Black Coffee Brisket

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brisket diagram

Lately we have been on a BBQ quest.  We are trying as many BBQ joints as we can, in search of the perfect meat.  Bill is looking for ribs and  I am in search of brisket.  Usually he is happy and I am disappointed.   But last night it switched, and I had terrific brisket.

I am always surprised that brisket is not better, because it’s not that hard.  I think, perhaps, on a BBQ menu, brisket is an afterthought.  Most people seem to go BBQing for the boney pork products (BTW, a great name for a band.  You’re welcome.)  But I prefer beefy chest to piggy ribs.  Maybe it’s the lady in me, preferring to eat with utensils.  (Nah—who am I kidding– if I have the choice to eat at the table or over the sink, I choose sink.)

The key to a good brisket is braising, and the key to a good braise is a cheap piece of meat with lots of fat and connective tissue paired with a long, low, slow cooking time. Don’t rush it, or you’ll be disappointed

This recipe is quite good, although it sounds weird.  It works because  it cuts the richness of the typical brisket.  The bitterness of the dark coffee paired with acidic tomatoes and vinegar tone down all that fat and nicely compliment the beefiness.

Enjoy responsibly.


2 or 3 lbs. beef brisket
8 cloves garlic
4 slices bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery
1 (16-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 cups strong black coffee
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F.
  2. Rinse beef and pat dry. On all sides of roast, make about 8 incisions with a boning knife, and insert 1 clove garlic into each one.
  3. In a large roasting pan cook bacon over high heat until brown and fat is rendered. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add roast, and brown on all sides. Add celery, tomatoes, vinegar, coffee, water, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Bring liquid to a boil. At the boil, cover tightly with a lid or foil, and transfer to oven.
  4. Roast for 6 to 8 hours or until fork tender.  That means when you poke it with a fork, the meat falls apart.  If it doesn’t do this, you cooked it too high and too fast.  No remedy to save it now,  other than slicing it super thin so the toughness is less noticeable.  But next time, try the oven even lower.
  5. Slice meat thinly and serve with boiled potatoes and carrots, over buttered noodles, or with coleslaw and cornbread. You can add BBQ sauce if you like.  I’m a purist, preferring only a sprinkle of salt.


Real Tomato Ketchup

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Summer is here, tomatoes are everywhere, and I cannot help but feel obligated to buy as many as I can, because I know they’ll be gone soon enough.

There are only so many things to do with an abundance of tomatoes. Sure, they’re great to eat in salads, but how can we savor their lusciousness into the fall? Personally, I find tomato sauce a bit boring. Why not try something different?

The following recipe is one I have had for ages. I love it because it tastes like regular ketchup, only better. You can experiment with the spices to suit your own taste. And try it with different tomatoes like deep purple, green or yellow ones. If you are into canning, it makes a great gift. Or just keep a jar of it in the fridge for your own personal use!

Once you make your own ketchup, you’ll have a hard time going back to the bottled stuff.

Real Tomato Ketchup
Makes about 1 quart


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, minced
8 cloves garlic minced
8 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until golden brown. Add tomatoes, honey, vinegar, cinnamon sticks and cloves, and stir to moisten. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add allspice, celery seed, mustard and paprika, and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
  2. Working in batches, run sauce through a food processor, blender, or food mill until it becomes a smooth puree. Strain through a wire mesh strainer back into the saucepan and place over high heat. Cook, stirring continuously, and reduce until the sauce reaches desired thickness, about 10-15 minutes. Chill before serving.

Heirloom_Tomato_Ketchup[1] (2)


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This summer I am committed to perfecting my BBQ repertoire.  I’m working on my dry rubs, experimenting with smokers, curing, and sausage making.  But no matter how much time I put into the meat, it’s not enough.  The people demand their sides.  Coleslaw is the only thing I really need.  But if I don’t provide some type of cornbread, all hell breaks loose.

I have been making this recipe for years.  I swiped it from a woman I worked with in the 1980’s.  I have no idea what happened to her, but her cornbread is still going strong.  I like to make this recipe in a brownie pan (because it’s easier) but they can be easily made in a brownie pan for easy transport in a backpack or picnic basket.  You might also like to omit the cheese, chili, and corn and serve them with honey and jam.


2 cup all-purpose flour
1 TB. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups cornmeal
8 oz. (2 sticks) butter
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup Monterey jack, grated
1/4 cup chopped green chilies, (or one small can, drained)
1 cup corn kernels, fresh, frozen, or canned and drained


  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Coat a 9×13-inch brownie pan with butter or pan spray. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the cornmeal and set aside.
  2. Beat together butter and honey until creamy. Add eggs one at a time. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in cheese, chilies and corn.
  3. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, then bake at 375˚F until risen and golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. A pick inserted into the middle should come out clean.

Cool for 15 minutes before removing. Store airtight at room temperature for 2 days, or freeze for up to 2 weeks.