[Sca-cooks] Corned beef

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Mon Mar 17 18:13:47 PDT 2008

On Mar 17, 2008, at 8:43 PM, Jennifer Carlson wrote:

> I've just pushed back from a St. Patrick's meal of colcoannon,

Didja say, "Death to the Red Hag!" with your first bite of colcannon?  
You're supposed to, at Lughnasa, anyway. It's one of the few examples  
I can think of a toast spoken with food...

> buttermilk cornbread, and my first home-cured corned beef.  I am  
> sated and happy, and already anticipating the next time I make  
> corned beef.  I also have a question for the list.
> To corn a 9.5 lb brisket, I brined it in a gallon of water and 2  
> cups kosher salt; 1 cup brown sugar; 4 tablespoons saltpeter; 2  
> cinnamon sticks; 2 teaspoons each mustard seed, black peppercorns,  
> whole allspice, and juniper berries; a dozen cloves; a couple of bay  
> leaves; and a teaspoon ground ginger.  I let it brine ten days  
> before cooking half the meat. The rest is in the freezer.
> It came out beautifully, with that lovely red color and a spice  
> taste that didn't overwhelm.  The only issue is the amount of salt -  
> not the taste, but the sodium level.  The husband has to monitor his  
> blood pressure, and this recipe produces what can be only a rare  
> treat for him.

Well, if you had it every day it wouldn't be so special, would it? I  
think there are a lot of foods I'd rather have in an unadulterated,  
non-wimpy form, even if it means having less of them or less often.

> My question is: is ten days necessary to properly brine the meat?   
> Can I get away with less salt in the brine?

If you take a look here,


you'll see that it's a pretty similar brine, with a similar degree of  
salt saturation, but about half as much total brine. It uses half the  
salt and presumably does the job (briskets tending not to vary _that_  
much in weight when you get a whole piece), but I doubt the finished  
product has any less sodium than the product of the recipe you used.

>  What experiences have others had with making corned beef?

I've only used recipes that involve dry-salting the meat, and letting  
the meat juice leak out and form a brine around it. I also made salt  
pork using this same dry-salting method in those vacuum-sealed pouches  
-- that worked very well, because it was compact, neat, and the meat  
was always covered with the brine and didn't have to be turned every  
day. It didn't really cure a lot more quickly, but it needed very  
little attention.

There's a rule which I could dig out if need be, but basically, as  
with many cooking processes, you need a certain amount of time per  
inch of thickness for the salt to penetrate. Because it's partially a  
fermenting process, you do need a certain amount of time for the  
bacteria to get into your brine. In general I'd say four days to a  
week, with four days at the absolute minimum for a small, thin piece  
of meat, and ten days for a really thick piece.

> I am SO looking forward to corned beef hash tomorrow morning!

Yep. There's no comparing that sour dog food in a can to real hash.

I was issued some commercially corned beef by the local authorities,  
and just simmered it in water with copious quantities of pickling  
spices added, and it was fine. I made some brown soda bread  
(buttermilk, indeed! hah! sour milk's what you need!) to go with it,  
plus the veg added to the pot.

My culinary coup for the past couple of days was the onion conserve  
sweetened with chopped dates (basically the 1980's nouvelle standby of  
onion marmalade, with chopped dates replacing all of the sugar) in  
honor of Palm Sunday, served with a rather plain roast eye round of  
beef, the onion goop, a chopped green onion condiment I pretty much  
made up as I went along, coarse bulgur pilaf with brunoise vegetables,  
and a salad. But the onion goop was outstanding on roast beef  


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