Monday, November 28, 2011

Making Corned Beef

I took the plunge.  I made the brine yesterday from my old cookbook from the 40's.  The bacon recipe called for 100 lbs of bacon and the corned beef recipe started with "Scrub a good oak barrel thoroughly.  Put as much fresh-killed beef as desired in barrel....."

I had to cut the recipes down.  Way down.  I was using two one gallon jars and one 2 gallon jar, since all my other big jars are occupied right now.

I made the brines yesterday so they could cool down for a day.  The proportions I used are as follows:

Bacon brine:

2 lbs salt (used kosher salt)
12 oz brown sugar (I added molasses to white sugar)
3/4 oz salt peter (LEFT THIS OUT!!!!  EEK!)
1 gallon water

I heated it to melt the salt and sugar and left it covered for a day.

The bacon is some stuff that accidentally got left in the kitchen freezer when the bucket of bacon went to the butcher for brining, smoking, and slicing last year.  I decided to take the plunge so we can decide if we want to attempt making all of our own bacon this year.  The butcher charged me $2 per pound!  Looks like we could have a lot of bacon this year, too.

Corned beef brine:

1 1/2 lbs salt
1/2 lb brown sugar
1/2 oz salt peter (see above!)
1 gallon water

The corned beef will sit in the downstairs fridge for ten days and will be tested and if done, frozen for future meals.  I used 7 lbs of pastured boneless beef ("peeled knuckle.")

The bacon recipe says it can be kept in the brine for a year, or taken out after five weeks and smoked.  I'm way past that now but we may still attempt to smoke it.

Both required weighting the meat floats and part is above the brine otherwise.  My mother used to use a big scrubbed rock in a crock.  With the jars that do not have a wide opening, any rock that fits in the top will slip down the side.  So I reluctantly broke my no plastic rule and filled ziplocs with some of the brine (in case of a leak, which would dilute the brine if filled with water).

The corned beef is then cooked by boiling it.  You can add root veggies such as big chunks of carrots, turnip or rutabaga, potatoes, and onions and wedges of cabbage for a New England Boiled Dinner.  Or you can slice the meat for sandwiches or have some with your morning eggs.  Or my personal favorite, corned beef hash:

Since taking this pic, I discovered that it is much, much better if the diced potatoes are partially browned first, then add the diced beef and lightly brown it as the potatoes finish browning.  When I put them all in at the same time, the meat dried out a bit.  Probably because it was pastured so a lot leaner than what I was used to from the store.  I like things crispy, too.  Either way, it was delicious.

(This was made in August, before I started this journal....I have another batch of corned beef brining now.  Super easy and super yummy!)


  1. I made corned beef last fall for the first time, w/o the nitrates/nitrites. I used brisket and it turned out fine. It did turn gray, but that was expected. We cooked it up with cabbage, potatoes and carrots and the usual seasonings. It was pretty good.

    A couple weeks ago I had the remains of a pulled pork shoulder I had made with pear sauce for liquid in the crockpot. I found a recipe that called for parsnips in place of potatoes and onions, salt and pepper. The ground was not too frozen and I was able to dig enough parsnips. That was some of the best hash I've ever had!

  2. Sounds wonderful, Pam! Isn't homemade corned beef the best? You can use any cut you'd like. I just love the taste. I'm going to corn some pork soon and see how that works out. My mother talks longingly of the corned pork ribs she ate as a child so I think I'll take some ribs out of the freezer and brine them up.

    Parsnips are such an old-fashioned veggie, aren't they? I never thought of using them in hash. I'll have to try that. Sounds great!