This month the name of the game for Charcutepalooza is brining.
I wanted to make pastrami because I love a good reuben. Sans the sauce. Because that thousand island-ish sauce is nasty. I wanted to make homemade rye crackers & rye bread, making the kraut and making both sandwich Reubens and mini-bite size appetizer Reubens. But alas, I didn’t manage to find a smoker by the time the meat was done brining.
Now, making corned beef calls for pink salt and you may remember last month I discussed the use of pink salt. I had chosen not to use it in recipes that didn’t need it for safety. In the end I was somewhat disappointed in our bacon and realized that I would need to use some form of nitrate to get the flavor. I discovered that it was celery powder (natural nitrate) that gives “uncured” meat products the taste we are used to having. That makes bacon taste like bacon and corned beef taste like corned beef. So instead of pink salt I used celery powder. And, it worked! The color is a bit different but it tastes like corned beef! Woot! I can’t wait to try it with my next attempt at bacon.
Corning Your Beef
The recipe I followed is from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing so go there for full instructions and quantities. The basic gist of making corned beef is to make a brine of water, kosher salt, sugar, garlic, pickling spice, and pink salt (or in our case, celery powder). I actually found specific corned beef pickling spice at Penzey’s when I stopped in on a whim with my mom. I also put brown sugar and honey in also because the recipe for the pastrami brine called for it and I wasn’t sure what direction I was headed with our beef. You simmer your brine until sugar and salt are dissolved and then allow to get to room temperature. Plop in your beef brisket and keep it submerged with a plate so that the meat is always covered in the brine.
Clear a big spot in your fridge because the big pot is going to be hogging up a lot of space for 5 days. Drink up some of that beer you’ve been eyeing. Raise the shelves. Do whatever you need to do to get that hunk of meat properly stored.
At the end of 5 days, you’ll rinse it well, place in a pot of water with more pickling spice and simmer for about 3 hours or until it is tender. Slice and serve.
Verdict? The corned beef turned out just like… corned beef. Which is to say spiced, boiled meat. I realize that sounds somewhat unappetizing but stick with me because it really was good. It was everything a corned beef dinner should be – it just isn’t a dinner I need to have often. But keep reading because I’ll tell you what I do need to have often!
So, we ate our freshly corned beef with the most amazing cabbage ever. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of it. I am sure a picture wouldn’t do it any justice anyway. But get Molly Wizenberg’s book A Homemade Life and make the Cream-Braised Green Cabbage. It is out of this world. Crazy good. It follows a bit like this recipe of hers.
The next day was corned beef hash. YES! Now that is corned beef the way I love it! Not the mushy stuff out of a can. Not with random things like green peppers (ew!) added. Just straight up corned beef, potatoes and onions.
The hash rocked my world! It was fantastic. The ladyfriend concurred: best ever! Win! What put it over the top? Eggs from over our cute chickens on top. Nothing like an hours-fresh egg from your own chicken. The taste is incomparable.
I am glad we made 8 pounds of corned beef because I see a lot of brunch in my future!
Can’t wait to see what is on the agenda for next month!