Corned beef and cabbage, Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

It’s not too late to corn your own beef if you celebrate St. Paddy’s day! I haven’t yet and my wife, who has Irish roots, expects it on this day! Below is a recipe for a quick cure, which should work on most contemporary briskets which are an inch or two thick (it’s all in the pickling spice, which you can buy or better, use our recipe below, far far superior than store bought if you’re not pressed for time). You can also use a two-inch thick chuck roast or any two-inch thick cut of meat (I actually prefer chuck roast because the briskets are so lean these days, and more expensive). See recipe for the beef below and method for finishing the meal in the post; if you use pink salt (sodium nitrite) in your cure don’t worry if the cure hasn’t made it all the way to the center. The beef will still be delicious.

Update: In one of the pieces I tested for the quick cure method, the pink salt didn’t reach the center, so that there was a pot-roasty, brown-gray center to the cut. Don’t be concerned! This is normal and your meat is fine; it’s sometimes what you give up on the quick cure, aesthetics. I promise the flavor will be outstanding!

Posted March 2010:

This was dinner last night, moments before it was consumed. Donna said, “This is the best cabbage I’ve ever had,” and, back at the stove, looking for thirds on the corned beef, “This is all you made?” All in all, a success. I’ve used this particular preparation several times and it can’t be beat, a really smart strategy for cooking and serving and making use of all the flavors and juices and soft textures.

First cook your corned beef (simmered for a few hours, braised, wrapped in foil with sliced onions for 4 hours at 250—how I did it—or even cooked sous vide). Only way not to cook this is slow roasting (a perfectly fine strategy but won’t give you the liquid you need to finish the cabbage here).

To complete the meal. Saute 4 or 5 ounces of bacon lardons. Poach red potatoes in hot but not boiling water till tender, about a half hour. Cut your cabbage into wedges, through the root so that the leaves stay attached. When the bacon is cooked and the fat is rendered, sear both sides of the cabbage wedges in bacon fat (never miss the chance to say “bacon fat,” it always invites), then add enough of the beef liquid to the pan to come halfway up the cabbages, cover and simmer till the cabbage is tender, 10 minutes or so. Keep the beef covered or wrapped so it doesn’t dry out. When the cabbage is tender, stir a tablespoon of Dijon mustard into the cooking liquid. Add the beef to the pan, cover and keep on low so that it all stays steaming hot. Drain the potatoes, slice them, toss them with butter and parsley and salt.

I sliced the beef right there in the pan, but you could remove it to a cutting board, slice and serve or slice and return it to the pan or to a platter. Just make sure it’s in plenty of the hot cooking liquid. Serve the cabbage, corned beef and potatoes, spooning plentiful sauce over everything. A great even elegant way to serve this unbeatable fare.

3/19/10, comment call: out, from “Jose Canseco”: On another note, my 100 year old Irish grandmother-in-law says in her day they never ate corned beef, rather corned pork. Her preferred part of the hog for pickling is spare ribs, so now I throw a few racks into the brine along with the brisket and tongue I pickle every year and the result is fantastic.

Great idea, and thanks for historical note. This would work great. For those who want to try this, be forewarned that spare ribs cured with sodium nitrite will have take on a distinctly bacony flavor. I recommend searing on grill, then adding to the pot!

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The following recipes are adapted from my book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing, here using a 10% brine for 24 hours, followed by a 3- to 4-hour cook time.

Quick Corned Beef

The Brine

  • 2 liters water
  • 200 grams kosher salt
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 6 grams pink salt (1 teaspoon, optional, sold as DQ Cure #1, Instacure #1, Prague Poweder #1)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons/20 grams Pickling Spice
  • 1 beef brisket or chuck roast, two-inches thick or thereabouts
  • 10 grams Pickling Spice (1 tablespoon)
  1. Combine all the brine ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissovled.  Remove the pot from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate the brine until it’s completely chilled.
  2. Place the brisket in a 2-liter zip top bag along with brine for 24 hours (get all the air out of the bag, and flip the bag a couple times during the cure).
  3. Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse it thoroughly under cool running water and refrigerate till you’re ready to cook it.
  4. Place the brisket in a pot just large enough to hold it and add enough water (or stock) to come halfway up the meat. You can also use a pressurer cooker for an hour. Add the remaining pickling spice and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for about 3 hours, turning the brisket once and making sure that the water doesn’t cook off (add more water as necessary). Cut off a small piece and taste it. If it’s too salty for your taste, cover it with water, add another tablespoon of pickling spice, bring the pot to a simmer and continue to cook for another half our or so. If it’s not salty enough, guess you what you do. The brisket is done when it’s fork tender. It can be kept warm in the pot for an hour our so.
  5. Remove the corned beef from the cooking liquid (which can be used to moisten the meat and vegetables, if that is what you are serving).  Slice the beef and serve warm, or cool, then wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to serve or for up to one week.

Yield depends on size of beef, buy 6 ounces per person for plenty.

Pickling Spice

  • 2 tablespoons/20 grams black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons/20 grams mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons/20 grams coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons/12 grams hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons/14 grams allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon/8 grams ground mace
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
  • 4 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons/6 grams whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon/8 grams ground ginger
  1. Lightly toast the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds in a small dry pan, then smash with the side of a knife just to crack.
  2. Combine the cracked spices with the remaining ingredients, mixing well.  Store in a tightly sealed plastic container or glass jar.

If you liked this post on corned beef and potatoes, check out these other links:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved