Also a good way to use up leftover red cabbage, especially if you like your food to look like a rainbowAlso a good way to use up leftover red cabbage, especially if you like your food to look like a rainbow
Next up: corned beef hashNext up: corned beef hash
This is the Reuben I've been waiting forThis is the Reuben I've been waiting for
Even better melty goodnessEven better melty goodness
Melty goodness topped with sauerkraut and Russian dressingMelty goodness topped with sauerkraut and Russian dressing
Melty goodnessMelty goodness
And the Swiss cheeseAnd the Swiss cheese
And the Russian dressing for the ReubenAnd the Russian dressing for the Reuben
Next up: the Reuben. Homemade rye bread a la Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I got a little heavy handed with the slashing.Next up: the Reuben. Homemade rye bread a la Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I got a little heavy handed with the slashing.
I froze the meat in the brine to keep it tender. It also made it easy to reheat the meat without it becoming dried out.I froze the meat in the brine to keep it tender. It also made it easy to reheat the meat without it becoming dried out.
Leftovers: two 4 cup containers of good meatLeftovers: two 4 cup containers of good meat
And five days later, you can eatAnd five days later, you can eat
Boiling completeBoiling complete
Cook in a pot in batches with oilCook in a pot in batches with oil
Slice up the cabbageSlice up the cabbage
Corned beef is not complete without cabbage, right?Corned beef is not complete without cabbage, right?
Please use a much bigger pot so you don't have to rig up something ridiculous like this to keep the meat downPlease use a much bigger pot so you don't have to rig up something ridiculous like this to keep the meat down
Add water, veg and pickling spice and boilAdd water, veg and pickling spice and boil
Add the weirdo meat to the pot to be boiledAdd the weirdo meat to the pot to be boiled
5 days later. This is the point where I became skeptical. Is this meat really supposed to be grey? Well, without nitrites, yes.5 days later. This is the point where I became skeptical. Is this meat really supposed to be grey? Well, without nitrites, yes.
Soak in brine for 5 days with a plate on top to keep the meat submergedSoak in brine for 5 days with a plate on top to keep the meat submerged
Start with local grass-fed beefStart with local grass-fed beef
All for the love of a good ReubenAll for the love of a good Reuben
  • Also a good way to use up leftover red cabbage, especially if you like your food to look like a rainbow
  • Next up: corned beef hash
  • This is the Reuben I've been waiting for
  • Even better melty goodness
  • Melty goodness topped with sauerkraut and Russian dressing
  • Melty goodness
  • And the Swiss cheese
  • And the Russian dressing for the Reuben
  • Next up: the Reuben. Homemade rye bread a la Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I got a little heavy handed with the slashing.
  • I froze the meat in the brine to keep it tender. It also made it easy to reheat the meat without it becoming dried out.
  • Leftovers: two 4 cup containers of good meat
  • And five days later, you can eat
  • Boiling complete
  • Cook in a pot in batches with oil
  • Slice up the cabbage
  • Corned beef is not complete without cabbage, right?
  • Please use a much bigger pot so you don't have to rig up something ridiculous like this to keep the meat down
  • Add water, veg and pickling spice and boil
  • Add the weirdo meat to the pot to be boiled
  • 5 days later. This is the point where I became skeptical. Is this meat really supposed to be grey? Well, without nitrites, yes.
  • Soak in brine for 5 days with a plate on top to keep the meat submerged
  • Start with local grass-fed beef
  • All for the love of a good Reuben

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)

8 Responses to “Making homemade corned beef”

  1. Scott
    15 March 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Awesome! Never heard of using steaks before, but might as wellj if you have ’em. Glad it turned out well.

  2. CoMo Homestead
    15 March 2011 at 9:14 am #

    It did! Thanks for posting about it.

  3. Shelley
    15 March 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Looking forward to trying this. Just wondering if the process was originally done to “cure” the beef. Could it be kept at room temp? Was it originally kept in crocks covered with fat? Just curious.

  4. Shelley
    15 March 2011 at 10:19 am #

    BTW, LOVE the photography! Reminds me of Pioneer Woman – and that’s a HUGE compliment!

  5. CoMo Homestead
    15 March 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Whoah!! PW?! No way!

    Salt is definitely a preservative and I’m sure there are safe ways to go about it (otherwise probably none of us would be here), but I’m not sure if this specific process could be done safely at room temp.

  6. Scott
    15 March 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Corning beef is a form of curing, yes, and most curing happens around 50 degrees…so people did most of their ham/sausage/etc-making in the cooler months to take advantage of that natural refrigeration. I don’t think you’d want to leave it at room temp. Could become a bacterial theme park.

    Confited (covered in fat) corned beef sounds awesome but I’ve never heard of it. Maybe Annette’s next project???

  7. CoMo Homestead
    15 March 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Umm. Keep in mind I have a degree in nutrition…


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