Pin It Yes, I am well aware that St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone and that this recipe is a little late. But I’ve never been much of a plan-ahead blogger and I am always playing catch up on the holidays. Besides, on the actual St. Paddy’s Day, I was not slaving over a bubbling cauldron of corned beef and cabbage. No, no, my friends, I was wandering around the streets of New York City for the first time, stunned at the pure mass of humanity, the majority of which was dressed in green. I wasn’t there because of the holiday, that was just an interesting side effect. I was there to run the NYC half-marathon the next morning. But I rather sheepishly admit that it was my first time in New York, and it was quite the introduction. I loved it, all the hustle and bustle, all the little restaurants and hole-in-the-wall diners, all the people. I am looking forward to going back to explore at my leisure some time.
Oh, and did I mention that I rocked my race? There is nothing quite like turning out of Central Park onto 7th Avenue and running into Times Square with huge cheering crowds on either side. If that doesn’t give you runner’s high, nothing will. Officially, I beat my previous record for a half-marathon by 3 minutes and came in at 1:45:32 (Unofficially, I was even faster than that but had to make a small pit stop during the race). It was an amazing experience.
Now, onto corning your own beef. This was something I’d wanted to try for a while, after I’d seen mention of it in Cook’s Illustrated. It sounded so simple, and a great way to avoid all the nitrates and nitrites in store-bought corned beef. Since it needed to refrigerate for 5 to 7 days, I started the process a few days before I went off to NYC and we cooked it the day after I returned. This isn’t, of course, my recipe at all, it’s straight out of my favourite reference cookbooks ever, America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. And even though it’s late in the season for corned beef and cabbage, I thought it was worth sharing. Bookmark it for next year. Or do it now…after all, you can actually eat corned beef on days other than St. Paddy’s!
The Results: It really is remarkably easy to corn your own beef, and I would say it’s worth it too. The flavour was fantastic, and I would even dare to say it was better than most store-bought corned beef briskets. Knowing that it wasn’t filled with chemicals certainly helped in that perception. It did not, however, take on that reddish appearance of traditional corned beef, and I have to say, trying to get appetizing photos of greyish boiled meat is not easy! So, not a lot of pictures to share today, because I don’t want to scare you off the process.
The only thing I would do differently next time is to buy a brisket that was more marbled with fat throughout. This became a little tough once it cooled, because all the fat was in one layer on the top, and the meat itself didn’t benefit from the moisture in the fat. But I would definitely attempt this next year and see if I could get that great corned flavour with a better cut of meat.
Corning Your Own Beef
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns, cracked
1 tbsp dried thyme
2 tsp allspice
2 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves, crumbled
One 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 lb beef brisket
In a small bowl, combine salt and spices.
Spear the brisket about 30 times on both sides with a metal fork or skewer. Rub each side liberally with salt mixture. Place meat in a large ziploc bag and remove as much air as possible.
Lay brisket in a large baking sheet or pan and cover with another large baking sheet or pan. Weigh top pan down with bricks or large cans.
Refrigerate 5 to 7 days, turning once per day.
Cook according to your favourite recipe.