Let me start this post off by first addressing the lack of updates to Wasabi Bratwurst as of late. This year we have been very blessed with rain here in Southern California. So much, that we have in only the second month of the year, already received what feels like 2 years worth of rain; and this translates into a lot of snowfall for the local mountains. That being said, most of my off-time has been dedicated to hitting the slopes before the snowboarding season ends and the lack of updates on the blog is primarily due to that reason. To the end of the season all I can say is I am thankful there is an upcoming holiday that will help me to drown my sorrows and ring in the Spring.
When I mentioned at the office that I was planning on sharing my corned beef recipe in honor of the upcoming Irish holiday, my colleague Dan nodded and said "Now that is an easy way to a Jewish man's heart". You don't have to be Jewish or Irish to enjoy this recipe, just like the Irish holiday it transcends all ethnicities.
Where is the Corn?
Corning is nothing more than a form of curing meat; and contrary to common belief, it has nothing to do with corn. The process of corning dates back to the Anglo-Saxons. Lacking in refrigeration, meat was dry-cured using coarse salt pellets similar in size to corn kernels. The salt was rubbed into the beef to prevent spoiling, thus, preserving the meat. Today "corned" beef is made by brining, which is a technique of using salted water rather than the traditional method of dry salt cure.
History of Corned Beef
So what does corned beef have to do with the Irish? And where and when did this tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's day start? In the late 1800s Irish immigrants, primarily residing in NYC's Lower East Side learned a great secret from their Jewish neighbors. Corned beef was similar in both taste and texture to the their traditional Irish bacon, but cheaper. So this traditional St. Patrick's Day meal began in the U.S. The truth is, today this dish is viewed by many Irish as "too plain" and frankly not worthy for a holiday meal. Personally, I love St. Patty's Day because of the corned beef...and I suppose the beer drinking and Irish whiskey doesn't hurt ;)
Corned Beef Brine Recipe
1 ½ quart of water
1 ½ cups kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon juniper berries
4 bay leaves
A sprig of thyme
1 4-5 lbs beef brisket, trimmed. Don’t trim off all the fat :)
2 tablespoon of saltpeter *Totally optional: Sole purpose is to prevent the meat from turning gray. Helps to preserve the meat's red color. ** EDIT** InstaCure #1 aka pink salt is also a great replacement.
1 bottle of good lager beer
The Procedure of Corning Beef
Add all ingredients minus the beer in a large mixing bowl and stir well until dissolved. Add beer and stir again to combine.
Pierce brisket all over with paring knife or any small sharp knife.
Place brisket in an over-sized zip bag and pour in brine liquid being sure to submerge completely. Extract as much air as possible, seal and lay flat in the refrigerator for a week flipping the bag daily.
After patiently waiting for 7 whole days, it is time for you to remove the brisket from the brine. Rinse well under cold running water.
Now that your beef is all corned up how do you cook it? Here are two of my favorite applications: Corned Beef with Vegetables and Corned Beef Sandwiches. Of course you can always use a store bought corned beef if time does not permit you to corn your own beef.
Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe
2 bottles of Guinness
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 whole allspice
1 small red chile, dried
1 head of cabbage, quartered
6 medium carrots, peeled
4 medium onions, peeled, halved
3 lbs mini red potatoes
feel free to add any other root vegetables of your choosing: parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, etc.
Place spices and herbs (including chili) in cheesecloth, tying off to create a bag. This will make it easier to remove the ingredients later.
Place corned beef in large Dutch oven or large pot. If you have a slow cooker, you can use that too. Add Guinness and then water, enough to cover the meat by 1 inch or so.
Add spice bag to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer until tender, about 3 hours or so.
Remove brisket from liquid and add vegetables bringing to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and boil until vegetables are tender, no more than 20~30 minutes. Place brisket back into liquid for 5 more minutes to warm up. Remove and discard spice bag.
Transfer meat to cutting board. Cut across the grain of the brisket, slicing as thinly as possible. If you have an electric knife, this is the time to whip it out. Serve with mustard, horseradish. Eat!
Yield: 6 to 8 servings but who's counting :)
Best Corned Beef Sandwich
Rye bread - I like to pick up a variety of styles
Corned beef, thinly sliced
Vegetables, leftovers from recipe above
Fontina cheese, sliced
*When having people over I usually request everyone bring a mustard this adds extra fun to the party. My favorites are of the stone-ground variety.
Assemble sandwiches using all the ingredients above.
Butter outside of bread and add sandwiches to skillet. Cook until golden brown over medium heat, pressing with spatula occasionally. Flip and repeat. Cut and chow down...yummy!!