Growing up in beautiful New England was a blessing for so many reasons. The small town simple life made way for creativity and adventure. As kids we walked to school, rode our bikes to the lake, climbed ‘the mountain’ for fun, went to every Friday night basketball game, and loved our lobsters & chowders, grinders, maple syrup, and New England Boiled Dinners. Each year as we welcome in the Autumn season I think of soups and stews and pumpkins and foliage and New England.
This was the view from our back yard and this link gives you a live view of Mt. Monadnock. So even from 1200 miles away I can be reminded of her beauty with the click of a button. Very cool.
The town I grew up in, Jaffrey, New Hampshire, is perhaps most known for our glorious mountain, Mount Monadnock. Her rocky peak can be seen from as far away as Boston on a clear day. Over 100,000 people hike Mount Monadnock each year, making it the second most climbed mountain in the world, and perhaps the most painted and written about mountain in America. Ralph Waldo Emderson’s poem Monadnoc suggested there is much to learn from the spiritual balance of nature that is ever present on the mountain. His writing inspired Henry David Thoreau, who himself camped on the side of Mount Monadnock.
New England is certainly rich in history, however less recognized for her cuisine. Yes, Lobsters and Chowders are probably the first things that come to mind, but New England Boiled Dinner has earned her place in the history books. According to Presidential lore (and a wonderful article published in Yankee Magazine), it seems President Grover Cleveland, who was mostly an everyday Joe, came into his presidency on the heals of a food snob. The former President, Chester Arthur, favored French dining and insisted on each dish being called by it’s French name. One evening President Cleveland caught a whiff of the unmistakable glorious aroma of New England Boiled Dinner wafting from the servants quarters. He traded his dinner for theirs and later declared “It was the best dinner I had had for months.”
New England Boiled Dinner is ‘meat and potatoes’ in it’s most pure and simplest form. In the early days, cold winter nights called for well stoked fires. Well stoked fires invited big pots of inexpensive and readily available ingredients, such as root vegetables straight from the garden and a big piece of fatty meat for flavoring. This one pot meal might just be THE dish that made leftovers sexy. Have I told you about Red Flannel Hash?
- 3½ lb. corned beef brisket with seasoning packet
- 20 peppercorns,optional
- 10 whole cloves, optional
- 2 bay leaves, optional
- 3-4 small turnips, peeled and quartered
- 4-6 red new potatoes, peeled and cut in half
- 4-6 large carrots, peeled and cut in half
- 3-4 small onion, peeled
- 2-3 parsnips, peeled and cut in half
- 1 small head cabbage, cut into fourths
- 3-4 beets, peeled, reserved to cook separately
- crusty bread, optional
- softened butter, optional
- Place corned beef and seasoning packet in a large Dutch oven and completely cover with water. If you are using corned beef brisket that does not come with a seasoning packet, add peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaves to the pot.
- Bring to a simmer and then cover. Maintain a gentle low simmer for 3½ - 4 hours until the meat is tender when a fork is inserted.
- Remove the meat and cover with foil to keep warm. Add all vegetables (except the beets) to the pot, increase the temperature and bring to a low boil/high simmer. Continue cooking 20-30 minutes longer until vegetables are tender.
- For the beets, peel and quarter. Wrap in parchment paper and microwave for 8-10 minutes until just fork tender.
- To slice the meat, locate the direction of the grain, then thinly slice against the grain.
- Serve family style on a large platter with a side of reserved broth, a big crusty bread, and plenty of softened butter.
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