In Eastern Europe, most of the cattle in the region was raised for the dairy industry and not slaughtered until very mature and, therefore, much of the meat was tough. To further complicate the situation, beginning in the seventeenth century the authorities in many parts of Eastern Europe imposed a korobka (steep tax) on kosher meat. As a result, Eastern European Jews could rarely buy meat, particularly the more tender cuts. Instead, they made do with the tough, sinewy cuts from the lower part of a cow.
Brisket, a cut with a lot of connective tissue and a very grainy texture, is the meat covering the breastbone. Below the arm lies the chuck short ribs called flanken. Eastern European Jews discovered that these tougher and cheaper cuts could actually be very flavorful. The trick lies in tenderizing the meat by slowly simmering it in water, a process that breaks down the connective tissue by converting the collagen to gelatin.
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