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Corning, or Pickling, a Beef Brisket All By Myself - Really, It's Not Hard!

 Flat cut beef brisket before corning
Flat cut beef brisket before corning

 

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.

 

Ingredients

 

Corned Beef Spices
Corned Beef Spices

 

  • 3/4 cup table salt or pickling salt
    Curing salt - Julia Child did not use this
    Curing salt - Julia Child did not use
  • 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

 

Directions

 

Add salts to 1 quatr water
Add salts to 1 quart water

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.

Brine, Spices, and Ice
Brine, Spices, and Ice

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.

Brisket in a food safe plastic bag with brine
Brisket in a food safe plastic bag with brine

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.

 

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Serving Suggestions

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.

 

More Information

The Test Kitchen has a program on making your own corned beef from scratch that you might also find helpful.

 

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The Jam Scientist