How to Make a Homemade Corned Beef
Are you getting tired of picking out a package of pre-brined brisket for your St. Patty’s day dinner? Wondering how you might make your own corned beef this year? Well it’s not as hard as you might think.
The term corned actually refers to the brining process, “corns” being a reference to the large crystals, or “corns” of salt used to create the base for the brine. The hardest part of brining your own brisket is the wait. You’ll need to start about eight days prior to get good flavor, but some recipes brine it for as little as 4-6 days.
Here are a few things to be aware of before you begin:
Choose the right brisket
Take care in choosing your brisket. Eating 100% grass-fed beef has 60% more omega-3 fatty acids, two times more vitamins A & E, three times more heart healthy conjugated linoleic acid and a higher concentration of good fats. Have your butcher prepare a 6-8 pound flat-cut brisket, trimmed, with a small amount of the fat remaining.
To nitrate or not to nitrate?
Many recipes out there call for pink salt or sodium nitrate to aid in the curing process. Its only purpose is to preserve the meat’s pink color. If you don’t mind your meat turning grey, or don’t care for the nitrates you can leave it out.
This recipe uses 2 cups of pureed celery, which is a natural source of nitrates. Many so called “Nitrate-free” products do the same thing. There are competing viewpoints on whether or not nitrates are damaging to our health (either naturally occurring or as a preservative), but the National Academy of Sciences, the American Cancer Society and the National Research Council all agree that there’s no cancer risk from consuming sodium nitrite.
Though there are some studies that connect nitrate consumption with hyperactivity in children. So, do with that what you will.
Use kosher salt. Don’t use table salt. Seriously, don’t do it. You would have to use a lot more salt due to it’s smaller crystalline structure and that would make for a super salty brine. Trust me, just use Kosher salt, the bigger crystals the better.
Spice it up
Use fresh pickling spices, better yet, make your own. I mean really, you’re making your own corned beef, why would you use a premade pickling spice pack? Make sure you have at least a bit of the following: Mustard seed, whole allspice, whole coriander, whole cloves, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, black peppercorns and a couple of cinnamon sticks.
If you’re feeling fancy you can add in some ginger, dill seeds, juniper berries, mace, fennel seeds or anything else you think might taste good. More is not necessarily better, but this is your corned beef—own it!
Once cured cook it up any way you like, or try our own recipe and learn about the history of corned beef and the Irish.
- 5 cups water
- 2 cups dark beer
- 2 cups juiced celery (or 1 ½ Tbsp pink salt)
- 1 ½ cups kosher salt
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup pickling spice
- 1 6-8lb brisket
- In a large, deep roasting pan, pour water, beer, and celery juice. Mix in kosher salt until dissolved. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Mix in pickling spices. Place brisket on a flat surface and pierce with a sharp pairing knife all over to aid in brine penetration. Add to brine and place a heavy platter on top to weigh it down. Cover and refrigerate 4 days.
- Remove brisket from brine. Stir liquid to blend. Flip brisket and return to brine, weight with platter and cover. Refrigerate for an additional 4 days.
- Rinse with cold running water. Wrap with plastic, then foil and refrigerate. Can be removed from brine and stored thusly 2 days ahead.
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