A fam­ily feast with no cluck­ing

The Jewish Chronicle - - JC SPECIAL - BY SIMONROUND

T’S AT this time of year that I start to feel kind of sorry for all my nonJewish neigh­bours and friends. Just as the nights are draw­ing in and the tem­per­a­tures are drop­ping, which is mis­er­able enough as it is, they have the stress of Christ­mas. This one 24-hour pe­riod be­comes an all-con­sum­ing ob­ses­sion.

There are the crowds at shop­ping cen­tres fight­ing over tin­sel and wrap­ping, there are de­layed de­liv­er­ies of cru­cial presents, there are mon­ster birds to cook and awk­ward of­fice par­ties to ne­go­ti­ate. And for those un­lucky enough not to have fam­i­lies, there is ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do on the day it­self ex­cept watch mind­numb­ing Christ­mas spe­cials of shows you never liked in the first place.

For us, ev­ery­thing is dif­fer­ent. Be­fore Chanu­cah ar­rives all you need to do is stock up on plenty of cook­ing oil (enough for eight days at least), buy some chocolate coins for the kids, get in the dough­nuts and make sure you have some can- dles for the chanu­ciah.

My fam­ily al­ways has an enor­mous Chanu­cah meal. It’s one of my favourites of the year, ac­tu­ally. There are ob­vi­ously latkes, which need to be fried at the last minute, but the cen­tre­piece is a large piece of salt beef, which comes with a few pick­led cu­cum­bers, some coleslaw and rye bread. The meat sim­mers for three hours on a l ow light and needs lit­tle or no at­ten­tion; there are no canapés or starters to pre­pare and not a brussels sprout in sight. And if any­one has an iota of spare room af­ter all of that, there is al­ways a dough­nut to nib­ble on.

The only tricky part of the evening is the chanu­ciah light­ing it­self. My daugh­ter has al­ways been ner­vous of can­dles, par­tic­u­larly mul­ti­ple small ones on a can­de­labra. There is an added com­pli­ca­tion with our chanu­ciah in that it has a mu­sic box at­tached which plays — ver y cute but once the can­dles are lit I have to pick up the Chanu­ciah to wind up the box, while Lucy screams and dives un­der the ta­ble. It’s all I can do to coax her out with the prom­ise of coins. And of course now that she is a teenager, they have to be real rather than chocolate — iTunes vouch­ers work even bet­ter.

Of course, you can buy ready pick­led salt beef from your kosher butcher and, if you want a really easy life, you can even buy it cooked — but I like to pickle my own brisket. For the com­par­a­tively small ef­fort in­volved, it does give a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of sat­is­fac­tion — and the re­sults are great.

Al­though the process of pick­ling is not com­pli­cated, you do need to think ahead, as it needs a few days. First you need to buy a nice big, prefer­ably fairly fatty piece of brisket of around 2kg. Then make your brine. Take 400g salt, 300g caster sugar, 1 tea­spoon black pep­per­corns, eight all­spice berries, four bay leaves and 50g salt­pe­tre (this is op­tional but gives the meat its char­ac­ter­is­tic pink colour and is avail­able on­line). Put them all in a pan with four litres of wa­ter and bring to the boil. Re­move from the heat and al­low to cool.

Place your brisket in a large plas­tic con­tainer and pour the brin­ing so­lu­tion over it. Add a bulb of gar­lic, seal, re­frig­er­ate and leave for four to five days at least. That’s ba­si­cally it. The meat needs to be fully sub­merged — so, if nec­es­sary, use a plate to weigh it down. Turn over the brisket once a day but oth­er­wise just leave the brine to do its thing.The time will pass quickly enough — you can use it to buy the kids some to­ken gifts and prac­tise singing Then when the wait­ing is over, take the brisket out of the brine, rinse it thor­oughly and place it in a large saucepan filled with wa­ter. Bring to the boil, then re­duce to sim­mer­ing point.

Ski­moff anyscumwhich­has­formed on the sur­face and add a car­rot, an onion, a stick of cel­ery and a few pep­per­corns. Sim­mer over a low heat for three hours un­til the meat is ten­der. If the wa­ter is too in­tensely salty af­ter an hour, add fresh wa­ter, bring to the boil again and sim­mer for an­other two hours.

4 . 9 / 5 . 8 T X T

Salt beef beat­sturkey fore­aseof cook­ing

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