To allay any fears that we might be vegetarian (we’re not, but a lot of the time we eat like we are), I present to you: homemade corned beef.
We had a bunch of huge steaks in our freezer leftover from our cowpooling purchase over a year ago, so I took a cue from Scott Rowson and decided to make corned beef. For years my mom made us Reuben sandwiches for lunch on Sunday, so a good Reuben was my ultimate goal for this whole process.
Having never done anything like this (I had to look up the word “charcuterie”), I followed Michael Ruhlman’s instructions as closely as possible. My only variations were that I used steaks instead of brisket (just because that’s what I had), and I omitted the sodium nitrite, which is optional, because of its potential health concerns.
The process takes 5 days, but it’s not hard. Here’s how you do it:
Home-Cured Corned Beef
2 cups kosher salt*
½ cup sugar
4 teaspoons pink salt (sodium nitrite), optional
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons pickling spice
1 5-pound beef brisket
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in two
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped.
In pot large enough to hold brisket, combine 1 gallon of water with kosher salt, sugar, sodium nitrite (if using), garlic and 2 tablespoons 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.
Remove brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it. Cover with water and add remaining 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 cover brisket.
Keep warm until ready to serve. Meat can be refrigerated for several days in 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. Salt level not hugely critical here because it’s basically boiled and excess salt moves into cooking liquid. You can weigh out 10 ounces here if you feel better using a scale. 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 degree oven till tender.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.
As Scott noted, this makes a ton of really tasty meat. My first thought when I tasted it was: Salty. Way salty. If I made it again I’d change out the water once or twice during the boiling process to pull some more of the salt out. After the first meal, though, the meat seemed to lose the WOWZA in-your-face saltiness and was very pleasant.
With the meat we made:
- Corned beef, potatoes and cabbage
- Reuben sandwiches
- Corned beef hash (x2)