Friday, 25 July 2008

Home-Corned Beef

Did you know there is no corn in corn beef?

Err.... durrrrr.... probably!

So do you know why they call it corn beef (or corned beef) then?


Well I didn't until recently - apparently it is because it is cured with coarse salt - and the grains are also known as corns of salt.

So there you go!

Well, what is this stuff then??

Ah... this is what we folks in the UK call corn beef.... also known as bully beef outside of the UK. And it comes in a dangerous tin that you need a special key to open...

And we call American-style corn beef, salt beef!

Confused yet?! Well the German's apparently have two different varieties of tinned corn beef... And the Danish have yet another two types on top of that...

And don't even start me on pastrami (smoked, not boiled, if you're interested!)

Basically, what it all comes down to, is that corn beef is beef that has been cured with salt.

No corn involved!

So, the type of corned beef that I am making here is an American-style cure - I soaked the beef brisket in a spiced brine for 6 days, before gently simmering it for three and a half hours until the meat is meltingly tender.

I then chilled it before slicing and chunking.

To saltpeter, or not to saltpeter?
Corn beef cures traditionally contain saltpeter - a food preservative, which also gives the meat the traditional pink colour. Also known as
potassium nitrate, saltpeter is now thought to be carcinogenic - so I left it out. With modern refrigeration methods it isn't needed as a preservative - and it didn't seem worth the chemicals, just to make it pink! The flavour and texture are unaffected.

This recipe takes a bit of time to make - but not much actualy work is involved. So if you have a spare space in your fridge, give it a go. Adjust the spices used in the brine to your own taste - want it hot? Add more dried chilli. Hate garlic? Leave it out!

Recipes using my corned beef to follow!

Home-Corned Beef

Makes a lot of corned beef!!
  • 3 kilo beef brisket
  • approx 8 cups of filtered water
  • 1 cup maldon sea salt - I wouldn't use cheap salt here - that's what's going to be flavouring your meat!!
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp mixed whole pickling spices (allspice berries, dried chili, black peppercorns, bay leaves)
Prepare the Brine...
I prepared my brine in the casserole dish I was using to soak it. (I tried to buy a zip lock bag to use, but couldn't find one big enough!)

Bring half of the water to the boil and add the salt and sugar to it. Stir until dissolved (bring back to the boil if required).

Add the other spices to the mix, the remaining water and allow to cool. (I put some reusable ice cubes in to make it cool down more quickly without diluting! I guess if you add less water you could put in real ice cubes... or be patient and wait for it to cool down naturally!)

Add the Beef...
Trim any excess fat from the beef joint, and gently place into the cooled brine.

Use a non-metallic weight to ensure the joint is fully submerged - add more water if necessary.

Just after immersion!

Store in the refridgerator for 6 to 10 days, turning the joint daily. I'm not sure how you're supposed to know when it's ready to take out (I'm writing this at day 2), but I'll let you know!


Whilst you're waiting, here's a pretty pic of a pre-sunset from my living room window!

And back to the waiting...
Ok... And I'm back!

I waiting 6 days in the end - and I'm still not sure if that was too little/ too much or just enough!

But the joint felt firm to the touch all over, and had turned a pale pink colour. Does that mean anything?!??

Prepare for the Cooking...
Anyway, on the 7th day, I removed the meat and discarded the brine. I then rinsed it thoroughly under cold water, before placing it in a large saucepan along with one roughly chopped onion, 6 peppercorns, 3 juniper berries and a couple of bay leaves.

Top up the pot with water until the meat is covered, then bring to the boil. One boiled, cover and turn to the lowest heat possible and gently simmer for 3-4 hours (depending on the thickness of your meat.
I reserved the stock that the beef was cooked it - it had a gorgeous deep spicy flavour, yum!

Once cooked, remove to a dish, loosely cover and leave to cool.* Once cold, put in the fridge for at least a couple of hours - you want it really cold before you try to slice it.

Using a really sharp knife, cut the corned beef into thin slices for sandwiches - and into chunks if you want to use it in hash/soup etc.

* I was going to have some of it hot, but in the end, decided to save it all for future use!

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Ben said...

I've never made corn beef, but I have a friend who makes an amazing one. I didn't know why it was called corn beef, so thank you for the lesson. :)

Dee said...

Ooh, yeah! My husband is so going to love me :) D'ya think I could skip the juniper berries? Pretty sure I won't find any here :(

Jeff said...

With some cabbage and carrots ohh...drool I heart corned beef. Nicely executed!

6 days is the perfect amount of time for corned beef. I normally go for 14 days but have done it earlier and the taste difference is barely noticable. Why you ask do I go 14 days then because I get sidetracked very easily and usually end up forgetting about it for a couple days.

Mike said...

I've made corned beef! I've made it twice and it was soooooo good. here's my attempt:

My best bloggy friend Sara made something close to this:

Neen said...

I read an article about corn beef this past year... it seemed like the overacheiver recipe to end all overacheiver recipes. I hope that the taste was worth waiting 6 days for!

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glamah16 said...

I'm SO Impressed. I want some.

kittie said...

Hey ben! It was surprisingly easy - if you have the fridge space for a week!

That would be fine, Dee - some of the recipes I saw when I was researching it were nothing but salt, sugar and water!

jeff - y'know I hadn't realised that corned beef could be eaten that way until I started looking at this - next time I'll try it straight from the pot with veggies!

Thanks for the links Mike - I might try a dry rub next time!

Neen - it took a while, but really wasn't much work! And it was worth it (esp the corned beef hash I made with it - post to follow some time soon!)

Thanks Alisha - great widgets - I've added one now!

coco - make your next business trip to the UK - I've still got some in the freezer!

Lore said...

Gorgeous looking corned beef Kittie! I'm sure this was worth the waiting