This year I am actually corning, or pickling, my own beef before Saint Patrick's Day. It takes 6 to 10 days for a normal sized cut. I opted for flat cut corned beef brisket from Costco at $6.99 a pound. The flat cut is a much leaner cut than the point cut. However it still has a thin layer of fat on the bottom. This cut is often available in supermarkets and has a nice square shape.
Like most people I like to save money. I could have bought point cut at a local butcher shop for about $4.00 per pound, but that cut has more fat than I prefer. If I wanted to pickle several pieces at once to share with others, or freeze, I could have bought a whole beef brisket. Untrimmed briskets weigh 8-20 pounds and I would end up with both a flat cut and a point cut for about $3.50 a pound. Untrimmed briskets are more reasonably priced, but you would need a lot of room in your refrigerator, and there will be about 4 pounds of wasted fat to trim away. If you find a deal on a good sized beef top or bottom round, those cuts make a nice lean "corned" beef and may be more reasonably priced before Saint Patrick's Day.
Corning beef is like making pickles, you get to choose what ingredients you like. I looked at several recipes and subtracted what I did not like. Feel free to adjust my recipe to your liking.
- 3/4 cup table salt or pickling salt
- 2 teaspoons curing salt (6.25% Sodium nitrite) optional, purchase from sausage shop or online. Do not add additional curing salt. Note: Julia Child did not use this ingredient.
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, mix of yellow and black
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon whole juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon ground garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dill seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
- 4 bay leaves, crumbled
- 5 slices fresh ginger
- 3 quarts water
- 2 pounds ice (1 qt frozen)
- 1 (4 to 6 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
Place 1 quart water into a stockpot along with salts. Warm over high heat until the salts have dissolved. Remove brine from the heat and add the ice. Add your chosen spices and 2 additional quarts cold water.
Stir until the ice has melted. Brine should be less than 45 degrees F before adding beef. Once brine has cooled, place the brisket in a food safe plastic bag and add the brine with spices. I used a turkey roasting bag placed in a large bowl (like brining a turkey). Seal bag and make sure the brine is surrounding the brisket on all sides.
Place in the refrigerator for 6 to 10 days (6 days is plenty for a normal flat cut, an extra thick cut of beef round may take 10 days). Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine a little.
After 6 to 10 days rinse beef in cool water and cook brisket as desired.
Cooking corned beef brisket
For traditional corned beef brisket, one may make a spice bag from a square of muslin and tie with cooking string. To the spice bag add one bay leaf, ten peppercorns, a teaspoon yellow mustard seeds, a heaping teaspoon allspice berries, two or three whole cloves, and some caraway seeds. Cover beef with water by 1-inch. Add your spice bag. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Add onion, carrot, potatoes, and celery, cook about 15 minutes and add cabbage wedges. Cook all until fork tender. Remove from the pot and thinly slice beef across the grain.
You may like to serve with a grainy mustard with your brisket. Click on this link to find my directions for making a fine New Yorke style mustard to complement your beef.
The Test Kitchen has a program on making your own corned beef from scratch that you might also find helpful.