Brisket is the boneless meat on the lower chest of beef or veal. In traditional Jewish cooking, it is most often braised as a pot roast, especially as a holiday main course. For reasons of economics and kashrut, it was historically one of the more popular cuts of beef among Ashkenazi Jews.
Brisket is also the most popular cut for corned beef, which can be further spiced and smoked to make pastrami. In the 1900s, it appeared on Jewish deli menus, particularly in Texas, where the butchers, who emigrated from Germany and Czechoslovakia, had trouble selling the slow-cooking cut and created a way to dry smoke it and preserve it.
Brisket is one of the primal cuts of beef, though the precise definition of the cut differs internationally. The brisket muscles include the superficial and deep pectorals. As cattle do not have collarbones, these muscles support about 60% of the body weight of standing or moving cattle. This requires a significant amount of connective tissue, so the resulting meat must be cooked correctly to tenderize it.
The term brisket is derived from the Middle English brusket, which comes from the earlier Old Norse brjósk, meaning cartilage. The cut overlies the sternum, ribs and connecting cartilages.
Author and food writer Stephanie Pierson wrote an homage to this cut of beef: The Brisket Book: Love Story with Recipes was published in 2011.
CRANBERRY-ONION CHANUKAH BRISKET
(This is Justin Chapple’s recipe from Food & Wine. It makes 8-10 servings.)
8 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2-inch lemon peel strip
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 1-ounce envelopes kosher pareve onion soup mix
1 7-pound trimmed beef brisket
The day before serving:
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Layer two sheets foil in a large roasting pan, letting foil hang over eight inches past each end. Repeat with two additional sheets of foil to form an X. Top with a sheet of parchment paper.
- In a saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, lemon peel strip and lemon juice. Cook, crushing cranberries with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens, 10-14 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in onion soup mix. Let cool for 15 minutes.
- Spread a quarter of cranberry sauce on parchment. Place brisket fat side up. Spread remaining cranberry sauce over it, top with parchment and wrap foil around brisket. Place in oven for three to three-and-a-half hours. Uncover. Let cool one-and-a-half hours, then cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours.
The day of serving:
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Uncover brisket. Discard any fat. Scrape off cranberry sauce and place in a bowl.
- Slice brisket on carving board. Arrange in ovenproof dish. Spoon cranberry sauce over top, cover and bake 45 minutes to one hour.
BEER-BRAISED BRISKET WITH ROOT VEGETABLES
(This recipe comes from Ian Knauer, former Gourmet Magazine editor, chef, food writer and owner of the Farm Cooking School. It makes 4-6 servings.)
1 2.5-to-3-pound brisket
2 tbsp olive oil
1 chopped medium onion
5 ounces sliced shiitake mushroom tops
3 finely chopped garlic cloves
3 large sliced carrots
3 sliced parsnips
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into wedges
12 ounces beer of your choice
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp dill
- Heat oil in a pot. Sear the brisket three to four minutes, turn, and continue searing another three to four minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- Stir onion, mushrooms and garlic into pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for six minutes. Place brisket and juices back in pot.
- Stir in carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, beer, Worcestershire sauce and stock. Cover and simmer six hours, until meat is tender.
- In the meantime, stir flour and two tablespoons cold water in a bowl then whisk into the pot. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Place on plate, sprinkle with dill and slice.
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, editor of nine kosher cookbooks (working on a 10th) and a food writer living in Jerusalem. She leads English-language Shuk Walks in Machane Yehuda.