Did you realise Corned Beef is the same as American Salt Beef or Pickled beef in the North of England? No? Me neither. Corned Beef for me when I was growing up came minced up in cans called Fra Bentos and mum served it thickly sliced, with lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, celery and salad cream….
More recently I’ve had it hot, sliced and piled up as high as a sky scraper on caraway rye at the Carnegie Deli in New York with huge fat pickled cucumbers, and on similar rye with fiery, eye watering English mustard from the Brick Lane Beigel Bake here in London.
This method of salting came about before refrigeration to preserve meat. The name corned actually comes from the size of the salt granules that were used as similar to the size of corn kernels.
I fancied making my own…..So I ordered my brisket from The Ginger Pig……
Homemade Corn Beef/Salt Beef
5 litres water
1 tablespoon juniper berries
2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
600 g sea salt
400 g dark brown sugar
3 kg piece beef brisket
To finish off
2 large onions
Step 1. Buy your brisket. Well, in fact, you’ll probably need to order it from your butcher first.
Step 2. Pour the water into a very large pan and sprinkle in all spices, bay, salt and sugar. Place on heat and bring to just below the boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Leave to cool completely.
Step 3. Prod your piece of brisket all over with a long pronged fork or skewer as you need to be able to penetrate the centre of the meat.
Step 4. Place the meat in the brine. I used the pot I had cooked the brine in as it was stainless steel. Or you just need to make sure the container you use is non reactive like ceramic or plastic.
Step 5. Weigh the meat down as it needs to be completely submerged. (I used a heavy bowl and a pile of small plates.) Cover and leave the meat to bathe in the salty brine for about a week or 10 days, turning occasionally.
Step 6. So, check it after 3-4 days. A quick peek will reveal nothing much has changed except the outside is becoming slightly translucent as the brine takes hold. Turn it over and weigh it down with the bowl and pile of plates again.
Step 7. The brisket had been in the brine for 7 days and something had been nagging me that I should have cut the string when I bought it as the butcher had rolled and tied it. But I didn’t. (Annoyed at myself. Bugger.)
So I cut the string and opened up the meat. Brisket is a wide flat piece of meat and the brine does need to be able to slosh all around, all sides. Although the centre was pretty untouched by the brine, I cooked it up and it was gorgeous. So maybe, because it was in the brine for so long, my mistake actually worked better in the end as the meat had just the right amount of saltiness, with a really good balance of flavours from all the seasonings.
Step 9. Next day, rinse the meat again and return to a clean pot. Cover with fresh cold water, stab about 3 cloves into 2 large peeled onions and drop them into the pot with 3 roughly chopped carrots.
Step 10. Bring to a boil, scooping away any scum that rises to the surface, then reduce heat and simmer as gently as you can for 3 1/2-4 hours or until when pierced with a fork the meat is really tender and almost falling apart.
I know, I know it doesn’t look pretty but it’s damn tasty!….
Step 11. Carefully lift, (it will be boiling hot) the meat from the pot and serve hot, thickly sliced with boiled potatoes and cabbage that you cook in the pot with the meat for the last 1/2 hour.
Step 12. If using for corn beef hash, (See Red Flannel Hash) set aside to cool, then using 2 forks or your fingers, shred the meat into long strands.
Serve with some or all of this…
Green herb sauce
Mustard – English, American and Dijon
Rye bread – Black Rye and with caraway
Chrain – No recipe as such, but it’s basically a sauce of pureed beetroot with some finely grated fresh horseradish root stirred in. (you can sometimes buy pure grated horseradish in jars. Creamed horseradish mightbe a bit weird in flavour.)