Corn your own beef this St. Patrick's Day
Will you be eating corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day? I predict thousands of pounds of corned beef will be consumed this weekend as we all pretend to be a wee bit Irish.
If I had planned ahead I could have brined a beef brisket to make homemade corned beef. The process is simple but it does require time for the beef to pickle. Alton Brown, the creator and host of the Food Network television show "Good Eats," offers a recipe that calls for beef brisket to sit in brine for five days.
What actually is corned beef? Alton explains that corned beef is a salt-cured beef product, usually made with a flat, point or round cut of brisket. The term comes from the treatment of the meat with large-grained rock salt, also called "corns" of salt.
Curing corned beef is not unlike brining a chicken; both involve soaking the meat in a solution of water, salt, sugar and pickling spices for an extended period of time. Alton's original recipe called for salt peter; this recipe calls for pink curing salt, also known as sodium nitrate. Using pink curing salt will ensure that the corned beef will
have that bright pink color you
see in most store-bought corned beef.
Every method of curing corned beef begins with enough water to cover the brisket, usually about a gallon, along with salt and sugar. Boil the water, and dissolve the salt and sugar, as well as the pink curing salt. The pickling spices should be boiled along with this mixture. While many stores sell pre-mixed pickling spices, it is also possible to make a custom spice mix from scratch by toasting and grinding a spice mixture. This method gives chefs more flexibility when it comes to the taste of the corned beef.
Once the sugar and salt has been dissolved, remove the water from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. The brine should then be refrigerated for several hours until it is cold. Once the brine has cooled, submerge the beef, and allow it to soak for about five days before cooking.
Here is Alton Brown's recipe for Corned Beef:
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 quarts water
12 ounces kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons pink salt*
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, crushed
½ teaspoon ground ginger
3 pounds ice
1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
1 small onion, quartered
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
Place the water in a large 6 to 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, pink salt, 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 F. Once it has cooled, place the brisket in a 2-gallon zip-lock bag and add brine. Seal and lay flat inside a container, cover and place in refrigerator for 5 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine. (He likes to flip the bag and give the brine a quick massage every day.)
After 5 days, remove from the brine and rinse well under cool water.
Now you are ready to actually cook the corned beef: Place the brisket in a pot just large enough to hold the meat, add the onion, carrot and 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 or 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Remove from the pot and thinly slice across the grain.
* Pink salt aka Prague Powder #1, aka DQ Cure is a combination of sodium chloride, sodium nitrite and a bit of pink dye (supposedly added to prevent it being confused for regular salt) is readily available online, but may also be purchased at your local butcher shop or kitchenware store. You can make it without it, but you won't get that pink color.
Want to update your corned beef and cabbage dish? Make these, and let the luck of the Irish be upon you.
Corned Beef and Cabbage Rolls
6 savoy cabbage leaves
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped dill
2 slices dark rye bread, cut into strips
½ pound corned beef cut into strips
1 spoonful whole-grain mustard
Cook savoy cabbage leaves in boiling water, about 2 minutes. Rinse under cold water and pat dry; slice in half. Mix mayonnaise, chopped parsley and dill; spread on the cabbage leaves. Cut rye bread into strips. Slice 1/2 pound corned beef into strips and toss with a spoonful of whole-grain mustard. Top the cabbage leaves with a few strips each of the bread and corned beef. Roll up and slice in half.
Recipes courtesy of Food Network Magazine