Papa loves corned beef. He requested corned beef and cabbage for Saint Patrick's Day. He suggested I "..buy it in the deli, pre-packaged and ready to go". I said "What's the fun in that? We'll corn our own".
Not really minding that he thought me silly I went to the Midland Meat Company and bought a small, 2 pound piece of center cut brisket. Since I'm making this just for Papa and myself I didn't need much. For a crowd you would probably want a 5 pound brisket.
Corned Beef is not for Saint Patrick's Day alone. It can be enjoyed year round and not as the traditional dinner of corned beef and cabbage. Home-corned beef can make the tastiest Reuben sandwich as well as some of these ideas.
To corn your piece of meat, give yourself five days prior to cooking.
First step is making the pickling spices for your brine.
Spices, spices, spices! Black peppercorns, mustard seed, coriander seed, red pepper flakes, allspice, mace, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves and ginger.
The peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds are toasted in a skillet until fragrant.
Crack these in a mortar and pestle or in a baggie with the side of a knife.
Combine with all the other spices.
Store in a sealed container.
Next you make the brine that you will corn the brisket in. The ingredients are boiled, cooled then refrigerated until cold.
NOTE: Michael Ruhlman, whose book I took this recipe from, mentions the option of using 4 teaspoons of pink salt (or sodium nitrate) when making the brine. It lends a distinct flavor and the bright redness of the meat that is associated with corned beef. I opted out on using it this time.
The brine is enough to corn a 5 pound brisket. Since Papa and I were the only ones partaking I bought a near-2 pound center cut of brisket but I still made a full recipe of the brine.
Isn't that a pretty piece of meat? Place the brisket in a container large enough to hold it and all the brine. I used a giant plastic zipper bag. If you use a 5 pound piece of meat you will probably want a large pot (which you can also cook the brine in).
I placed the plastic bag in a glass baking dish (just in case the baggie leaked) and placed it in the refrigerator.
I placed a plate on top of the brisket to make sure it stayed submerged in the brine.
Turn the brisket once a day.
Once 5 days are up it's time to cook.
Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a dutch oven just large enough to hold it then cover with water and add some more pickling spices. Toss in the carrot, an onion and a stalk of celery.
Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer on low for about 3 hours.
Remove the beef and keep warm. Not the prettiest looking piece of meat but oh,
so, so tender and flavorful!
You can throw vegetables in the broth and simmer until tender. I usually use new potatoes and chopped green cabbage.
The meat is also great the next day for sandwiches.
Adapted from Mark Ruhlman's "Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing"
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
2 Tbsp. hot red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. allspice berries
1 Tbsp. ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
2 to 4 bay leaves, crumbled
2 Tbsp. whole cloves
1 Tbsp. ground ginger.
Combine peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a small dry pan. Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, being careful not to burn; keep lid handy in case seeds pop. Crack peppercorns and seeds with a mortar and pestle or in a plastic bag with the side of a knife.
Combine with the remaining spices and mix well. Store in an air tight container.
Home-Cured Corned Beef
1-1/2 cups koshser salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp. pink salt (sodium nitrite), optional
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. pickling spice, divided
1 5-pound beef brisket
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and halved through the root
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
In a pot large enough to hold the brisket, combine 1 gallon of water with kosher salt, sugar, sodium nitrite (if using), garlic, and 2 Tbsp. of the pickling spice. Bring to a simmer, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.
Place brisket in brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5 days. Turn brisket once a day.
At the end of the 5 days, remove brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it. Cover with water and add the remaining 2 Tbsp. of pickling spice, carrot, onion and celery. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer gently until brisket is fork-tender, about 3 hours, adding water if needed to keep brisket covered. Note, if you have to add water, heat it up to boiling in the microwave before adding it to the pot.
When brisket is tender, remove from pot and keep warm by covering with foil until ready to serve. At this point you can bring the liquid in the pot to a boil and add new potatoes and cabbage. Meat can be refrigerated for several days in the cooking liquid. Reheat in the liquid or serve chilled.