Setting the Table
Braised Brisket with Pomegranate
For my cookbook project, I knew I wanted to do a dish that had meat in it, specifically beef. I ended choosing a braised brisket recipe that I found in the World Religions Cookbook by Arno Schmidt and Paul Fieldhouse. Brisket is a stringy and tender cut of beef from the lower chest of a cow. Beef brisket is considered as one of the eight primal cuts of beef since it’s a larger cut and can be divided into sub primal cuts. Beef brisket is considered a leaner cut of meat which is surprising since it is a fattier cut. Brisket is a very good source of protein and may even help with weight loss. It’s also a great source of vitamins and minerals that our bodies depend on each and every day. The other key ingredient of this dish is the halved pomegranates which we use the juice and seeds in the gravy. The pomegranate gives the dish a religion meaning specifically for Judaism. This is traditionally a Jewish recipe that is served on a specific Holiday but can also be eaten anytime of the year.
New York’s Ashkenazim, descendants of ancient Israel tribes, are very fond of this dish and tend to eat it more regularly, especially on Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and is considered to be one of Judaism’s holiest days of the new year. This is a perfect dish for Rosh Hashanah because the pomegranate consists of 613 seeds which is the exact number of commandments a Jew must follow. It is also common for this dish to be prepared on a Friday and cooked for many hours. This dish works great for cooking a meal over the Sabbath, the weekly Jewish holy day, since it is considered a day of rest. All one has to do is pull it out of the oven and enjoy the rich dish. The importance of this dish mainly relates back to Rosh Hashanah, the pomegranate having 613 seeds and starting the year off on the right track following all 613 of the commandments. When making the dish it is very important that all ingredients and steps must be kosher. For this recipe, I need to make sure that the beef is kosher to begin with, meaning it was slaughtered correctly. The meat must be fresh when consumed, cooked until it is well-done, and ensure that no dairy is served at the same time nor cooked with the same pots and utensils.
Looking over the recipe, I don’t have a concern with being able to get any of the ingredients needed. I don’t have a Dutch oven but I think my mom or either my grandmother has one that I can borrow. Living on the farm we eat a lot of your traditional meals that are still homemade. I would say 90% of our meals involve some sort of meat, mainly beef since my family raises cattle. I’m curious to learn about some of the religious beliefs about the beef I raise and how others view it. This dish is definitely a religious dish because it is celebrated on the Jewish New Year. Although it’s served on a Holy Day, this dish is also significant because it’s not every day we consume an expensive primal cut of beef. The part that gives this dish the religious significance is definitely the pomegranate, without it, it would just be a regular old dish.
The Production of Braised Brisket with Pomegranate
Braised beef brisket with pomegranate is traditionally found in Judaism and is a popular dish on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). What makes this dish so special is the key ingredient of pomegranate. It is believed that pomegranates have 613 seeds which correlates to Judaism’s 613 commandments. To help bring me closer to this dish I want to trace each ingredient that makes this dish so special from the very beginning of production to the final product.
Living on a farm and having an agriculture background really drew me to this dish. My family raises cattle and I have my own herd of about 30 cow/calf cattle. Raising an animal from the time it was born until the day you haul it to the butcher, you learn to respect such an amazing creature. The first and main ingredient of this dish is the cut of brisket. We can trace the cut of brisket all the way back to when it was just an embryo inside its mother. The calf is in the mother for around 283 days but they aren’t always born right on that day. Once the calf is born, it typically relies on its mothers’ milk until is about 5 months old then they start eating dry feed and hay. The calves are typically sold to feedlots around 1,000 pounds, where they feed the calf until it weighs around 1,500 pounds, this takes around 3-5 months. Once they are up to weight, they are hauled off to the processing plant where almost every part of the cow, steer, and bull is used in some way. Our cut of brisket is hand cut off the cooled carcass that has been hanging for around 10 days and gets inspected then seal locked and shipped out the door. The meat is shipped to distributors, companies such as Walmart, restaurants and even other countries. This allows consumers like you and me to walk in the store and pick out the best-looking brisket for our dish (used my own knowledge). The next ingredient is the pomegranate since it gives the dish a religious meaning.
Pomegranates are something that is not grown in the Midwest since they are most beneficial in arid climates. It is common for pomegranates to be started in a nursery where it is planted as a seed and potted when it’s around four feet tall (O'Neill). A pomegranate is a tree that is ideally planted in late winter or early spring and takes four to five years to become a productive plant that can actually be harvested. Once the fruit is harvested from the tree each piece of fruit is inspected and the good produce is then cleaned and prepped for shipping (Valley). Larger producers ship all over the world which allows us to enjoy them since we can’t raise them around here. It is more common to see pomegranates at local farmer markets in Southern parts of the U.S. than it is around here. It takes patience to grow and produce pomegranates but the end produce is rewarding.
