Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mmmm corned beef

Several months ago I bought a couple of vacuum sealed bags of corned beef at the local supermarket. They were only a couple bucks a bag so I jumped on them. They sat and sat in the meat drawer of my refrigerator until the other day when I finally decided to cook one of them. The "expiration date" on them was July 4th. I cut the bag open half expecting a rancid, stomach turning odor that would surely force everything from my stomach that's been digesting for the last couple of days. Surprisingly enough I was greeted with the wonderful scent of "fresh" corned beef. It was a bit more ripe than usual but that only added to the appeal. I decided to cook it to see how it would turn out.

I tossed it in a stock pot, dumped in the contents of the spice package that it came with, filled the pot with water until the beef was just covered and began cooking. After letting it boil for about 10 minutes I lowered the heat to a simmer and left it alone for a few hours. It must have been the most tender, flavorful corned beef that I've ever put in my mouth. I'm not exactly the pickiest eater, though, so I decided to let my wife try it before I passed final judgement. Even she loved it and for once in her life she finished everything on her plate! At this point I could have mentioned the fact that she was eating something 6 1/2 months past the "best by" date but that would have surely spoiled her taste for it. As much as I wanted to just to prove a point I held back.

Despite the fact that it was absolutely excellent we still had a lot left over. There's only so much that two people can put down. Especially when you can feel your arteries clog with every bite. So I took the leftovers and decided to make some corned beef hash. It turned out every bit as wonderful as the original roast. My wife is going to be pissed with all of the smoke in the house because I heated up the cast iron skillet a bit too much but she'll understand once she puts that first bite in her mouth (I hope). The fan over the stove has been on for over an hour and I've had a window cracked long enough that I can feel the temperature dropping in the kitchen. At least the hash turned out really good, though!

So what's the moral of this story? Don't pay attention to "best by" dates. Use your own senses (including the common one) to decide if what you've got is safe to eat or not. These days it doesn't hurt to throw it away just to be safe but a time may come sooner than you think where you'll actually want to be able to rely on your instincts.


The Urban Survivalist said...

Update: Not only did she wonder what smelled so great when she walked in the door but when I gave her a bit she absolutely loved it. I even told her how long it's been sitting in the fridge. With that she was actually more impressed. So what's the moral of this story? The dates that manufacturers put on their products is little more than a suggestion. Decide for yourself.

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

My (half-)brother and his wife, bless their hearts, got sick from some schmarm they ngested long a night ago; now they strictly adhere to "the date".
Point is, the driving force s$!t was odiferous-borderline, and they charged ahead... can only hope it was HIS maternal side of the family what shined thru.
Come to think, his mom don't do NO cookin' when OUR dad is away...


Keeper in the dank-- er, -- DARK!


Anonymous said...

"Best by" and "expiration" dates are two different beasts. "Best by" means just that - the taste and nutrition will be prime and after that date it will start to decline. "Expiration" date means don't use it after that. However, there is usually a few days after that date that there will be no spoilage. To be sure with your corned beef - call the manufacturer. Oh, of course you can freeze items at their expiration date.

Now, for that smoke, next time. Wet a dish towel, to the point it won't drip, and swing it around the kitchen. For whatever reason it clears the smoke. For the scent, put out a dish of white vinegar - it absorbs the smell.

Anonymous said...

Corned beef was om times now gone was the beef equivalent of Salt Pork in that once properly cured and stored, it would last almost forever. Sailors on the old ships got very tired of corned beef quite quickly especially when all they had to go with it was hard tack and a warm low quality beer. Yum.

Anonymous said...

one of my favorite things to do with corned beef is boil it for about half the recommended time, then roast it, the rest of the time(i prefer a little more well done).
always tender this way and somewhat less saltier sometimes

The Urban Survivalist said...

I guess I'll start keeping a few extra corned beef roasts in the fridge then. I see them at the grocery store all the time for a few bucks on clearance. It'll be nice to have some meat in the fridge that'll last a bit longer than everything else.

Phillip said...

We just did the same thing with some corned beef that I think we got right after Easter. It's been in the freezer since then, so the "expiration" date got bumped.
Cooked it all day in the crock pot, added some quartered cabbage (from the garden! in January!) about a half-hour before eating, and mashed up some taters.
Yum, yum.
The odd thing, we were both hungry afterwards.
My wife says it's something to do with certain spices that can boost appetite.
We've got another corned beef still waiting in the freezer for a week or two down the road.
Hang in there!

msspurlock said...

Bud, by the time they get through with that slab-o-beef, it's no longer meat and fat, it's pure protein and might as well be jerky. In a past job, I used to look at bacterial data on different cuts of meat and I can tell you corned beef and bison meat have the lowest indices in the survey. The other reason for both, is that when you get a cut of beef or ground bison, you are dealing with meat from a single animal. Corned beef is practically purified by the goop. Bison has so little fat and is so carefully processed, usually by small plants, that bacteria never get a foothold. That ground beef at the supermarket usually has meat in it from several dozen different cows at various ages and states of health. To top it off, the grinders will always have trace amounts of beef that might have been festering there from the morning shift, so its freshness will vary. Oh, and I didn't include it, but ostrich meat? Might as well eat it raw, it's so clean. Apparently, ostriches are immune to darn near everything.

Anonymous said...

One final note regarding expiration dates on medicines. The US DOD studied the issue some years ago as a cost-saving measure and concluded that they lasted and were still 90% effective three times as long as the manufacturer suggested. Needless to say this saved significant $$ for the DOD, and since they have not been replacing pharmaceutical products until quite a while after the expiration.

Anonymous said...

Thanks - this is exactly the question for which I was looking for an answer. I have a sealed package of corned beef dated May 1, 2009, and today is October 16, 2009. It's been in a drawer in the fridge (inside the plastic shopping bag from the store, so I couldn't tell what it was) since then. I worked in a grocery store for many years, and from information learned there, I thought it was probably ok, but wasn't totally sure. After reading your comments, I decided to try it. It still looked fresh, and just now when I opened it up, it still smelled fresh. I am cooking it now, and am sure it will be delicious for supper tonight. Thanks so much for the information.