Since Caplansky's started serving its smoked meat on June 10, 2008, the Toronto foodie boards have been abuzz with discussions on everything pertaining to smoked, cured brisket. What makes an authentic Montreal Smoked Meat? Is Caplansky's authentic MSM, or is it something unique; something Toronto can call its own? While the debate will undoubtedly rage on indefinitely, one thing is for sure: there is something magical that occurs when one cures, smokes, spices, and then steams a beef brisket until it is meltingly tender and deliciously piquant. All this debate certainly indicates that there a lot of people out their who crave this particular delicacy. A lot of people, myself included, think that Caplansky's smoked meat is quite unlike anything that Montreal delis have to offer. If a BBQ shack in the deep south were to do a smoked brisket sandwich, I think it would be something like Caplansky's, except perhaps drowned in a sweet, vinegary BBQ sauce. Caplansky's meat has a distinctly smoky flavour, something that people hoping for something for authentic MSM flavour would be surprised by, and perhaps disappointed. Well, I too crave Schwartz's, and now, without having to drive to Montreal, I can have the closest thing to it that I've tried in the GTA. I give you Goldin's. After hearing about it first on the Chowhound Toronto board, I was excited to try it, and immediately contacted Alex with an email stating my interest in his meat (that will never not sound wrong, will it?). Unfortunately, it was several weeks before I managed to arrange to pick up some of his brisket. Today, finally, I did. I bought one 2.5 lb medium piece and one 2 lb deckle. I had to try the deckle first, as I am definitely partial to fattier smoked meat. The pieces looked good, sealed as they were in their "Seal-A-Meal" vacuum bags - nice coating of cracked spices (not too heavy), and still covered partly in fat (I was glad to see that not all of the fat had been trimmed off, as that's where a lot of the flavour is).
The meat before cooking:
I dropped the deckle in a pot of boiling water for three hours, per the instructions included:
The meat was delicious.
So delicious that I could not stop eating it, evening after devouring my sizable sandwich. The spices were most definitely reminiscent of Schwartz's - I could see and taste coriander seeds, mustard seeds, cracked black peppercorns, fennel seeds, and red chili flakes. It tasted like Montreal Smoked Meat! Much more so than Caplansky's, for sure. The smoke flavour in Goldin's meat was certainly evident, but by no means the predominant flavour. The flavours were harmonious; the unctuous fatty meat balanced by the heat and flavour of the spices - the red pepper flakes most certainly contributing a little more heat than I've become accustomed to with Montreal Smoked Meat. This was a nice, gentle heat, though, and it did not detract from my overall experience of the brisket at all.
As for the texture, it was perfect. Beautifully tender and flaky, when sliced against the grain, as only perfectly cooked brisket can be. When sliced with the grain, the meat was pleasantly chewy - not what you'd want to put on your sandwich, but it demonstrated what I would consider to be a perfectly cooked brisket: tender, yet not without integrity.
I spread my fresh Future bakery rye bread with a mix of mustards: Kozlik's Double C, french Dijon, and regular ballpark mustard. This is my favourite mustard mix, as it combines all the elements I crave in a mustard: the texture of the Double C, the creamy richness of the french Dijon, and the tangy vinegar of the ballpark mustard.
It complimented Goldin's smoked meat perfectly. On the side, Mrs. Whyte's Kosher Dills, which are my absolute favourite kosher dill pickles. I got mine at European Meats on Jutland, if you're looking. To drink, a "William's Sir Perry" pear cider. The meal was delicious, but I could not stop eating the brisket. I tried a slice on its own, then another with the grain, to experiment with the different textures available. It was all delicious, but perhaps, a little too salty.
There have been some people on Chowhound that have commented that Goldin's is a little salty for their liking. I actually have to agree. It was a little too salty. Not overwhelmingly so, but definitely a little saltier than necessary. I know that they do a dry cure, and perhaps the proportions of their cure mix, combined with the length of time that they cure the brisket for, results in it being overly salty. I've made smoked meat before, and the recipe for the cure (a wet brine) from "Charcuterie" by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, has worked very well: 4 litres water, 350 grams kosher salt, 225 grams sugar, 42 grams pink salt, 8 grams pickling spice, 90 grams dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup honey, and 5 garlic cloves, minced. Just sayin'. Also, a brisket always benefits from a thorough rinse between the curing and spice rub stages. The length of curing time also makes a big difference. I'm guessing that Goldin's cures its briskets for at least seven days, as the colour of the meat is most definitely pink throughout. While this is what one wants to see, as this indicates both the use of pink salt (containing sodium nitrite or nitrate) and a curing/brining time of at least three days, I think that the excessive saltiness of the meat would perhaps indicate a curing time that is slightly too long. Might I be bold enough to suggest that you try a five day cure, Goldin's?
To conclude: Goldin's is delicious. If you're a fan of smoked brisket of any kind, be it pastrami or Montreal Smoked Meat, give Goldin's a try. You won't be disappointed.