If you can brine a chicken, you can corn your own beef. This is how I've been doing it for years. Never pass up an excuse to corn beef. You don't have to wait for next year's St. Patrick's day dinner.
The cure takes five days, ideally, so plan ahead. I recently got a question about curing it at room temperature. The brine is a nearly 10 percent salt solution, so I imagine it would be fine for five days. Also remember that after it's cured you can keep it refrigerated for about a week before cooking. And you could keep it indefinitely in the fridge in the brine, but you'd have to be sure to cook the salt out of it after.
Any cut of beef can be "corned." (See my pastrami short ribs.) But the best cuts are the tougher, less-expensive cuts such as brisket. The only uncommon ingredient is the sodium nitrite, pink salt, available here and also from Amazon. This is what accounts for the deep red color of the beef and also gives it its distinctive flavor. I think it's important, but it's not necessary from a safety standpoint.
Of special note here is my partner in charcuterie Brian Polcyn's recipe for a fabulous pickling spice. You can buy pickling spice, but Brian's is over-the-top delicious.
The following recipe is from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. There's also a recipe for braised cabbage in my new book How to Braise.
(And PS, I don't know who gave that pickling spice recipe two stars, but it is it is killer! I've added it as a separate recipe so that it can be printed alone; it's worth making a batch to have on hand.)
If you liked this post, you might be interested in these links:
- Food and Wine has a collection of St. Patrick's Day recipes.
- Gluten-free Irish soda bread recipe from Gluten-Free Girl.
© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.
Home-Cured Corned Beef
- 1 ½ cups kosher salt (300 grams)
- ½ cup sugar (100 grams)
- 4 tsp pink salt sodium nitrate (optional, but highly recommended for color and flavor)
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 4 tbsp pickling spice
- 1 5-pound beef brisket (2.5 kilogram)
- 1 carrot peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion peeled and cut in two
- 1 celery stalk roughly chopped
- 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
- 2-4 bay leaves crumbled
- 2 tbsp whole cloves
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- In a pot large enough to hold the brisket, combine 1 gallon of water (4 liters) with the kosher salt, sugar, sodium nitrite (if using), garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the pickling spice. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.
- Place the brisket in the brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5 to 7 days. (It will keep a week or more refrigerated, until you are ready to cook it.)
- Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it. Cover with water and add the carrot, onion, celery, and remaining 2 tablespoons pickling spice. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Simmer gently until the brisket is fork-tender, about 3 hours, adding water if needed to cover the brisket.
- Keep warm until ready to serve. The meat can be refrigerated for several days in the cooking liquid. Reheat in the liquid or serve chilled. Slice thinly and serve on a sandwich or with additional vegetables simmered until tender in the cooking liquid.
- *A note about the salt: The salt level is not hugely critical here because it’s basically boiled, and the excess salt moves into cooking liquid. You can weigh out 12 ounces here if you feel better using a scale (approximately a 10% brine). Or you can simply make a 5% brine of however much water you need to cover (6.4 ounces per gallon). When you cook it, season the cooking liquid to the level you want your meat seasoned. Another option is wrapping the brisket in foil and cooking it in a 225°F degree oven till tender, but do this only if you’ve used the 5% brine.
- Combine the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds in a small dry pan. Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, being careful not to burn them; keep the lid handy in case the seeds pop. Crack the peppercorns and seeds in a mortar and pestle or with the side of a knife on a cutting board.
- Combine with other spices and mix well. Store in a tightly sealed container.
- 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
- 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.
- Combine the cracked spices with the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Store in a tightly sealed plastic container or glass jar.