by Cat (Photo, right, by Cat)
- Includes: 1. General Information about Corning Beef (Cut of meat, Saltpeter dilemma, Amount of salt in brine, Time in brine, and Keeping Time); 2 Raw Corned Beef;
- See also: 1. Corned Beef Hash; 2. Curing Beef and Other Meats; 3. Corned Beef, Brined and Braised; 4. Culcannon (Potato and Cabbage or Kale)
Corned beef and cabbage has become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition all across America. But corned beef is good any time of the year! Or, for a change, after corning the brisket, smoke it to make pastrami!
Corning meat is an ancient method of preserving meat, either a dry cure by surrounding the meat with coarse salt, or a wet cure by soaking it in a flavored salt brine. The term ‘corn’ comes from the old English term for grains of salt. This recipe freezes the meat for 14 days (to kill any parasites that might be hiding in the meat), then lacto-ferments in a salt brine (after thawing) so the meat can be served raw.
Leftover corned beef can be used to make corned beef hash. Serve it with an egg or two, cooked sunny side up. This was one of my Dad’s favorite late-night breakfast dishes, after a long night at the bar. See Corned Beef Hash.
General Information: Using a salt brine for meat
The salt brine draws moisture out of the meat, making a less favorable environment for bacterial growth. As the moisture is drawn out, salt is drawn in, deeper and deeper into the meat, drying it out and preserving it. Do NOT use iodized salt–the cured meat will taste bad. Your best choice is Koshering salt (Kosher Salt).
While some recipes indicate using a large metal saucepan, I would suggest using a porcelain-coated stock pot, large glass bowl, or stoneware crock (non-lead glaze) for the brining. A good heavy stainless steel pot in good condition will work in a pinch.
Cut of Meat
Traditionally, brisket is used, and is what I prefer. However, bottom round (rump roast) can also be used, but it is a fairly thick cut so you may wish to cut it in half. See Testing, March 2014 (below) for testing a rump roast. Turns out, I prefer the rump.
The Saltpeter Dilemma
Saltpeter is what gives commercial corned beef its red color, but it is an optional additive if you intend to use cook corned beef right away, store it in the refrigerator up to a week, or freeze it. See Curing Beef and Other Meats (scroll down to section on Alternatives to Saltpeter) for lots more on this topic, including vegetable alternatives to saltpeter such as celery seeds and/or celery juice which contain potassium nitrate naturally.
Rule of Thumb for Amount of Salt in Brine
The amount of salt is dependent on the amount of water used to completely cover the meat, and on the type (grind) of salt used. After dissolving the salt (and sugar) use the egg test (see below) to determine if more salt is needed.
- Morton Kosher Salt: 1 ½ cups salt per gallon (or 6 – 8 Tbsp per quart) of water;
- Table Salt: 1 cup table salt per gallon (or ¼ cup salt per quart) of water;
- Sugar: up to 2 cups per gallon, or ½ cup per quart of water.
How Long in the Brine?
This varies with the size & thickness of the cut of meat. The smaller/thinner the cut, the less time it takes for the salt to penetrate to the core and remove moisture from the cut (removing the moisture is the key to salt preservation, but depriving pathogens this medium for growth).
If you plan to cook it within a week of brining, 4 – 6 days should be long enough to get the desired flavor and texture. But if you plan to keep the corned meat for a longer period of time – as a preservation method – you will want to corn it longer, up to 3 weeks. It will get quite rubbery. When you are ready to use it, soak it in several changes of fresh cold water to remove some of the salt and restore texture, before cooking.
No worries if you corn it too long (it gets really rubbery). A day or so before you plan to cook it, soak it in several changes of fresh cold water, to remove excess salt, over a 24-hour period (or less).
According to Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions (1)), the Raw Corned Beef recipe (lacto-fermented) will keep without refrigeration (but in a cool spot) up to a week; in the refrigerator about 10 days, not more than 2 weeks. (per email 7/21/08).
Raw Corned Beef Recipe
This recipe is from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. (1), used with permission. Be sure to freeze your cut of brisket for at least 14 days to kill any bad bugs, before thawing and corning. Corning with whey makes gives the meat a longer shelf life than corning with just salt, and also allows you to eat it raw. Alternately, you could use brine from fermenting veggies such as cabbage, instead of whey.
This method cures the meat at room temperature, rather than in the refrigerator, for a shorter time than regular corned beef. See also “Keeping Time” above.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- one 2-pound beef brisket (frozen for 14 days, then thawed); if using rump roast, cut it into 2 – 3 pieces so it is not so thick.
- ½ cup whey (see below)
- 1 cup filtered water
- 3 ½ Tbsp Morton’s kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 4 – 5 bay leaves, crumbled
- 1 Tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- bowl fitted with weighted plate (use canned goods as weights)
- You will need a very fine sieve and a bowl. You can buy a yogurt cheese sieve made for this purpose, or line a large strainer with a fine 100% cotton dish towel.
- Pour cultured milk (yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, etc.) into a very fine sieve, set over a bowl, cover, and place in refrigerator (if using pasteurized milk/cream, or at room temperature if using raw milk/cream. The whey will separate and drip through the sieve.
Method of corning:
- Mix seasonings and rub onto all sides of the brisket.
- Place in a bowl that just contains brisket.
- Mix whey with water and pour over meat.
- Cover with weighted plate, and marinate at room temperature for about 2 days, turning frequently.
- Transfer to refrigerator.
- Use for sandwiches, with rye bread and mustard
- Use for corned beef hash (recipe follows)
- Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.. See Beloved Cookbooks for more about this book.
- texascooking.com/features/mar2002cornedbeef.htm (lots of good info)
- 6thtx.org/Salting%20Meat.htm (more good info)