Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adventures in corned beef and other foodie stuff

Beet Kvass brewing
I think we might officially be entering the foodie world. While we have been dedicated to real food for awhile, sometimes it's hard to see us in this light, but I think it's getting hard to avoid. We're also fermenting things, that's a big step in this for us. Aaron has been the one making kefir, I've just started a batch of beet kvass.

But our big adventure has been in corned beef. The past few weeks had the subject brought up a lot due to the association with Irish American St. Patrick's Day dinners. Of course, as we're Pagan it gets drowned out a bit by all the various blather on the implications of the day. As we're more Scottishly inclined, I didn't feel a need to voice in on that and our only celebration was to go to a local coffee house to listen to music (which was a nice sociable thing to try to break out hermity ways). But there were enough mentions of corned beef and cabbage that I did start craving and then Nourshed Kitchen, a lovely blog you should check out if you're interested in real food, had this post on curing your own corned beef.

The roast before
As it's awfully hard to find grass-fed corned beef on a whim, we decided to go for this. Of course, we got started rather late to do it for St. Paddy's but that's not an issue. For me corned beef is not about St. Paddy's Day or about "being Irish." It's about being a New Englander with a Québécois father. It was an important meal, cheap, hardy, filling, savory on both sides of my family. The truth is that in the Northeast corned beef isn't about a ethnicity it's about class. It's a meal of the people. Of course, for boiled dinner it's not generally just corned beef and cabbage, but a variety of root vegetables as well. Things that get through the winter, which does make it quintessentially March meal.

In the whey, salt and spices
We have a few roast cuts from our last half-a-cow, although not a brisket apparently, but figured this piece would do although a bit more fat might have been nice. Of course, before we could start the curing of the beef, we needed to make the whey. This was something I had been intending to do as it's useful stuff and so the cream cheese which is the other side of the process. This, of course, took several days, in fact a bit more than we though it might. We went by Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions for this process. We did some raw milk and some raw milk yogurt, obviously the former took
Ready to cook

longer than the latter. We skipped the celery juice as we don't have a juicer anyway and would have had to buy celery (probably not local at this time of year).


Once the whey was separated out we put the spices and salt on the meat and poured the whey over it all. We left it out for one day at room temp but the moved it into the refrigerator for 5 (or so days, we aren't remembering this the same LOL). Then we took it out and got it going in the crockpot.
It's food!

We added turnips, parsnips, carrots and, of course the cabbage.This is, after all, not corned beef and cabbage but New England Boiled Dinner.

And amazingly it tasted just like New England Boiled Dinner!

 We still have a few meals of it. We are also left with some cream cheese for various things, as well as more whey which allowed us to start the beet kvass.

We've been taking baby steps in to a lot of this over the years, but getting more and more into it. Cooking isn't something that we've been the strongest about, but it's an important part. Especially as I've always had health issues which makes this very important to me, both the eating as traditionally as possible and the eating a lot of traditionally fermented foods.  I am one of many I know who screwed up my system through years of vegetarianism and "mainstream" food. It's amazing to me as I look at "the big 5 0" in a few weeks that I am as healthy as I ever remember being in my adult life. And this has been largely due to eating real food. Some which we raise ourselves, some which we buy locally and all of which we prepare in traditional ways.

Speaking of raising, regarding the chicken hopes I mentioned awhile back, we are still not sure about the Scots Dumpies, although if we are indecisive too long the decision will be made for this year. And I am thinking that we probably won't get them this year. But we will get them. So while we considered getting White or Red Dorkings, as there are two NH farms which offer one or the other, we decided to just stick with the Silver Grays. We are going to try to breed some of ours, but as I write this there are 25 newly hatched chicks on their way here.

You are what you do, not what you study

This is a moose, your argument is irrelevant
I have been using this mostly just for homestead related issues, but I think this actually relates to some extent. I will, however, most likely use this blog to delve into Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan and Heathen matters here, if they do not more relate to the warrior path where I'm more likely to do so at Championing Ourselves.  The idea of starting yet another blog is just to much. I find it odd that I've divided my life as much as I have, actually.

