EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Anne Mahle’s last column for The Maine Ingredient. Be on the watch for her new weekly column next summer about cooking on a boat.

Brisket is a wonderfully versatile cut of meat that requires time, more than anything, to go from tough to tender.

The cut comes from between the forelegs of the cow. It can be left whole, rolled (as in New England corned beef) or divided into two commonly used portions.

The first, or flat, cut is leaner, square-shaped and uniform in thickness. The second cut, also known as the deckle or point cut, is triangular and fattier. It can be less manageable to slice (and recipes often use it shredded) but makes up for its contrariness with its better flavor. Because of its fat content and our cultural aversion to fat, it can be harder to find. Ask your butcher specifically for either cut. Both will work well in these recipes.

When working with any cut of meat, the late Judy Rogers of The Zuni Café in San Francisco, salted the meat and let time tenderize it. (She and her staff went so far as to salt fish and vegetables before cooking, too.) For this recipe, salting the meat for up to 24 hours before you cook it will make for moister meat.

Because brisket is often sliced thinly, it’s possible to stretch two meals out of one recipe. Try the first meal with the brisket as the centerpiece, accompanied by mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. Then make the brisket sliders, which – fair-warning – are really several recipes in one. But that’s not so hard as you must make the sauerkraut and the mustard ahead, and you already made the brisket for the previous meal; the home-made rolls are simple to make on the day you plan to eat the sliders. Of course, you can simplify your work by buying locally made sauerkraut, good Dijon mustard and good bakery rolls. To assemble the sliders, dunk slices of brisket in the pan sauce and place on the bottom halves of the rolls. Top with sauerkraut, slices of Gruyere cheese, a dollop of mustard and then the top roll. Use any remaining pan sauce for dunking.

Hard Cider-Braised Brisket

Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish, with leftovers to serve the same number of sliders

1 (3-pound) beef brisket, exterior layer of fat intact

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus salt to taste

2 medium onions, sliced

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

1/4 cup Dijon mustard (homemade or store-bought)

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 (750-ml) bottle hard cider

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups low-sodium beef or chicken stock

1 large sprig of thyme

2 whole heads of garlic, loose papery skin removed

Season the brisket with 2 teaspoons salt and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Heat a Dutch oven or other oven-proof pot over medium-high heat and add the brisket. Sear it in its own fat for 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

When the beef has browned well, add the onions and black pepper and reduce the heat to medium. Sauté for 10 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent. Meanwhile, combine the mustard, sugar, ginger and a cup or so of the cider in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.

Transfer the brisket to a platter and sprinkle the flour on top of the onions remaining in the Dutch oven. Stir well to combine.

Add the mustard mixture, the rest of the cider and the stock to the pot and whisk well.

Return the brisket to the pot and add the thyme and garlic. Bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven for at least 3 to 4 hours or until the brisket is tender when pierced with a fork and nearly (but not quite) falling apart. You still want to be able to slice it.

Discard the thyme sprig and garlic.

Transfer the brisket to a cutting board slice against the grain and serve. (Or allow to cool in the pot and refrigerate for a future meal. While it’s easier to slice the following day, no one will blame you if you can’t wait.) Simmer the pan sauce to thicken. Test for salt and pepper.

Slider Rolls

Using a dowel or wooden spoon (rather than a knife or bench scraper) to make grooves in the dough to divide it into squares creates closed seams that help the rolls keep their shape when they bake. This makes more rolls than you will need for the sliders.

Makes 20 rolls

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

11/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water

1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus a little extra for the bowl

1 egg, lightly beaten

Measure the flour into a large bowl and add the sugar, salt and yeast. Combine briefly.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add 1 cup of water, the oil and the egg. Combine with your hands and add more water if needed until the dough forms a ball.

Fold the ball over on itself 12 times, cover and let rest in a warm place in your kitchen for 20 minutes. Repeat this process 5 times every 20 minutes or so. The final time, cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

When the dough has doubled, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn out the dough onto a well-floured counter and shape into an approximately 10- by 15-inch rectangle. Sprinkle lines of flour over the dough to indicate a grid, 4 squares by 5 squares. With a dowel or long wooden spoon, press through the dough over the flour lines to create 20 rolls.

Transfer the rolls to the prepared sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled, about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and the rolls baked through.


I use the outer darker green leaves of the cabbage, as well. You will need a wide earthenware crock or large ball jar to make this recipe. The sauerkraut needs to ferment for at least 1 month before you it’s ready, so plan your sliders accordingly.

Makes 1/2 gallon

1 head cabbage, about 2 pounds

1 tablespoon finely ground sea salt

Slice the cabbage as thinly as you can, discarding the core. Toss the cabbage with the sea salt, rubbing with your hands to distribute the salt well.

Transfer the cabbage to a crock or ball jar, a handful or 2 at a time. Each time, use a potato masher, wooden mallet or other wide tool to pound the cabbage down. Repeat until all of the cabbage is in the crock and well-compacted.

At this point, the cabbage should be covered in its own juices. If not (and don’t worry, this happens sometimes) make a brine of 2 cups warm water and 1 tablespoon sea salt. Use as much as you need to cover the cabbage with at least 1/2 inch of brine.

Cover loosely and wait 1 month or as long as 6 months, depending on how sour you like your sauerkraut.

Homemade Mustard

Make at least 1 day ahead so the flavors can meld. The longer the mustard sits after that, the more it mellows.

Makes 3/4 cup

3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

3 tablespoons brown mustard seeds

1/3 cup decent-quality white wine

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons minced shallot

3/4 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and let rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Transfer the mixture to a blender and pulse to combine. Stop if you prefer grainy mustard or continue to process if you prefer smooth.

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “Sugar and Salt: A Year at Home and at Sea.” She blogs at athomeatsea.com and can be reached at:

[email protected]

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