Cure Your Own Corned Beef for St. Patrick's Day.
Who doesn't love corned beef on St. Paddy's Day? Did you know that you can cure your own corned beef at home? It is very easy, it just takes a bit of time - which is why I am posting this 11 days before St. Patrick's Day - and the results are worth the (minimal) effort.
First, what is corned beef? Corning has nothing to do with corn, but refers to the salt that is used in preserving meat. The large salt crystals used in days passed for curing were like kernels of corn in size, hence the name "Corning" for preserving meat with a salt-based brine. You can make a corned beef with a dry brine, or a wet brine. I am going with the wet brine in this post because it is a bit easier.
One more bit of information before I get to the recipe: one of the ingredients called for is saltpeter. This is also called Pink Salt and is, formally, sodium nitrite. This is not a necessary ingredient from a food safety standpoint - it it is the source of the red color we are used to in our commercial corned beef. It is an optional ingredient in this recipe. If you can find it then by all means use it. If you can't find it then you can proceed anyway. The resulting corned beef will taste amazing but it will remain the standard brownish color of beef.
As you will see in the recipe below curing your own corned beef consists, mainly, of blending a pickling spice, using that to make a brine, and letting the beef sit in the brine for an extended period of time.
Home Cured Corned Beef
2 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons saltpeter
1 cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
8 whole allspice berries
12 whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds ice
1 4/5 pound beef brisket, trimmed
Place the water into a large 6 to 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, saltpeter, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the ice. Stir until the ice has melted. If necessary, place the brine into the refrigerator until it reaches a temperature of 45 degrees F. Once it has cooled, place the brisket in a 2-gallon zip top bag and add the brine. Seal and lay flat inside a container, cover and place in the refrigerator for 7-10 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine.
After 7-10 days, remove from the brine and rinse well under cool water. Place the brisket into a pot just large enough to hold the meat, add 1 small onion quartered, 1 large coarsely chopped carrot and 1 stalk coarsely chopped celery and cover with water by 1-inch. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Remove from the pot and thinly slice across the grain.