Corned Beef from Scratch

Corned Beef is a favorite in this house.  No two ways about it, Rob, Nik and Aaron would eat it every day.  No exaggeration.  I even have two in the fridge right now.  These pictures are from last summer and a whole batch of recipe pictures I found.  So the next few posts will have a ton of pictures!  Anyways…… like I was saying, they love the stuff.  So I came across this posting last spring a week or two before St Patricks day.   With some of the special ingredients and the fact it has to brine for 10-14 days, I knew it wouldnt be ready before the holiday so I put it aside.  We had our traditional St Patricks Day meal and that was it.. or so I thought.  The idea was stuck in my head.  I was in trouble.  It was stuck in the brain.. no getting away from it now.  So I jumped on to the google to find and buy the hardest to get ingredient.

“Pink curing salt, or sodium nitrite, goes by many names, such as Prague Powder #1 or DQ Curing Salt #1” (this is the quote from the original post, I need to give credit here) was hard to find.  Here is the link to where I got it online, dont take the 4 hours of research to make sure you have the right one, best price, etc.  Just go here or amazon, which will link you back to the site anyway.  I bought the lb package, which is no longer available, and we have made corned beef 5-6 times and hardly dented the bag, so a 4 oz bag should be enough for someone to just start off.  Anyway, this is what makes the corned beef pinky-red.  If you dont care if it is pinky-red or prefer gray corned beef you can forego the specialty item.  We happen to like it and the gray looks funny to me.   There I said it.  I am a corned beef snob.

I will warn you though, while this is totally worth it, it is not a recipe for the impatient.  Though this did teach me how to be patient, corned beef is not something you can whip together on a Sunday and have for dinner that night.. you might be able to have it a couple sundays away but it is something that takes patience and some fridge space to make.  And there are three steps.  BUT it can be prepared in an hour or so and put away in the back of the fridge for 10-14 day (or even longer I am sure but I have only been able to get Rob to wait 11 days.. I am hoping for two weeks on this batch.

First you have the make the spice mix.  We tried to traditional one that was on the original site but have since increased and decreased some ingredients to get the flavors we like.  Here is our spice mix.

Ingredients for the spice mix
Makes enough for 3-4 corned beefs but it stores forever so I wouldnt just make the whole batch.

1 Tbsp whole allspice berries
1 Tbsp whole mustard seeds
1 Tbsp corriander seeds
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp whole black pepper corns
2 tsp whole cloves
12 cardamon pods
3 inches of cinnamon stick broken into smaller bits
10 bay leaves crunched up
2 tsp ground ginger

Get all your ingredients together and get a medium frying pan.  A square sided pan would be better but i used a sloped sided to get better pictures.  Measure out everything but the ginger.


Put the spices in the pan and brown over medium heat until you can hear the mustard seeds start to pop.

Once toasted and you can smell them getting toasted put into your mortar (or if you dont have one, let them cool a bit and put them into a zip lock bag) and using the the pestle break up into smaller pieces.

You now have your spice mix.  Add the ginger and put aside.

Now for the meat.  What you normally buy for St Patricks Day is corned beef brisket but you dont have to corn just briskets.  In fact, plain brisket can be expensive.  In fact other than I MUCH prefer our homemade ones, making it yourself is more expensive than buying it already made.  I thought that was funny myself.   Anyway.  We have only corned (and this type of preserving and brining meat is called corning it) brisket and eye round.  We really prefer the eye round because it is so lean.   You have to get a thinner eye round, meaning not more than 5 inches in diameter, or you can get a thicker one and just use a meat tenderizer and pound it a bit thinner.   We usually buy brisket if we are serving it to someone else because alot of people like the fattiness of the brisket.  We are currently brining an eye round and another roast we had in the freezer, not really sure what type it is.  It is round and has a string around it. The men in this house aren’t picky, its meat and it is being made into corned beef.  They will eat it.

Making the brine

Ingredients for the brine
The original recipe was for a gallon.  We only make 1/4 gallon and can do 2-3 pieces of meat at a time in a ziploc bag, so this is for only 1/4 gallon but if you need more, just make some extra.  This is what works for the gallon size ziploc.
2 cups water + ice to make 4-4 1/2 cups
1/2 cup canning salt or sea salt (DO NOT use kitchen/table/iodized salt)
2 tsp pink curing salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp of brining spice

This is what the salt looks like in the package, like pink granules.  And it has a weird almost wet texture.

Bring all your above ingredients to a heat where the sugar and salts have melted .  Add 2-3 cups of ice cubes so that you have a total of 4-4 1/2 cups of brine.   DO NOT add to the meat until it is cold.
Now you have the corning brine.  Put your brisket, etc into a large bowl with a cover and cover the meat with the brine, or into gallon ziploc bags and then divide the brine up making sure you divide up the seasonings as well.  Let it sit for a week to two weeks in the fridge.

Dinner Time!!  You have waited your two weeks (okay atleast a week) and it is time to make your dinner!  Ready for the fun yet?  Take the meat out of the old brine and rinse it off.  No need to get all the old spice bits but you dont want the salty brine anymore.  That can go.
It will have this weird sheen to it.  That is normal.
Make a spice bundle with cheese cloth and 2 Tbsp of your remaining spice mix.
Put in a large pot with water, bring to a boil, turn down to a medium simmer and cook for 3 hours.    I usually have to add a bit more water somewhere in the middle.
After the three hours of a medium simmer, add your veggies.  For us I wash 3 lbs of new potatoes, 3 lbs of washed carrots (Rob LOVES carrots, so you could probably get away with just a lb or two), 2-3 peeled onions, a quartered cabbage and one turnip in large chunks.  Boil until all veggies are tender.  Drain and serve with butter.  And brown bread.  Which I will be posting in a couple days..
I love this.  I mean, yes it is labor intensive. I mean even writing this took a year.  Okay I am exaggerating but it did take forever.. but it is so worth it.  We have it every few months and it is so good.  I would love to make it more often but dont want to ruin the specialness of it! HAHA  Anywho.. If you dont try it, I hope it has struck a cord to try making new things..

Happy Cooking!

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