“Richard, listen to this ‘To die for corned beef’. This is the ultimate corned beef recipe. Your guest will literally moan and groan when they taste ‘to die for corned beef’. Remember the ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ scene from When Harry Met Sally?” I read over the top of the newspaper, “‘The secret is the bubbling glaze applied just prior to serving.’ You know St. Patrick’s Day is this weekend. I could defrost some corned beef, do you want to try it?”
“Who wouldn’t want to try it with a build up like that?”
“Well it only takes five ingredients besides the corned beef. The only thing we don’t have is the pickling spice. I don’t even know what that is,” I said scratching my head. “Want to go with me to the store?”
Ten minutes later we walked down the spice aisle.
“It should be alphabetical. Richard, you take that section,” I said pointing to the shelves on the right, “and I’ll take this one.”
We met in the middle. Not one label said pickling spice.
“Well that’s weird, the guy in the newspaper made it sound like it’s a common item,” I said.
“Let’s switch sides and try again. Maybe we overlooked it on the shelve or its in a weird location you wouldn’t expect,” said Richard moving around me.
As we scanned the spices, Bunny walked into the aisle.
“Hey you two, what are you up to?” she asked with her refined Texas accent.
“Hi Bunny. Oh, we found this recipe for corned beef and it called for pickling spice. We can’t seem to find it,” I said. “It would help if we knew what it was.”
“You may want to try the canning section,” she said pointing toward the end of the aisle. “Most people use it for canning. But if the store doesn’t stock it, you can always Google it. I’m sure there are plenty of recipes on line for pickling spices.”
“Thanks, we had no idea,” I said walking toward the end of the aisle. The label on the shelf next to the Mason jars read ‘pickling spice’, the space sat empty.
“Well, I guess everyone read the article before we did,” said Richard. “Shall we see if we can find the ingredients on line?”
“Sure, we can fire up the ol’ garronculator when we get home and Google it,” I said heading toward the car.
“The what?” asked Richard staring at me like I’d lost my mind.
“Oh, the garronculator, that’s what my mom calls the computer,” I said laughing. “She said she didn’t feel right calling it the gonculator because it wasn’t part of the car so she renamed it the garronculator because it held just as much mystery for her.”
“Fannie, there’s no such thing as a gonculator,” said Richard laughing.
“I know, it’s some old joke that was popular when she was young.”
“Well then, let’s fire up the garronculator and see what we get.”
Within moments pickling spice recipes manifested.
Most recipes included 2 cinnamon sticks, broken, one tablespoon mustard seed, two teaspoons black peppercorns, one teaspoon whole cloves, one teaspoon whole allspice, one teaspoon juniper berries, one teaspoon crumbled whole mace, one teaspoon dill seed, four dried bay leaves, crumbled, and one small piece of dried ginger. This created about one-quarter cup, which according to our recipe could be stored in a small airtight container for about two months.
Our spice shelf produced every ingredient but juniper berries.
On Thursday, we pulled the corned beef from the freezer to defrost for Saturday’s celebration.
Saturday morning arrived. Armed with our ‘to die for’ recipe, I pulled the corned beef from the refrigerator. The brisket met the requirements of a paperweight, solid and heavy.
Putting it back in the refrigerator, I broke the news to Richard. “The corned beef is too frozen to cook, would you settle for pizza? We can dine on corned beef tomorrow.”
Sunday morning the sun’s weak rays illuminated dark gray clouds. A live performance of River Dance debuted on our roof.
“What time does the meat have to go on the stove?” asked Richard from the comfort of his pillow.
“12:30,” I said opening one eye. The clock read 5:42 a.m..
“How do you feel about sleeping until noon?” asked a muffled voice.
“I’m ahead of you,” I said pulling the blankets over my head.
12:15 p.m. Mixing the pickling spices, I added two tablespoons to the stock pot, along with the packet that accompanied the corned beef. Adding one cup of distilled white vinegar and enough water to cover the meat by two inches, I brought it to a boil, put on the lid then left it to simmer on the stove for 3 hours. Cloves, cinnamon, all spice, ginger and a hint of vinegar infused the air.
Removing the pot from the heat, our recipe instructed ‘let it cool in the pot for one full hour after cooking or the meat fibers will instantly dry up and toughen. Aarrgh!’
Who are we to argue?
While the beef cooled, I mixed one cup of yellow mustard with one cup of brown sugar.
“Richard, if nothing else, we will go comatose on the glaze and die happy,” I said smiling setting out a shallow baking dish next to the glaze.
Hovering near the stove, the timer beeped at the end of the hour. I turned on the broiler. The cabbage and boiled potatoes neared perfection.
“Ready for the next step?” I asked as we both salivated over the stock pot.
Richard nodded. Using a hot pad I grabbed the lid. Lifting the lid, the pot followed leaving the stove behind.
“This can’t be happening,” I said staring at the airborne pot.
“Let me try,” said Richard grabbing a couple of hot pads. Gripping the lid and one handle, Richard let loose a maternity grunt. Sweat beaded on his forehead. His arms shook.
The lid unmoved by the effort.
Since cooling the pot failed, we ran boiling water on it. The pot hissed. The lid turned into Fort Knox.
“Fannie, I know this is your only stock pot, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I’m going to take this into the garage to get the lid off, but I don’t want you to see what I may have to do to get it off,” said Richard walking toward the garage, “but we are going to eat this meat if it’s the last thing I do.”
Richard located his hammer. The pot cooled down. Richard whacked the lid seal. The metal reverberated. The lid stayed in place. He set the hammer down glaring at the pot.
Straightening up, he paced around the garage cursing a blue streak. After he cooled down a bit, he walked back to the bench, picked up a rubber mallet and beat the lid of the pot.
Thud, thud, thud.
The lid released under the assault. The scent of spices and corned beef filled the garage.
He examined the lid. No evidence of the assault showed in the metal.
Richard carried the freed corn beef into the house. Looking pleased with himself, he handed me the pot sans lid.
I scooped the corned beef out, put it in the baking dish, poured on the glazed and broiled it. Within ten minutes the glaze bubbled and caramelized. We could barely contain ourselves.
Putting it on the cutting board, the knife slide through the meat. Richard grabbed a fork from the drawer and skewered the meat with the fork. The meat fell apart on his fork as tendrils of steam rose from it.
Putting it into his mouth, he closed his eyes and chewed, savoring each strand.
“Oh Fannie, that was so worth the wait,” he said with a huge smile. “Now hurry up woman, let’s eat.”
I ran into Bunny a few days later.
“So, honey, how was the corned beef?” she asked.
“Just as advertised, to die for, except we almost didn’t get to eat it.”
“The lid forged itself to the pot during the cooking process and Richard had to take a hammer to it to get it open.”
Laughing Bunny said, “Fannie, next time, line the lid with aluminum foil.”