Make Your Corned Beef From Scratch for St. Patrick's Day
I have done this a few times in the past and the results are amazing! It is a totally different product than the store-bought corned beef in the plastic package that you boil up every year.
It takes some time to brine the brisket - so if you want to do this you need to start NOW. It is not hard, and it is totally worth it.
I am going to reproduce a brining recipe from AmazingRibs.com. They do a good job in taking you through the process.
Preparation time. 1 hour
Curing time. 5-7 days
About 4 pounds of beef brisket
1 gallon distilled water
8 ounces Morton's Kosher Salt, by weight (about 7/8 cup)
2 teaspoons Prague powder #1
1 cup brown sugar, preferably dark
5 tablespoons pickling spices
4 cloves garlic, smashed or pressed
About the beef. Many delis use the fattier navel cut. You can also use boneless short rib meat, flank steak, tongue, or round, but round can be very thick, so cut in into 1.5" planks. For that matter you can use any cut you want, but brisket is my fave.
About the pickling spices. You can buy them premixed or click here for a recipe for pickling spicesthat you can make yourself.
1) Find a proper container large enough to handle 1 gallon of brine and the meat as described in my article Science Of Curing Meats. Clean it as described.
2) Mix the cure ingredients and the distilled water. Stir until they dissolve.
3) Take the meat and remove as much fat as possible from the exterior unless you plan to use some of it for pastrami. In that case, leave a 1/8" layer on one side. Because corned beef is cooked in simmering water, the fat just gets gummy and unappetizing. But if you plan to then make pastrami from it, you will be smoking the meat and in that case the fat gets succulent and lubricates the sandwich. I like to buy a full packer brisket and separate the point from the flat, and cut the flat in half when making corned beef or pastrami. That gives me 3 manageable hunks of 2 to 4 pounds each. If you leave the point attached to the flat beneath, it will be very thick and take longer to cure, and there's an ugly hunk of fat between them.
4) Add the meat to the curing solution. It might float, so put a plastic bowl filled with brine on top of the meat until it submerges. The meat will drink up brine so make sure there is enough to cover it by at least 1" or else you'll find the meat high and dry after a few days. Refrigerate. Let it swim for at least 5 days, longer if you wish, especially if the meat is more than 2" thick. You will not likely need more than 7 days, but once it is well cured, it can stay in the brine for another week. Move the meat every day or so just to stir up the cure. When you are done, the exterior of the meat will be pale tan or gray and if you cut into it, it should not look too different than normal raw meat, just a little pinker.
5) Now decide which path you want to follow. You can make traditional corned beef and cabbage boiled dinner, you can make corned beef hash, you can make Rockin Reuben Sandwiches, or turn it into Close to Katz's Pastrami.