The recipe calls for chopped onions, carrots and celery to make it more unique. These three vegetables are grown similar and have some of the same characteristics. Starting off with onions, they start off in a greenhouse for ten to twelve weeks and then transplanted to the field in mid-March. Plants are two inches apart from each other and the rows are 24 inches apart to allow optimal growing space. They are ready for harvest when one-half of the tops of the plant has fallen over. After harvest, the onions have to cure for two to four weeks then they are inspected, cleaned, and shipped (Kime). The carrot is produced almost the same as the onion but is planted later in the year and the plants are spaced an inch closer. It is critical for carrots to be irrigated because they require a lot of water and the timing needs to be right. There is no specific date that you need to harvest a carrot, it’s determined by the size. More mature carrots are believed to taste sweeter and are easier to store. You have to make sure that the carrots don’t lose moisture while being stored and shipped to retailers (Carrot Production). Celery is started in the greenhouse and also planted two inches apart like onions. Celery is considered a long season vegetable and is typically grown in the spring or fall since it doesn’t like the heat. The main difference with celery is that the part that you harvest is above ground. You can as soon as the stalks are about eight inches tall and you want to harvest the outside stalks and work your way in. Once it is harvested, it is cleaned and inspected before it’s stored in a bag and refrigerated (Old Farmer’s Almanac). This sums up the background research of our main ingredients for this yummy dish.
It’s important to not only know the background of the ingredients but also the meanings/themes about the dish. This dish is considered a healthier dish because it’s a protein-based dish with vegetables and pomegranates to accommodate it. There has been a cultural shift towards healthier eating and improving one’s well-being since obesity has become a huge health factor. For social justice, this is an ideal dish to bring to a celebration such as Rosh Hashanah because it serves a large number of people and has a powerful meaning behind it. It’s important to bring a dish that everyone can eat so no one is left out or offended. Religious freedom is one of the four themes and for this dish there are some disagreements with Jainism because they don’t eat meat. After saying that, Judaism believes animals are sacred and need to be treated humanely but will still harvest animals and produce to enrich their bodies. For this dish, they are very grateful for the cow that was sacrificed to provide them with the brisket. This is a dish that can be consumed any time throughout the year without breaking any laws. Some Jews may be a more serious believer and only eat it on certain celebrations and may have different views on consuming beef. There is a lot that goes into this amazing dish, but the most important part is the 3 pomegranates that each have 613 seeds that recite the Judaism commandments.
Cooking Braised Beef with Pomegranates
I thought I chose a simple recipe that wouldn’t be very challenging but I was completely wrong. The recipe itself wasn’t challenging, finding all of the necessary ingredients was. I ended up buying two briskets because I forgot the first one in my truck overnight so it was no longer good. The second struggle was trying to find the religious the component of the dish, 3 pomegranates. I went to eight different grocery stores in two different states. Thankfully, Dr. Coody told me she saw some at Hy-Vee on Hamilton Blvd. I was thinking to myself that this dish better taste phenomenal for all the headache it’s caused me.
Right away I put the meat in the oven so it could start cooking because I knew that was going to take the longest time to cook. The dish needed to be cooked in a Dutch Oven which I figured my mom would have, but I was wrong on that. Luckily, my aunt had one from when she owned her restaurant that she let me borrow. While I was waiting for the brisket to brown, I started chopping up the vegetables and measuring everything out. When the meat started browning on top, I added the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients to the Dutch Oven so it could cook together for an hour and a half. While the dish was cooking you could really smell the bitterness of the tomatoes. The last step of the cooking process was to make the gravy using the pomegranates. It worked best to halve the pomegranates and squeeze them really hard to get all of the juice and seeds out of them.
After slaving in the kitchen all morning, it was finally time to see if all of the hard work and headache paid off. I told grandma about the recipe I was making for class and she decided that she needed to come and try it for herself. Surprisingly, the dish turned out really good. The brisket was really tender and had lots of flavor. I’m not a big tomato fan, but they added a lot of flavor to the dish. The weirdest part of the dish was the pomegranate seeds in the gravy. They weren’t really hard but still had some crunch to them. I think the seeds and the juice from the pomegranates added a sour/tangy taste to the dish. Since my dish only consisted of meat and chopped up vegetables, I decided to make some diced potatoes and cornbread to go along with it. My family doesn’t like to go hungry since we are actively working on the farm 24/7. Overall, the dish turned out really good and I enjoyed eating it with the ones I love the most, I can see why this dish is significant to Judaism.
