Nitrate-Free Corned Beef

Corned Beef

Kiss Me, I’m Irish…Not Really.
When we got married, my husband knew that he was getting a wife who could cook. What he didn’t know was that he was marrying someone who is culinarily (is that even a word?!?) nuts. If I find some celebration, cuisine or ingredient that fascinates me, fasten your seat belts! Like it or not, you are going on this ride of discovery with me as taste-testers, guinea pigs, or unsuspecting victims. This is how the Moroccan Dinner came to be. It is also why I have pickles of many shapes and flavors decorating my shelves—there are too many to eat. It is also why my bookcase is filled with books I may only take out once a year.

Here’s the perfect example: Monday is St. Patrick’s Day. So do I go out and celebrate like the rest of the world with green beer and shamrock shakes? Nope. That would be the normal thing to do…though normal is relative.

This year I am going to corn my own beef for our St. Patrick’s Day dinner. You may first ask yourselves “why?”. The answer is I am compelled to do it, and resistance is futile. The second question may be “Is this a request from my family?” No. “Is it for a school project about St. Patrick’s Day?” No. “Are you Irish?” Nope. I’m just nuts.

I get these ideas in my head about wanting to taste things the way they are supposed to taste, the way they were originally prepared back in the day when you walked out into the pasture to get that night’s dinner, and before mass production was an option. I become obsessed with authenticity. So when I can’t find someone who makes things the “right” way, I give in to my psychosis and make it myself. This is why I’m corning my own beef.

It used to be that butchers would make their own corned beef and people would buy it by the pound—and not just on St. Patrick’s Day. For years we made it here at the store, until people just stopped eating corned beef regularly. Of course the last of our guys to do it took the recipe with him when he left.

I am trying a corned beef recipe I found in Michael Symon’s book Carnivore. It may not be “super authentic” but it’s my first go ’round. Next time I can be psycho authentic chick. It’s nitrate free (which is always a good idea) so the meat won’t have the usual pink hue. I am looking forward to the results and the corned beef hash. 

Nitrate-Free Corned Beef
From adapted from Michael Symon’s Carnivore
Yields 4 to 6 servings

2 lbs kosher salt
1 lb packed light brown sugar
4 bay leaves, fresh or dried
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons crushed juniper berries
1 tablespoon crushed coriander seeds
1 5-pound beef brisket
1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 750 ml bottle white wine

Make the brine
In a non reactive pot, combine 6 quarts of water, the salt, brown sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns, juniper berries, and coriander and bring the mixture to a simmer. Whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Chill this mixture completely.

Corn the brisket
Put the brisket in a deep container large enough to accommodate it. Pour the chilled liquid over the meat, weighing the brisket down with a plate to keep it fully submerged. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 4 days.

Cook the brisket
Remove the brisket from the corning liquid, rinse it, and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the corning liquid.

In a large stock pot, combine the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and wine. Add enough water to cover the brisket and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Add the brisket and simmer until the meat is fork tender (about 3 hours). Carefully remove the brisket from the cooking liquid and allow it to cool slightly. Thinly slice it across the grain before serving.

To store
Cool the corned beef completely, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Reheat the corned beef before serving.

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