CORNED BEEF FROM SCRATCH

Including: Cooking Prepared Corned Beef

Here’s the scoop for making corned beef yourself. (It’s easy, but it must “cure” in the refrigerator for several days, so you’ll want to start soon.) This version will surely taste better than the store-bought kind, but, unless you use the optional “salt peter” (see below) it won’t be that bright red color that you find in the supermarket kind. You may adjust the seasonings (except for the proportion of salt, since that is essential to the “cure”) to suit your personal taste preferences, although, if you’ve never made this before, I suggest you try the recipe as written, then make changes in future versions.The most common cut of meat for corned beef is a boneless beef brisket, which is divided into two pieces, and sold two ways: the first or “flat” cut, and the “point” cut which is fattier and tastier, as well as more tender. If you decide on the point cut, you may have to ask for it – these days the leanest cuts are the ones most commonly displayed. Eye roasts and round roasts are also corned - but the result is dryer and less tender, more like the flat-cut brisket. These leaner meat cuts slice the most neatly, though - so take your choice.

For a 4-6-pound beef brisket or other cut (as above)

1/2 cup, kosher (coarse-grain) salt
1 tablespoon, black peppercorns – coarsely cracked
1 tablespoon, brown sugar
3/4 tablespoon, ground allspice
1 tablespoon, dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon, paprika
2 bay leaves – crumbled
3 cloves, garlic – minced
optional (for red color): 1 tablespoon, sodium nitrite* – dissolved
in 1/2 cup, warm water. [*sold in pharmacies or order from butcher shops]

[Vegetables, as desired to serve with corned beef – see last paragraph]

Mix kosher salt with all other seasonings (but not saltpeter) in a small bowl. Pierce the brisket several times on each side with a skewer or heavy fork. (NOTE: this piercing step may be eliminated if meat is cured for 10-14 days, instead of 5-7 days, before rinsing and cooking.)

Rub both sides of meat evenly with salt/spice mixture. Place meat in heavy, 2-gallon size plastic zipper-lock bag, squeezing out as much air as possible before closing bag. [Pour over dissolved saltpeter in water, if using, before sealing bag.] Place bag with meat in a pan large enough to hold it, cover with another pan of similar size, and weight the top pan with two bricks, or with two heavy cans from the pantry.

Refrigerate for 5-7 days, turning bag once each day.

When ready to cook, remove corned beef from bag, and rinse the meat thoroughly under cold running water, to remove excess salt, and large spice pieces. Place the rinsed corned beef in a large, heavy pot, adding cold water to cover the meat by one inch, and bring water to a boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. When water begins to boil, immediately lower the heat, and cover the pot, carefully checking frequently to be sure that the water only simmers (and never boils – which will toughen the meat). Simmer for about 3 hours, or until a skewer, inserted in the thickest part of the meat, slides out easily. [An instant read thermometer, inserted in the deepest part of the brisket at its center, will read 200-210 degrees, when the tough connective tissue has entirely gelatinized.] Allow the meat to cool in its liquid for at least 20 minutes. Flavor and texture get better as time goes by – making this a day in advance (refrigerate after cooling) works beautifully,

*COOK’S NOTE: If vegetables are to be added, remove the meat to a baking pan, ladle some broth over it, and cover the pan, keeping it warm in a very low oven, while cooking vegetables in the remaining broth in the pot. Simmer carrots, potatoes, onions and other firm vegetables (cut into pieces, as desired) for 10 minutes in the broth, then add cabbage (cut in wedges) and continue to simmer until all vegetables are tender (about another 10 minutes). Slice the corned beef and serve on a platter, surrounded with the vegetables.