Charcutepalooza: Brining and Corned Beef

This month the name of the game for Charcutepalooza is brining.

I wanted to make pastrami because I love a good reuben. Sans the sauce. Because that thousand island-ish sauce is nasty.  I wanted to make homemade rye crackers & rye bread, making the kraut and making both sandwich Reubens and mini-bite size appetizer Reubens. But alas, I didn’t manage to find a smoker by the time the meat was done brining.


Now, making corned beef calls for pink salt and you may remember last month I discussed the use of pink salt. I had chosen not to use it in recipes that didn’t need it for safety.  In the end I was somewhat disappointed in our bacon and realized that I would need to use some form of nitrate to get the flavor.  I discovered that it was celery powder (natural nitrate) that gives “uncured” meat products the taste we are used to having. That makes bacon taste like bacon and corned beef taste like corned beef.   So instead of pink salt I used celery powder. And, it worked!  The color is a bit different but it tastes like corned beef!  Woot!  I can’t wait to try it with my next attempt at bacon.

Corning Your Beef

The recipe I followed is from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing so go there for full instructions and quantities. The basic gist of making corned beef is to make a brine of water, kosher salt, sugar, garlic, pickling spice, and pink salt (or in our case, celery powder). I actually found specific corned beef pickling spice at Penzey’s when I stopped in on a whim with my mom.   I also put brown sugar and honey in also because the recipe for the pastrami brine called for it and I wasn’t sure what direction I was headed with our beef.  You simmer your brine until sugar and salt are dissolved and then allow to get to room temperature. Plop in your beef brisket and keep it submerged with a plate so that the meat is always covered in the brine.

Clear a big spot in your fridge because the big pot is going to be hogging up a lot of space for 5 days. Drink up some of that beer you’ve been eyeing. Raise the shelves. Do whatever you need to do to get that hunk of meat properly stored.

At the end of 5 days, you’ll rinse it well, place in a pot of water with more pickling spice and simmer for about 3 hours or until it is tender. Slice and serve.

Verdict?  The corned beef turned out just like…corned beef. Which is to say spiced, boiled meat.  I realize that sounds somewhat unappetizing but stick with me because it really was good.  It was everything a corned beef dinner should be- it just isn’t a dinner I need to have often.  But keep reading because I’ll tell you what I do need to have often!

grow and resist charcutepalooza brining corned beef

So....not so corned-beefy-pink (because of the celery powder substitution) but the flavor is all corned beef!

So, we ate our freshly corned beef with the most amazing cabbage ever. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of it. I am sure a picture wouldn’t do it any justice anyway. But get Molly Wizenberg’s book A Homemade Life and make the Cream-Braised Green Cabbage.  It is out of this world. Crazy good.  It follows a bit like this recipe of hers.

The next day was corned beef hash. YES! Now that is corned beef the way I love it! Not the mushy stuff out of a can. Not with random things like green peppers (ew!) added. Just straight up corned beef, potatoes and onions.

grow and resist charcutepalooza brining corned beef

Finely chopped the corned beef in the food processor.

grow and resist charcutepalooza brining corned beef onion potatoes

Chopped onions and the previous evenings leftover potatoes

grow and resist charcutepalooza brining corned beef

Greatest hash I've had. Yes. I said it. It was awesome!

The hash rocked my world! It was fantastic.  The ladyfriend concurred: best ever!   Win!  What put it over the top?  Eggs from over our cute chickens on top.  Nothing like an hours-fresh egg from your own chicken.  The taste is incomparable.

I am glad we made 8 pounds of corned beef because I see a lot of brunch in my future!

Can’t wait to see what is on the agenda for next month!

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10 Responses to Charcutepalooza: Brining and Corned Beef

  1. Traveling Mom says:

    I want some corned beef hash! Yummy!

  2. Mustard says:

    That hash looks so yummy. I wouldn’t doubt that it tasted good. Some day, I’m going to try making that.

  3. The hash looks fabulous! I was interested to see that using celery powder worked fine in terms of flavour and colour – I’ve read about using it instead of the pink salt but this is the first time I’ve seen it actually proven to work, so thankyou!

  4. mosaica says:

    My corned beef dinner (New England boiled dinner with boxties) was last night (to celebrate mom’s b-day), and now I have some leftovers. YOUR hash looks so good, so it’s my inspiration for tonight’s dinner 🙂 The pictures you took make yours look delicious. Thanks!

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  7. DC Doog says:

    What quantity of celery powder did you use to replace the pink salt? Was it 1:1? Have you tried anything else that will still give the corned beef it’s rosy color? Thank you for sharing your results.

    • Hmmmm, great question. I am pretty sure I did a direct substitution 1:1. I haven’t done any further meat curing….the rosy color definitely comes from the pink salt, if you decide to use it. But the celery salt gives it the taste. Good luck!

      • DC Doog says:

        Thank you. I’m wondering if beet powder, which is also naturally high in nitrates would help with the color problem.

  8. Ginnee says:

    I make bacon with no nitrates and it is awesome. I apply a dry rub of crushed fresh black and hot red peppers, salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, all spice….and whatever your favorites are to either pork belly or boneless pork loin. Then I put that in apple juice for 4-6 days in the fridge (zip-lock baggies), turning it everyday. Remove, and then cold smoke it, I use coffee wood because that is what we have.

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