12 February 2011

12 February - Abraham Lincoln; Corned Beef and Cabbage

Weather: If the sun smiles on Saint Eulalie's Day, it is good for apples and cider, they say.

The weather on the 12th, 13th, and 14th of February is supposed to indicate the weather for the coming year.  If the days are fair, it will be a stormy year; if the days are stormy, the weather will be fair.

Today is the feast of Saint Eulalia of Barcelona, Virgin and Martyr, killed in 304 during the persecutions of Diocletian.  She is the patron of Barcelona and of sailors, and is invoked against drought.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States (ten less than his predecessor, if you count the gain of West Virginia against one of the seceding states) was born on this day in 1809 in Kentucky. 

O CAPTAIN! my captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring.
   But O heart! heart! heart!
     O the bleeding drops of red!
       Where on the deck my captain lies,
          Fallen cold and dead.

O captain! my captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up! for you the flag is flung, for you the bugle trills:
For you bouquets and wreaths, for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning.
   O captain! dear father!
     This arm beneath your head;
        It is some dream that on the deck
          You've fallen cold and dead.

My captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will.
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done:
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won!
   Exult, O shores! and ring, O bells!
     But I, with silent tread,
       Walk the post my captain lies
           Fallen cold and dead.
Walt Whitman
According to The American Heritage Cookbook, Lincoln's Inaugural Luncheon of March 1861 included Mock Turtle Soup, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Parsley Potatoes, Blackberry Pie, and Coffee - all of the dishes chosen by himself.  (The Bill of Fare for his Inaugural Ball four years later, an image of which you can see here at Szathmary Culinary Arts Collection, was more extensive and much fancier, and shared only coffee in common.)

So without further ado (or fanfare), here is simple CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE (if you must be fancy, call it Boeuf Corne au Cabeau, as another president is said to have done).

Cut 1 small onion into fourths.  Crush 1 clove of garlic.  Cut 1 small head of green cabbage into 6 wedges.

In a large kettle or dutch oven, pour enough cold water on a 2-pound corned beef boneless brisket or round just to cover.  Add the onion and garlic.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours or until beef is tender.

Remove beef to a warm platter and keep warm.  Add the cabbage to the broth (if needed, skim the fat from the broth first).  Bring the broth again to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Or if you have enough room in your kettle, add the cabbage to the simmering meat 15 minutes before the meat is done and let them cook together.

There it is.  Very simple.  Now, if you add a bunch of vegetables and a few seasonings, you'll have a New England Boiled Dinner, which you can look up on your own.  It is enough that I celebrate Mr. Lincoln's birthday - I'm not going all Yankee for it.