Monthly Archives: May 2013

Corned Beef

Corned Beef

Corning beef is a way of preserving the meat in order to eat later.  The word corned comes from the English use of the word corn, meaning any small particle.  It originally used corn sized pellets of salt rubbed into the meat to preserve it.    Corned beef is usually associated with the Irish and the Irish holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. The process of corning usually involves tough and fatty pieces of meat.  Commonly, the brisket is used.  It is the chest muscle of the beef.  It is usually cut into two pieces of beef, the flat cut and the point cut. The flat cut is long and thin, and has a thick layer of fat.  The point cut is usually ground into hamburger.

   Point cut corned beef

Point Cut of Brisket

Corning meats usually consists of curing the meat, and then cooking and serving the meat.  Sodium Nitrate is used in the curing.  It tenderizes the meat and also gives flavor to the meat. Using a sodium nitrate also preserves the color of the meat.  Since the brisket is a tough piece of me, it takes a low and slow cooking method such as braising. By using a sodium nitrate, it keeps the internal color of the beef as pink.   There are two methods of curing the meat:  a dry rub and a brine cure. A dry rub is rubbed over the meat, and then left at least 2 or 3 days to cure.  A brine cure consists of emerging the beef into a cure for at least 2 days.  However, for the most successful outcome, the meat needs to cure for at least 1 week.


Sodium Nitrates- TCM or tinted curing mix

Traditionally, boiling the brisket was the method of cooking.  It was down to leech out some of the saltiness.  However, braising is better than boiling.  It is the traditional way to cook tough meats.  Place the meat in a deep pan with a little liquid.  Cover the pan and cook at about 185°F.  This creates a steam bath that helps to leech out some of the saltiness as well.

 Corned Beef

For curing:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup  brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp sodium nitrates*
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice
  • 12 whole juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves, crushed
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 2 quarts ice
  • 4-5 pounds raw brisket (keep the fat on)
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed

For cooking

  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

For the Cure: Place the water into a large 6 to 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, saltpeter, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the ice. Stir until the ice has melted. If necessary, place the brine into the refrigerator until it reaches a temperature of 41° F or lower. Once the brine has cooled, pour it over the brisket, garlic, and onion in a large pot, or 2 gallon zip top bag.  Cover (or seal up the bag) and place in the refrigerator for 10-14 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine.

CB brine

Cooking:  After 10-14 days, remove from the brine and rinse well under cool water. Place the brisket into a pot just large enough to hold the meat, add the onion, carrot and celery and cover with water by 1-inch. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Remove from the pot and thinly slice across the grain.

CB cooked

*Sodium nitrates can be called TCM, or saltpeter.  Look for them at outdoor/ camping stores that sell hunting supplies, specialty food stores, and of course by mail order.  You may be able to purchase saltpeter from a pharmacy with a copy of the recipe.

Originally Published 3-7-13

© 2013 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger       All rights reserved

Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

Please contact me if you wish to receive “Food For Thought” in your mailbox.


Halloween Traditions

Halloween Traditions

Halloween is also known as All Hallows Eve in the Christian Religion, based off Pagan rituals.”  It is quite often celebrated in the Celtic cultures- especially in Ireland.  It is led by the druids in honor of the pagan saint of the underworld Samhain.  November 1st is All Hallows Day, sometimes called All Saints Day.

All Hallows Eve is a festival of the dead; A symbol of the end of autumn.  It is a harvest festival.  It is said this is the only one day that the dead could rise and celebrate with their living family to honor them.  The word hallow can mean to make holy, or to separate out by holiness.

The jack-o’-lantern was used by travelers to guide them in the right direction; the scary face was to ward them away from evil temptation.  At houses, it was used to keep away evil spirits.  Originally, gourds were used; the pumpkin is an American tradition.  It probably originated in Scotland, or Ireland.

Another Halloween tradition is bobbing for apples.  The legend is that the first person to get the apple without their hands will be the first to get married. 

Trick or treating came about from strong Celtic traditions, particularly Scottish.  The dressing up in costumes was mainly done by adults, so the dead could pass unrecognized between the worlds. .  The treat was usually a spirit (the liquid type.)

People ate traditional foods including cabbages, apples, potatoes, nuts, and oats back then to celebrate- very traditional foods in that part of the world. Games, bonfires, fortunetelling, disguises, and tricks are all part of Halloween celebrations in most of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

The Catholic Church celebrates All Saints Day, sometimes referred to as All Hollows Day, November 1st.  Some people also celebrate All Souls Day November 2nd to honor family members who have passed away.


