Corning beef is a way of preserving the meat in order to eat later. The word corned comes from the English use of the word corn, meaning any small particle. It originally used corn sized pellets of salt rubbed into the meat to preserve it. Corned beef is usually associated with the Irish and the Irish holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. The process of corning usually involves tough and fatty pieces of meat. Commonly, the brisket is used. It is the chest muscle of the beef. It is usually cut into two pieces of beef, the flat cut and the point cut. The flat cut is long and thin, and has a thick layer of fat. The point cut is usually ground into hamburger.
Point Cut of Brisket
Corning meats usually consists of curing the meat, and then cooking and serving the meat. Sodium Nitrate is used in the curing. It tenderizes the meat and also gives flavor to the meat. Using a sodium nitrate also preserves the color of the meat. Since the brisket is a tough piece of me, it takes a low and slow cooking method such as braising. By using a sodium nitrate, it keeps the internal color of the beef as pink. There are two methods of curing the meat: a dry rub and a brine cure. A dry rub is rubbed over the meat, and then left at least 2 or 3 days to cure. A brine cure consists of emerging the beef into a cure for at least 2 days. However, for the most successful outcome, the meat needs to cure for at least 1 week.
Sodium Nitrates- TCM or tinted curing mix
Traditionally, boiling the brisket was the method of cooking. It was down to leech out some of the saltiness. However, braising is better than boiling. It is the traditional way to cook tough meats. Place the meat in a deep pan with a little liquid. Cover the pan and cook at about 185°F. This creates a steam bath that helps to leech out some of the saltiness as well.
- 2 quarts water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp sodium nitrates*
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 8 whole cloves
- 8 whole allspice
- 12 whole juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves, crushed
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 2 quarts ice
- 4-5 pounds raw brisket (keep the fat on)
- 1 onion, sliced thin
- 5 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
For the Cure: Place the water into a large 6 to 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, saltpeter, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the ice. Stir until the ice has melted. If necessary, place the brine into the refrigerator until it reaches a temperature of 41° F or lower. Once the brine has cooled, pour it over the brisket, garlic, and onion in a large pot, or 2 gallon zip top bag. Cover (or seal up the bag) and place in the refrigerator for 10-14 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine.
Cooking: After 10-14 days, remove from the brine and rinse well under cool water. Place the brisket into a pot just large enough to hold the meat, add the onion, carrot and celery and cover with water by 1-inch. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Remove from the pot and thinly slice across the grain.
*Sodium nitrates can be called TCM, or saltpeter. Look for them at outdoor/ camping stores that sell hunting supplies, specialty food stores, and of course by mail order. You may be able to purchase saltpeter from a pharmacy with a copy of the recipe.
Originally Published 3-7-13
© 2013 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger All rights reserved
Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.
Please contact me if you wish to receive “Food For Thought” in your mailbox.