Adventures in Home Charcuterie: Corned Beef, Part 1

In five days this brisket will become corned beef

Having had a success with Michael Ruhlman’s homemade bacon recipe we decided to buy his book Charcuterie and start curing, drying and pickling at home. This is a “farm”, after all, we might as well try act like it. We already pickle a lot of our veggies, but will expand into fermentation and preservation. We are making bacon on a regular basis and experimenting with different cures and smoke (trying maple bacon and applewood smoking this week). But as St. Patricks Day is next month we figured we should try and make our own corned beef for corned beef and cabbage. (Before you even say it, I know that “nobody eats corned beef and cabbage in Ireland”. But, so what? Its good, their loss.)

I tend to forget about corned beef, because in some ways it seems commonplace, but then I think about Reuben Sandwiches and Corned-Beef Hash. These are two pillars of American comfort food and dishes I will almost always order if a restaurant does them well. And one of the best meals I ever had was Corned Beef and Cabbage from my friend, and professional chef, Chad Callahan. The meat was tender, and flavorful (of course he made it himself). The veggies and potatoes were tender and tasty. And all was served with a deeply flavored broth and a sharp horseradish sauce. Yum.

Funny Note: Chad also made one of the “best” chicken dishes I have ever tried that night as well. He injected the corned beef broth into the chicken as it was cooking. In case you are curious, beef-flavored chicken tastes great.

In any event, we are making our own corned beef. Part 1 is curing the meat  (a 5lb. brisket) in a brine. While it requires a little planning, so far brining the meat is pretty easy. The only special ingredients we needed were pink curing salt (we have that for making bacon, order here if you need it) and pickling spice. We could buy pre-made pickling spice but made our own. Most supermarkets, and any gourmet market or spice shop, will have what you need. As for equipment, the only requirement is a large container for brining the corned beef. We use a 5-gallon, food safe plastic container. In fact, the most important “equipment” you need is space in the fridge for the corned beef while it is curing.

Home made pickling spice. This is worth making yourself, it's easy.

So far, so good. We made the pickling spice. We made the brine, cooled it, and added it and the meat to our 5-gallon container. It is all in the fridge.  In five days we will pull the corned beef from the brine. If all goes well, we will publish Part 2- the cooking and eating section, followed by our version of the recipe. Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “Adventures in Home Charcuterie: Corned Beef, Part 1

  1. I love that you are actually using the brisket and pickling it into the corned beef yourself. I NEVER thought of this. I am used to just going to the market, picking up a corned beef in plastic, coming home and cooking it. I never thought about the “begining” of it… the brine. Thanks for the lesson

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