Hey folks its the weekend again (woop!) and time for an epic food project: Home made corned beef!
Good things come to those who wait … and boy is there a lot of waiting on this little project, as making corned beef is in a class of its own in the waiting stakes, taking a whopping 243 hours end to end according to Alton Brown! Yikes. But, that’s OK with us, because we are patient souls.
So why corned beef? After watching pretty much every episode of Triple D on the Food Network (yep, we are huge Guy Fieri fans), I couldn’t help but wonder what this (way more delicious looking!) American take on corned beef tasted like.
As a side note, one funny misconception is that a lot of people think corned beef is Irish in origin, but believe me, I spent much of my childhood in Ireland and never set my eyes on anything nearly as tasty as the brisket based deliciousness they have in the US! 😀 Corned beef in the UK is a completely different beast. If you Google image search “corned beef” the gross looking congealed canned looking stuff is what goes by the name corned beef in these parts Yuk! I’m sure that there is a time and a place for such things, but it’s certainly nothing to get excited about.The corned beef recipe we are starting, however, is definitely not your British canned stodge.
I figured that any recipe that takes over 200 hours probably deserves more than one post, so today is all about curing your very own delicious brisket and in a week or so when it’s all good and cured we can follow up with what to do next.
Also, before we get going we should say, as this was our first attempt at home curing, to keep things simple, we made use of a couple of ready made products to get us started. Firstly, rather than ending up buying a kilo of curing salt (a kilo was way more than we could possibly use as we don’t plan on starting our own curing business anytime soon, although if we did you can be we would share it here first :P), we managed to find online a ready mix of regular salt and saltpeter for curing brisket. You can cure brisket just with regular salt but the colour of your meat will turn slightly grey which looks a little less appetizing. Secondly, we used some premixed pickling spice. You certainly can make your own mix, but I didn’t have a ready supply of whole spices in the cupboard so we decided to go for the easy option on this (yup, I was a lazy cook, just this once). If you do want to make your own pickling spices, they are usually a mix of cinnamon, mustard seeds, cloves, allspice berries, juniper berries, black peppercorns, bay leaves and ground ginger. You can mix around the quantities of each to suit your palette. 😀
So, down to business:
Corned Beef (Part 1):
For today you will need:
1 big old hunk of brisket (ours was about 6 lb )
1 1/3 cups curing salt
1/8 cup pickling spice
1/2 cup sugar (ideally brown sugar but I totally forgot to pick it up from the store so I had to use white sugar, but this seems to be working fine too, phew)
2 litres of hot water (just under 2 quarts)
1) Make some brine – First things first, we need to make the brine to cure our brisket in. Place the salt, sugar and pickling spices into a large pan or dish. Pour in the hot water and stir until everything is dissolved. Don’t worry if it takes a little while for the last salt and sugar crystals to disappear, I promise they’ll get there, just keep stirring.
2) Cool things down – After such an exciting start, the waiting game begins now. Before we can add the meat to the brine it needs to be way down at 7ºC (45F) which is fridge temperature, or else you are going to start cooking your meat, and that is a bad plan at this stage. So leave the brine to cool to room temperature and then pop it in the fridge to cool further.
3) Prepare your brisket – While you wait for the brine to cool you can do a little meat prep. You don’t really want to have any fat left on the surface of your brisket, so trim away any excess fat or grisly bits.
4) Brine your meat – Place your brisket into a large container or an extra-large zip lock bag if you have one. Completely cover with the brine making sure the meat is fully submerged! If you have a zip lock bag make sure that you expel all the air from the bag before you seal it and you can be pretty sure your meat will be completely covered. If, like us, you are leaving your meat in a dish you may need to weigh it down to make sure you don’t have any part of the brisket floating above the surface (we used a tea plate but anything which won’t have an odd reaction being submerged in salt for a week would be fine).
5) And wait – That’s it, now you just have to pop your brisket in the fridge, cross your fingers and come back in 10 days to see what’s happened. In truth you would be wise to check on it every couple of days to make sure everything is still fully submerged (and because sometimes I like to go say hello to it, after all, it is lodging in our fridge so long, we should at least make it feel at home :D).
So, there we have it folks, the waiting begins! I think it’s kinda exciting to have a few longer running projects on the go, and after Sam’s epic effort in finishing our fab new Maine Wall Art project, I felt it was time for an equally long running food activity. We hope you all have a great weekend!