Ethics in Braised Brisket with Pomegranate
I chose a braised brisket recipe that has a religious connection to Judaism because of the pomegranates. This dish is commonly served on Rosh Hashanah but it can be made for fun or a special evening as well. It’s a perfect dish for Rosh Hashanah because a pomegranate contains 613 seeds which is the exact number of commandments a Jew must follow. This is a very tasty dish and can bring lots of laughter and joy, but some may not see it that way.
Well-being is an important part of religion and individual cultures that sometimes gets over looked. For my recipe, I’m going to look at the well-being of both the consumers (you and me) and the animal (cow that was slaughtered). As a consumer aspect, I would say this is a healthier meal considering there isn’t a whole lot of carbs and it has vegetables. On the other hand, if I’m a vegetarian consumer, I wouldn’t be able to eat any part of this dish. The vegetables that I could’ve ate were cooked in the same dish as that poor animal, so now the vegetables are contaminated. According to my friend Gabby, she finds it very unpleasant to not be able to eat and have to sit there and watch others eat that disgusting meat.
Many people in this world are uneducated when it comes to farming, especially with livestock production and they believe everything they hear. I understand that some farmers/producers may be cruel to their animals but that’s a very small number of farmers. Farmers tend and care for their livestock more than they care for themselves. There’s a saying in my house, “you don’t eat until the cows are fed and the chores are done.” Farmers can’t stand to lose animal because we grow a bond with that animal and that’s less money in our pockets. I know the biggest concern is animal cruelty at slaughterhouses, such as Tyson, IBP and other big-name producers. Consumers are worried about the animal being in distress, getting injured, and going through pain when slaughtered. Not only is slaughtering livestock frowned upon, so is raising livestock because it harms the environment.
My braised brisket with pomegranate dish is related to environmental justice because raising beef cattle throws up many red flags in some consumers’ eyes. Beef production alone accounts for 2.2% of greenhouse emission gases, which is equivalent of the annual emissions of 24 million cars (Global Warming). Certain habitats are destroyed just so farmers can raise cattle. Our water sources are contaminated because heavy rains wash cattle manure into waterways, killing fish and other animals. The chemicals and fertilizers used to produce the GMO pomegranates kills evaporate into the atmosphere, killing our monarchs and slowly killing everybody else.
The other two themes often found in religion are social justice and religion freedom. My dish doesn’t have as many negative disagreements with these two themes compared to well-being and environmental justice. Focusing on social justice, I think the biggest disagreement is that not everyone may be able to afford the cut of brisket. For a three-pound brisket here in Sioux City, Iowa, I spent over $40. Here in the Midwest we actually have some of the lowest meat prices so the same cut of meat could cost around $60 in New York. When thinking about religious freedom, the biggest argument that sticks out to me the most is Jainism and other religions that aren’t able to eat meat or beef.
In conclusion, this is a great dish if you’re a consumer that accepts meat in your diet and your religion allows it. No matter what kind of dish that I chose for this project, there still would’ve been someone out there who would argue and disagree with the dish. It’s nearly impossible to make everyone happy, but it’s important to be able to identify the group you are trying to appease.
Braised Beef Brisket with Pomegranates Reflection
Thinking way back to the beginning of the when we were first assigned the cookbook project, I had no idea what I was going to make. I knew I wanted the dish to have some sort of meat besides that I was lost. I finally went to Dr. Coody to ask for some help and within about 5 minutes we found a perfect braised beef brisket with pomegranates. The dish was perfect for me because a large portion of the recipe was brisket, yet it had some other ingredients that I don’t cook with very much. The dish consisted of an assortment of chopped up vegetables, pomegranates and different spices. My family eats a lot of the same vegetable assortment in our stews, roast and soups so I can relate my family’s food type to Judaism. The only differences I could notice is that my family eats the more tradition meat and potato meals. What I learned the most from this dish is that it’s not easy to find a pomegranate in the Midwest during February but I also learned how to squeeze all of the juices and seeds that I used for the gravy.
The dish has a special religious meaning because of the pomegranates. Supposedly there are 613 seeds which is the exact number of commandments a Jew must follow. Religion is a part of this dish when the calf that is harvested for brisket takes its first breath and when the pomegranate seed is planted into gods fertile soil. Those that care for the cow and raise the pomegranate tree are a part of some sort of religious group. For those who are Judaism, this dish is an identification of who they are and what they believe in.
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