Homemade Corned Beef

I’ve planned to corn my own beef for a little while. Yes, make my own corned beef from scratch. Alton Brown did it, and it didn’t look too difficult. So I bought a brisket back in February, stuck it in the freezer, and planned to make corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day.

However, you have to brine corned beef for 10 days before you cook it. I would have needed to start corning (brining) my beef two Wednesdays or Thursdays before St. Patrick’s Day, and I was traveling around those dates. There was just no time.

I’m glad it worked out this way, though. Instead of making corned beef when everyone else does, I cooked it, and baked homemade rye bread to go with it, during a late March snowstorm (about a month ago!). I can’t think of any way I’d rather spend a snowy Sunday than baking.

Homemade Corned Beef on New York Deli Rye
Homemade Corned Beef on New York Deli Rye

Corned Beef (a la Alton Brown)

8 cups water
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick, in pieces
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon peppercorns
8 cloves
8 allspice berries
12 juniper berries
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cups ice water
4-5 pound brisket
1 onion, cut roughly
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped

Combine water, sugar, salt, and spices in a 8-quart pot. Heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and add ice water to cool. Place brisket in a 2-gallon zipper bag – or do as I had to, since I forgot to get bags, and place in the only stock pot (with lid) that it will fit in. Once the liquid is cold (45F or below), pour over the brisket. Seal/cover and refrigerate for 10 days. Stir the brine every day (I forgot) and be sure that the beef is completely submerged.

Once the 10 days are up, remove the beef from the brine and rinse under running water. Place beef in a pot, add carrot, onion, and celery, and top with enough water to cover the beef by an inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat; simmer for about 3 hours, until beef is fork tender. Remove from cooking liquid and discard vegetables. Slice beef thinly to serve.

The corned beef was well-seasoned – I could distinctly taste the cinnamon. It wasn’t too salty; it was flavorful but not overwhelming.  It was juicy and incredibly tender – much better than any corned beef I’d had before. (Although, I don’t eat much corned beef – and when I do, it’s mostly in hash.) The corned beef made for one of the more satisfying sandwiches I’ve had.

I turned the leftovers into a hash (basing it on Alton Brown’s recipe as well), which also turned out well. The corned beef, plus a little salt and pepper, was all the seasoning I needed for it.

Would I corn my own beef again? Sure! It was incredibly easy to do, as long as you don’t mind having a piece of raw brisket in your fridge for a week and a half, and don’t mind handling the meat to rinse it off. I like that I know exactly what went into it – no strange chemicals in it for me! – and I like that it wasn’t too salty. I think corned beef is definitely worth making from scratch again.

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