Today Halloween combines the ancient histories of past cultures with the cultures of America.  Halloween was brought to America by the Irish Immigrants who were fleeing the Potato Famine in the 1800s.

Originally Published 10-27-11

© 2011 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger       All rights reserved

Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

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Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon

The Meyer Lemon is a citrus fruit from China.  It is thought to be a cross of a lemon and mandarin orange.  It is called a Meyer Lemon because it was back to America by Frank Meyer in 1908.  He was an agricultural explorer for the USDA.

Meyer Lemons are large, juicy citrus fruit that has a smooth, pliable rind that is relatively thin.  Most Meyer Lemons are very juicy and full of seeds.  It is very low in acid and tastes similar to an un-sweet orange with lemon undertones. The skin is usually light orange in color, and they sometimes look like a bloated lemon.  Meyer Lemons are in season from November to March.


Meyer Lemon Curd

3 to 4 Meyer lemons
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Finely grate enough zest from lemons to measure 2 tsp. and squeeze enough juice to measure 1/2 cup.  Whisk together zest, juice, sugar, and eggs in a metal bowl and add butter.  Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking, until thickened and smooth, and an instant read thermometer registers 160°F, about 5 minutes.  Force curd through a fine sieve set into another bowl.  Serve warm, or cover surface of curd with wax paper and cool completely.  Makes 1 3/4 cup.

Meyer Lemon Margarita


1/3 cup tequila
1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice
1/3 cup Cointreau
Kosher salt (optional)
Ice cubes

Mix tequila, lemon juice, and Cointreau in a cocktail shaker. For optional salted rims, rub 2 rocks glass rims with one of the lemon peels to moisten and dip in salt if desired; fill glasses with ice.  Pour margarita mix into prepared glasses and serve. Serves 2

Originally Published 2-21-13

© 2013 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger       All rights reserved

Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

Please contact me if you wish to receive “Food For Thought” in your mailbox.

Annatto Seeds

Annatto Seeds

Annatto are the tiny seeds from the annatto tree, Bixa orellana.  Some times referred to as achiote, these seeds are what is used to make red dye #1.

The annatto tree is native to tropical America.  It produces small, elliptical shaped fruit that are covered in small reddish-brown spines.  They are called bixin.  The inner lining of the fruits are white and waxy.  The interior contains many small, hard red seeds.


Beside red dye #1, annatto seeds are also steeped in oil.  This oil is used for many things, and has a very musky scent.  Annatto seeds can be used whole, paste, or powder.  It gives foods a rich, golden hue.  It is often used for a body paint, since it also repels insects.  Annatto is also used to give butter, margarine, and sometimes cheese their color.

Annatto seeds are common in Cuban cooking, as well as cuisine in the Philippines, and in the Caribbean.  The early Spanish colonists would substitute annatto for saffron in their recipes.

Annatto seeds contain Vitamin A.

Foods that taste good with Annatto Seeds
white meat


Originally Published 1-24-13

© 2013 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger       All rights reserved

Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

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The Quince, the “golden apple”, or “love apple”, is a funny pear-shaped greenish-yellow fruit that is related to the apple and the pear.  The name quince comes from ancient Cydonia on the island of Crete.

The origin of the quince is in the Middle East, around Kashmir.  Some say the quince is the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  An ancient Greek tradition says that a bride will give a quince to her husband.  It is a symbol of fertility.  The Greeks also believed it warded off bad luck.  The Romans used it to make perfume.  Sometimes, Venus de Milo was pictured with a quince.

The quince tree is 13 to 20 feet in height.  The aroma of a quince is reminiscent of pineapple or guava.  The fruit, however, does not ripen well on trees.  The skin is green and turns yellowish when ripened.  The fruit is covered with a fuzzy down, which can be easily rubbed off.  The flesh is ecru colored, and very dry.

The quince is best cooked.  Good methods include poaching, baking, braising, or stewing.  It is suggested not to eat the quince raw.  It has high tannin contents, which can make you sick and will also affect the taste buds momentarily after eating.  The high tannin content makes it feel as if your mouth has been wiped dry with a paper towel.  There is high pectin content in the quince.  The Portuguese name for quince is marmelo, where we get the word marmalade.  The flesh oxidizes very quickly.

