Field of Science

A beef with Homeland Security

Lots of people seem upset by having their bodies imaged or groped while trying to fly, but this troubles me little. Yet homeland security is becoming annoying when they interfere with tradition. For a great many years now the Phactor obtains a nice brisket of beef around mid-February, and from this a most excellent corned beef is produced in time for St. Patrick's Day much to the delight of his most totally Irish mate. Since there is no actual need to go to Ireland, you may be wondering why homeland security is vexing me, and it deals with a simple component of the pickling mixture of corned beef, and bombs; good old saltpeter, potassium nitrate. Now the fact that something can be made into bombs is nothing more than an extreme nusiance; the fact is the quantities required are quite different. Each gallon of pickling brine requires only 4 tsp of saltpeter, and that isn't enough to even make a decent firecracker let alone a worrisome bomb. Once again the paranoid idiots who get paid to protect us have no sense of proportion. No plane has ever been highjacked by nail clippers or threatened by a fifth of rum, yet we all suffer the consequences because someone imagines the potential danger. One is reminded of Officer Obie taking away Arlo's shoelaces. So it's bloody hard to get even tiny quantities of saltpeter, and this is a real threat to homeland security because without a decent corned beef once a year, anyone might get violent (and they'd be Irish!). Think perhaps some experiment will require 100 g of KNO3 from the chemistry storeroom, each year.
Should any of you wish to give this a try. Get yourself a beef brisket, stab it all over with a big fork and then submerge it in brine. Each gallon of brine contains: 2 cups kosher or canning salt, 2 cups dark brown sugar, 1.5 tsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), 4 tsp potassium nitrate (saltpeter). Dissolve in 1 Qt of water and dilute to one gallon. Use a large plastic, stoneware, or enameled metal (with no chips) container. Add 1/4 coarsely crushed pepper corns, 1 tablespoon allspice, and 6-8 cloves of garlic lightly crushed. Weigh down the brisket with a plate or stone (nice clean one), cover with plastic, and put in a fridge for 3-4 weeks. To cook: Place in a large pot & cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer until brisket seems tender (1-3 hrs). Cool in liquid. Place on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Bake for 30 mins. at 325 degrees. If desired top with mustard-ketchup sauce.

No comments: