This has been quite a year for us at the Rose. Jose leaving us unexpectedly was a hard thing to get through. No time has been more difficult than now when we are getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day, usually our biggest day, week of the year.

This year however was complicated by the fact that during the last six months we have been operating a preservative free kitchen. I was seriously concerned when the idea of corned beef was looking me right in the face. The prospect of curing two or three hundred pounds of corned beef was daunting to say the least. But upon Mauricio’s return, we set out to do the impossible, or at least so it seemed.

Jimmy reinforced the floor of the beer cooler to take the additional weight of the corned beef curing containers. It’s a good thing he did because it turned out to be eighteen containers to do the 245 lbs. of brisket we picked up at International. Buying beef is like buying fish in that you never get exactly what you ask for. They are animals and everyone is different. When you purchase large amounts of beef like this at one time, it depends on the catch weight. Knowing this, I order only two hundred pounds and receive 245. Pretty normal, and it keeps me under my designated three-hundred-pound maximum.

We had worked out our measurements in the preparation of our two test runs with one brisket each time. We felt we were going to be able to do the final batch in ten days from start to finish but we left a few days extra, just in case somethings were to change causing us to need additional time.
In the meantime, I am using the new celery juicer to juice enough celery to make sixty pounds of Ukrainian Kielbasa that we are scratching up for the Ukrainian National Orchestra performance at the Coronado. I want to keep the sausage pink in color and the celery juice is added for that effect. I should add here that we have been able to achieve that desired color through the last several batches of bacon and our two test briskets.
The sausages do not turn out as pink as I desire although they are very delicious. At the time, I think it might have been caused by not putting the entire celery plant in the mixture so I let Mauricio do the briskets in the same manner as the first two, foregoing the juicing of the celery in favor of using the whole plant. I think we might be leaving some of the available dietary nitrates in the bulk of the celery that we have discarded and I don’t want that to happen with the big batch of corned beef.

Then for some reason, I go on line again to research the use of celery to generate the nitrous oxide needed to achieve the pink color and discover to my dismay that the amount of those dietary nitrates in celery can vary greatly. I call Tom Cornille to inquire whether I might be able to find organic celery in the hope that it might contain more of the necessary nitrous oxide, but none is forthcoming and so we plow ahead with the celery we already have.

On Saturday, all the briskets go in to our now standard cure. Ten days later we pull one brisket and put it on the stove in a pot by itself, carefully monitoring the temperature so that it does not exceed one hundred and fifty degrees. I tell Mauricio to hold it at that temperature for one hour and then cut it in half to taste and determine the further amount of cooking necessary. He does and brings some upstairs for me to try. It’s still tough and chewy but the flavor is awesome.

I tell him that I now believe we are on the right track and predict that it needs an additional two hours of cooking. Mauricio looks at me as if I am slightly askew. You can tell he has some doubts. At this point I can’t blame him. But a couple of hours later he shows up with the final product. It’s perfect.

I have been buying and cooking other people’s corned beef products for thirty-five years. I am probably responsible for serving more corned beef than any other person in Rockford. For years, I bought from Excel in Chicago under the tracks in Fulton Market. I thought they were the best. But this is the best corned beef I have ever served and I am very proud to say so. Furtherer more it is done without any chemicals whatsoever. I’m very proud of that. I hope you can join us to find out for yourself.