When buying quinces, look for ones that are large, smooth, and fragrant.  Quinces can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

The quince is high in potassium, vitamin c, and copper.  It is an astringent, and an aperitif.  The quince is good for the gastrointestinal system.

Quinces Flavors
brown sugar
foie gras

Apple-Quince Crisp

7 cups sliced peeled Granny Smith apples
6 cups sliced peeled quince
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup eater
2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
cooking spray
2/3 cup regular oats
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp chilled stick margarine, cut into small pieces

1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.

2.  Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat.  Spoon apple mixture into a 13X9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3.  Place oats in a food processor, and pulse until coarsely ground.  Add flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and margarine; pulse 10 times or until mixture resembles a coarse meal.  Sprinkle over apple mixture.

4.  Cover mixture and bake at 400°F for 30 minutes.  Uncover, and bake 20 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the topping is crisp.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Serves 12.

Originally Published 12-8-11

© 2011 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger       All rights reserved

Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

Please contact me if you wish to receive “Food For Thought” in your mailbox.




The pomegranate, (punica granatum), is an ancient fruit that is still prized today.  The origin of pomegranates is around Persia and Afghanistan.  Pomegranates have been in our diets since the beginning of time.  Some people believe that they are supposedly the forbidden fruit (one of several possibilities).  Pomegranates are depicted in ancient Egyptian art, dating from 16th century B.C.  The Egyptians also took the seeds of the pomegranate and fermented their juice to make wine.  They were also buried with their dead.  They are also mentioned in ancient Sanskrit writings.  The prophet Mohammed said pomegranates will purge the body of longing.  In the Renaissance, the pomegranate was used as a medicine.


Young pomegranate on the tree

The pomegranate symbolizes many things in many cultures.  In Chinese, Persian, Roman, and Hebrew cultures, it represents fertility.  This is due to the many seeds a pomegranate bears.  In Christian art, the pomegranate symbolizes hope.  In Jewish traditions, it is the sign of prosperity.

One legend about the pomegranate goes like this:  Persephone was abducted by the god of the dead, and was held in the underworld.  In revolt, Persephone’s mother Demeter, the goddess of fertility, and agriculture, freezes growth on Earth until her daughter is returned.  In the underworld, Persephone was forced to eat pomegranate seeds.  When Persephone is released on a bargaining deal, she agrees to return each year for 1 month per every seed she consumed.  This is how the seasons were created:  the life on Earth dies or hibernates when Persephone returns to the underworld, and is rejuvenated when she returns.

Today, there are thousands of varieties of pomegranates.  The most common varieties are Granda, and Foothill Early.  Pomegranates need cold winters, and very hot summers to prosper


Immature pomegranate

The Pomegranate looks like an apple with a crown, or like a Christmas ornament.  It grown on a tree 20 to 23 feet high.  They are harvested 5 to 7 months after flowering.  Once they are picked, they will not continue to ripen.  The pomegranate consists of a hollow sounding bulb.  It is a garnet red, though some varieties are yellow.  Inside there is a white, rubbery feeling membrane that is packed with seeds divided into six sections.  This white membrane is bitter and inedible.  Only the seeds are edible.  They have a sweet/ sour taste.  Beware though, the seeds will stain.  The juice from the seeds of the pomegranate is the base for grenadine.

Pomegranates are high in potassium.  They contain vitamin C, panthothenic acid, sodium, niacin.  They are high in citric acid, and other organic acids.  They can be refrigerated for up to 2 months.

The French word for pomegranate is grenate, or seeded apple.  That is where we get the term grenadine.  Sometimes pomegranates are also referred to as Chinese Apples.

Look for pomegranates that are as large as an orange, and feel heavy for their size.  The skin should be dark red with a uniform surface.  One medium-sized pomegranate will yield about 3/4 cups of seeds, or 1/2 cup of juice.  Other forms of pomegranates include anardhana, the dried seeds, often sold in ethnic markets, pomegranate juice, pomegranate syrup, and pomegranate molasses.

What Goes With Pomegranates
blood oranges
cream cheese
What Goes With Pomegranate Syrup

How to Make Pomegranate Juice

         Whirl seeds in a blender or food processor, 1 1/2 cups at a time, until liquified.  Add water as necessary.  Pour through cheeesecloth-lined strainer.  Refrigerate for up to five days, or freeze up to six months.

How to Make Homemade Grenadine

         In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup pomegranate juice, and 1/2 cup sugar.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved; boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and cool.  Cover and refrigerate up to two weeks, or freeze up to 4 months.   Make 1 1/4 cups.

