 2014 by Ed Bruske


I don’t normally make a St. Patrick’s day meal in April, but our local food co-op was giving away to working members several packages of Wellshire Farms corned beef that went unsold and I couldn’t resist. I took this as an opportunity to try my revised method for making traditional corned beef and cabbage. As you can see, there are a number of other vegetables involved.

The object is to avoid vegetables that get terribly overdone in the two hours plus it takes for the meat to cook. So I cooked the vegetables first, and in large part individually to get them all done just the way I like them: firm and flavorful. Call it corned beef and cabbage deconstructed.

Start with 1 quart chicken broth. You could even use 2 quarts, since much of it cooks off by the time you get around to adding the meat. Start with vegetables that take the longest, such as carrots. They’re peeled and sliced on an angle, along with a few parsnips. Cook these in the broth until just done, then remove with a slotted spoon. Next add wedges of cabbage and cook until they are easily pierced with a trussing skewer. Remove the cabbage and cook a large leek, cleaned and cut into 1-inch, angled slices. Remove the leeks and cook a few (or three) medium white potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces with the skin on.

I displayed all the vegetables on a ceramic platter and covered with plastic wrap. Set aside while you cook the meat. By all means use the same pot you cooked the vegetables in, as well as the leftover broth. The meat will need to be covered with liquid to a depth of about 2 inches, so add more broth or water as need. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat as low as possible, cover and simmer gently until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees, as measured with an instant read thermometer.

Place the finished meat on a cutting board to rest for a few minutes. All of this can be done ahead. Before serving, place the platter in a 180-degree oven to come up to temperature. You can drizzle hot broth over everything and bring to the table with your favorite horse radish.

And there you have it: corned beef and cabbage perfectly cooked, not mushy. Yes, it is quite a bit more work that just throwing ingredients in a pot of water. But this is one dish that needs all the help it can get.

Bon appetit!

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We’re Pregnant!

April 22nd, 2014 by Ed Bruske


My wife and I are too old to have any more children. But yesterday we had our sheep shorn and discovered that three of our five Friesian ewes are expecting.

With their winter wool coats on, there were no obvious signs of pregnancy. But once all that fleece was clipped away, the swollen bellies and distended udders were unmistakable. Joe, the sheep shearer, said we might expect a delivery as soon as a week or two.

It seems Buddy, the young Romney ram we purchase late last fall, was performing his duties after all. He was pretty stealthy about it. But now we wonder what prevented the other two Ewes from conceiving. As it turns out, the three ladies who are expecting also happen to be the three friendliest of the lot. One of the other two is extremely skittish, and the last one would not win any personality awards. Could disposition possibly have anything to do with it?

I know I should be overjoyed with this news. This is exactly why we brought Buddy onto the property and why we bought the Friesians ewes in the first place. We want to make lambs and raise them for meat. But with the recent attack on our chickens, I’m more worried than ever about the safety of our sheep and their lambs. Recent studies indicate that baby lambs are less likely to contract disease born on pasture. But they are extremely vulnerable to attack by coyotes, foxes or dogs roaming the neighborhood.

The closest thing we have to a barn is the walk-in shelter in our permanent paddock. The paddock is surrounded by “no climb” metal fencing four feet tall. But there are also three long gates accessing the paddock–too many ways for wily predators to sneak in. We’ll have to rig some kind of electric fencing inside the paddock and around the shelter to try to protect our new lambs, for this is precisely the time of year when wild things are giving birth to young of their own and looking for ways to feed them.

More and more I’m thinking we should just bite the bullet and invest in a guard dog. I might be able to sleep a little better at night.