This topic also fits here for me, because this is very much a blog about living this life, rather than studying it. This is also true of Championing Ourselves, of course. In both cases research plays a major role, of course, research into Gaelic and Norse cultures, but here also research in various arts, crafts and sciences of living this life. However, research is only to lead to living, it can not be the only is not what defines us.

It seems that some folks now want to define a "Celtic Reconstructionist" as only someone who studies, who is themselves a scholar. That anyone who isn't cracking the books seriously cannot be called a CR. This would mean that my husband who has done minimal study isn't a proper Reconstructionist in their view.  My husband who has been practicing this for nearly 20 years now, who can remember every detail of every discussion he's been in, who actually know more about the lore (both Gaelic and Norse) from what he's picked up over the years than some of these folks relying on questionable tertiary sources and who has been in and lead ritual for, again, nearly 20 years is apparently not qualified because he prefers to research farming, alternative energy and politics; he reads some lore and history, but not a lot.  Fuck that shit!

CR was never meant to be a "religion of scholars" it was, rather meant to be a scholarly based religion. Really, I no longer consider it "a religion" it ceased being that a long time ago when others took up the term and it came to mean many thing, that is that there are many CR religions, it is a methodology. That methodology is a combination of scholarship and experience. But not everyone who decides to follow a religion using this methodology are going to be doing the work. Yes, that was true of most of us 20 odd years ago when we didn't have community, but in order for CR to mean anything, anything at all, we must be open to those who have other things than scholarship to share.

Celtic Reconstructionists have a horrible reputation not just in the broader NeoPagan community, (and yes, we are NeoPagan, we are in fact among the newest), but also among other Reconstructionists and think this issue may well be one which has caused this. Because there may be a valid reason why everyone sees us only as fighting online. Because far too many fancy themselves scholars and tell others that they're not welcome if they're not too. Although some of us (I have from the beginning) have tried to make everyone welcome, I have seen people be attacked, viciously sometimes, for wanting to find practice without having to do research.

Okay, so part of me might resent it a little because off all the work I've had to do being one of the first. But the point is that there has to be room for both those who are and those who can offer other things. Including just community. Because we are just elitists assholes sitting alone in front of our computers if we can't build community. I have seen many in Asatru, Nova Roma and Hellenism who have been welcoming of those who wish to do, to worship, to commune, to live inside their religions without all those people being scholars. And yes, some argue about things online too. But they don't share our reputation about it because it's far clearer that's not all they do.

I have seen people complain about not having community, about their family members not being "interested" only to realize that they have themselves destroyed any interest their friends or family members may have had by requiring that everyone do the same amount of Research.  I have seen people claim that they can't include their kids because kids are too young to do The Research. They're whining about not having a community but they've destroyed it by making absurd demands on people.

CR is over 20 years old now. When it began there was a lot of need for scholarship and there still is. But scholarship is not depending on tertiary sources and rehashing the same things. So what we needed then was more general, "let's get this started" research with some beginnings of serious scholarship. What we need now, actually, are more people doing down right serious, primary sources (translating even) focused study. Most of the people I have seen claiming we all must be scholars are not doing this level of work and often depending on previous work that is fairly easy to obtain but often was very generalized and included misinformation that even academics not focused on specifics of a particular issue fall into. We don't need more of that, we need more serious research and exploration.

We also need those who are not real scholars, both those who realize they are not and shouldn't be bullied about it and those who think they are but it's not the strongest thing they have to offer. We need the farmers, the warriors, the craftspeople; we can't all be priests and poets. We need to be building community, or at least households, to be doing the work of living this life. Because we are not what we study, we can never be ancient Celts, we are what we do. We are how we live. We need to move beyond the beginning stages that CR often seems to still be in and get on with the living of it.

Moos has had enough