Pomegranate Pink Jade

 2 cups pomegranate juice
1 1/2 cups very cold orange juice
1 cup plus 2 tbsp chilled vodka
1 1/2 cups chilled sparkling water
ice cubes

In a large glass pitcher, mix pomegranate juice, orange juice and vodka.  Add sparkling water just before serving.  Pour into 6 chilled glasses over ice cubes.  Serves 6.

Pomegranate Black Cat

1 cup cranberry juice cocktail, chilled
3/4 cup cola, chilled
1/4 cup pomegranate syrup, chilled

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher just before serving.  Pour over ice.  Serve 2.

Pomegranate Pound Cake

3/4 cups sugar
6 tbsp butter or stick margarine
2 large eggs

1 large egg white
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tsp grated lime rind
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Beat sugar, and butter at medium high-speed of a mixer until well blended.  Add eggs, and egg white, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Combine buttermilk, rind, vanilla, and baking soda.  Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour and salt, stirring well with a whisk.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternating with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Fold in pomegranate seeds.

Spoon batter into an 8×4 inch loaf pan that has been coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350ºF for one hour or until a wooden pick in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Serve 12.

Rack of Lamb with Pomegranate Glaze

3 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
leaves from 2 to 3 sprigs oregano
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1- eight boned rack of lamb, trimmed
salt and pepper

Cook pomegranate juice and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until a thick syrup forms, 20 to 30 minutes.  Remove saucepan from heat and place in a larger pan of hot water to keep syrup warm and liquid.

Preheat oven to 500ºF.  Chop oregano leaves into minced garlic as finely as possible to make a paste, then smear it over all surfaces of lamb.  Season with salt and pepper, and place on a rack in a roasting pan.  Brush lightly with pomegranate syrup, and place in top part of oven, bone side down, for 5 minutes.  Lower oven to 375ºF and roast 15 minutes per pound, or until interior temperature reaches 125ºF for medium rare.  After first 20 minutes, add some water to bottom of pan, and brush roast with more pomegranate syrup.

Allow meat to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into chops.  Mix pan juices into remaining syrup, pour over chops and serve.

Serves 4.

Quail in Pomegranate Sauce

8 quail, rinsed
2 tbsp lard, or butter
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
leaves from 4 sprigs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock
seeds of 5 pomegranates, about 4 cups
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pat quail dry with paper towels and tie legs together with kitchen string.  Sauté in lard or butter and 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until browned all  over.  Remove quail and set aside.  Pour off fat.

In the same skillet, cook onions in remaining olive oil over low heat until soft, about 20 minutes.  Add tomatoes and parsley; cook 3 minutes longer.  Raise heat to medium high, deglaze skillet with stock, and add all but a handful of pomegranate seeds.  Reduce heat to low, return quail to skillet, cover and cook till tender, about 15 minutes.  Set quail aside; cover to keep warm.

Strain sauce, return to skillet, and reduce for about 30 minutes over medium high heat, to about 1 cup.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Return quail to skillet, swirling them in sauce to heat them, 1 to 2 minutes.  Serve garnished with remaining pomegranate seeds.

Serves 4.

Originally Published 12-13-12

© 2012 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger       All rights reserved

Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

Please contact me if you wish to receive “Food For Thought” in your mailbox.



Rambutan is a cousin to the lychee and the longon.  It is sometimes called the hairy lychee.  Native to Malaysia, it grows on clusters on an evergreen tree.  There are over 50 varieties of rambutan today.

Rambutan comes from the Malaysian word rambout, or hair.  The small, approximately 2 inches in diameter fruit is cover in soft spikes.  The shell is very fragile, and red to yellowish brown in color.  The fruit inside is a juicy, translucent sphere, that contains a single, inedible seed that is flat and almond shaped.

The rambutan has sweet, mild flavor that is very fragrant.  It can be slightly sour or acidic. They taste similar to lychees- kind of like a canned pear, and a strawberry combined.

Choose rambutans with a light, reddish brown hue with greenish spikes.  Serve them just like you would a lychee.  Do not cook rambutans. To get to the flesh- use a knife, to puncture the skin, and then just peel off the shell.  Suck the flesh off the seed.   They contain vitamin C, iron, and potassium.  You can find fresh rambutans from July to August.



Originally Published 11-29-12

© 2012 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger       All rights reserved

Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

Please contact me if you wish to receive “Food For Thought” in your mailbox.