CORNED BEEF BRISKET from Scratch (12 days)
This is a long and dedicated process with a minimum commitment of 12 days. Originally the first corned beef was dry cured only with large grains of salt to preserve the meat since refrigeration had not yet been introduced. As techniques and cold storage became available the recipe morphed to include brining. In supermarkets today you can find small briskets or other tough cuts of beef sealed in a bag with pickling spices and other aromatics. The manufacturer has taken most of the work out of it since the meat has been curing for some time before the package was shipped. The downside to this is that you have no control over flavor since the meat has taken on the characteristics of the ingredients it has been sitting in. Whether it is my recipe or a manufacturer’s, keep in mind that we are dealing with a tough cut of beef. Specifically located below the chuck and just above the shank, this well exercised muscle meat needs to be tenderized before consuming. Salt not only preserves the meat but aides in breaking down the fibrous muscle. Salt water slowly opens the cell walls of the muscle allowing for the flavors slowly take hold and the tenderizing process is complete with slow cooking in liquid, creating a flavorful, tender and juicy meat.
Understanding these basics allows us to play with the ingredients, for example, replacing some of the water with beer, cider or flavored stock. Mixing up the traditional spices of mustard seed, coriander and garlic to include a curry or Middle Eastern spice or even espresso creates unique flavors. Sticking with the traditional simple flavors in this recipe allows the traditional side dishes to do their job. Most agree that cabbage and potatoes are a must. A simple head of cabbage, baby radishes and fingerling potatoes are great companions. As the brisket is finishing its last hour in the liquid, add potatoes and cabbage and cook for 30-40 minutes until tender. Both vegetables will take on the characteristics of the meat, while preserving their individuality. My Jewish traditions kick in at this point, and I like serving the dish with a splattering of fresh horseradish overall. If that is not your thing than a good coarse mustard on the side will suffice.
For the dessert finish to this meal, I am reminded of a recipe we served with our small plates menu. It likely is not Irish at all, but good nonetheless. We make a Guinness float! In a tall glass put 3 scoops of your favorite vanilla ice cream and slowly add a bottle of Guinness. You can also make this into a milkshake or as I like it with the addition of a shot of espresso
So when celebrating March 17, remember to include good friends, good music and your own freshly made labor of love corned beef!
- 1 gallon water
- 8 ounce sea salt
- 4 ounce light brown sugar
- 1 ounce pickling spice
6 pounds brisket
Cure Dry Rub:
- 3 each bay leaves
- 1 ½ ounce garlic, minced
- 1 ounce mustard seeds, crushed
- 2 ounce black pepper, cracked
- 2 ounce red pepper flakes
- 1/4 ounce coriander seeds, crushed
Combine the brine ingredients into stainless steel pot and bring to a boil, dissolve completely; cook for an additional 5 minutes; remove and cool completely; place the beef in the mixture and cover, ensuring meat is submerged; refrigerate, keeping the meat in the brine for 7-14 days. Turn the beef everyday to ensure even brining; ensure the meat is submerged each time; remove from wet brine and drain.
Combine dry ingredients and rub into all areas of the beef; place beef in sealed bag with air removed for 5 days in refrigerator. Remove beef from dry rub bag; place into a large pot; cover the meat with fresh cold water. Bring to simmer and cook for 2 1/2 – 4 hours until tender to the fork.
Slice and serve.