I enjoy being Irish. I can remember parties when I was little and wearing the “Kiss me I’m Irish” buttons. I usually celebrate in some way, but this year I decided to kick it up a notch and although corned beef and cabbage might not be something traditional over in the homeland, it is in the US and this year I was going to represent, old school.
So, I’ve had this recipe for a couple of years about how to make your own corned beef from scratch. It’s from Michael Ruhlman and it takes a bit of forethought and planning. It calls for “pink salt” which is brings the curing mojo and allows the meat to become that deep pinky color we associate with corned beef. I could have left it out without any repercussions to taste, but heck, I was all in. If I was doing this from scratch I was doing it right.
First, I procured a brisket from Triple S Farms, which is always a good start.
Next I mixed up the pickling spice, and I made my own. This meant I toasted whole coriander, allspice mustard seeds, peppercorns and then mixing it in with the other spices, like red pepper flakes, mace, cinnamon sticks, and bay. The recipe has you use part of the spices in the brine and save some for later.
I also had to take water, kosher salt, the pink salt, garlic, some of the pickling spice, and sugar and heat it to dissolve the salt and make it all meld. Then I cooled it overnight.
The next day we (the corned beef and I) began our 5 day brine. I put the brisket into the cooled brine and used a plate to weigh it down and make it soak up as much briney goodness as possible. This imparts flavor and “corns” the beef. I flipped it half way through and started to stress because it wasn’t pink. I’ve brined a lot of meat in my day from pork chops to a 2 day brine on a Thanksgiving turkey (it’s awesome btw, if you want the recipe let me know), but this was my first cured meat and I was sweating that lack of pink, but soldiered on. And by soldiered on I mean ignored it for the next few days.
I got up early on St. Patrick’s Day and thought I’d cook it up early since I was planning on a long slow cook. I wanted to do it in water to make sure there was an opportunity for the salt to boil out of the meat, but I wasn’t looking forward to monitoring it for several hours on the stove top. I’ve got an electric stove and that’s so hard to manage a long slow simmer. So I went off my original recipe and moved on one from Suzanne Goin that allowed for a slow poach in the oven.
First, I rinsed the meat and placed it in a pan with water and the rest of the pickling spice. Also, in the pot were some carrots, celery and onion went in and I brought it to a boil on the stove top. Once it was boiling, I took some foil and covered the pan and snugged the lid on tight and in it went to a 325 oven.
I had to run some errands, and came back an hour and a half into the cook and was blasted with spice when I opened the door. The corned beef magic was definitely happening, but I was also glad it was warm enough to crack a couple of windows.
I gave it four and a half hours hoping that was long enough so it was falling apart tender. And it was. Goin’s recipe calls for a parsley mustard sauce which sounded amazing, but my meat was just a tad too spicy for a spicy sauce. Next time I will cut back on the spice just a bit and I think it’ll be perfect. She also says you can give it a brief broil to crisp up the fat on top and I tried that with some and it is sure tasty too. And it turned pink. When I cut into the meat it was tender and succulent and a deep pinky color that called out corned beef.
I boiled a few potatoes, some cabbage and carrots in the broth and of course made some soda bread to round out the meal.
So would I do it again? I think it’s a resounding YES. The meat had a great taste, made amazing sandwiches the next day. I had the satisfaction of making it all myself and I had total control over what went into it. Yes, there was a little work and planning, but the results were so worth it. Heck, if you start now you have 364 days to prep.