If you have a piece of brisket, the Accidental Locavore knows there’s a lot you can do with it. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and in honor of nothing in particular (maybe that I can finally access my smoker?), here’s how to take that brisket and turn it into corned beef and/or pastrami. It’s very easy, you just need to give it some time to brine and if you’re looking for corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day, get to work! This is from Michael Ruhelman’s Charcuterie. Weights are given here, because if you have a food scale, this is a really good time to use it. If you don’t, go buy one! If the thought of all this corned beef or pastrami is too tempting, you can use a smaller piece of meat and halve the brine ingredients (but it freezes really well!). I’ve also make pastrami using beef tri-tip or lamb shoulder, both equally delicious.
For the corned beef brine:
- 1 gallon of water
- 2 cups/450 grams kosher salt
- 1/2 cup/100 grams sugar
- 5 teaspoons/25 grams pink salt*
- 1 tablespoon/8 grams Pickling Spice plus 2 tablespoons/20 grams for cooking the corned beef
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-5 pound brisket, well-marbled
Combine all the ingredients except the brisket in a pot big enough to hold them and the brisket (and fit in your refrigerator). Bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and cool to room temperature. Place the brisket in the brine, with a plate or something to keep it submerged. Refrigerate for 5 days.
Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse it thoroughly under running water. Place the brisket in a pot just large enough to hold it, add water to cover the meat and add the additional pickling spice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 3 hours until the brisket is fork tender. Make sure the water always covers the meat, if not add additional water until it does. Remove the cooked corned beef from the liquid, serve and enjoy!
Notes: I usually forget about making corned beef and turn it into pastrami. To do that, add ½ cup dark brown sugar and ¼ cup honey to the brine. Brine the meat in the same way, but only for 3 days. Remove the brisket from the brine, rinse very well and pat dry. In a small frying pan toast 1 tablespoon coriander seeds and 1 tablespoon black peppercorns over medium heat, until they are just starting to be fragrant. Grind them in a spice mill or coffee grinder until coarsely ground. Rub evenly over the meat.
Hot-smoke the meat to an internal temperature of 150°; on my smoker it’s about 4 hours. Preheat the oven to 275°. Place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan filled with 1” of water. Bring it to a simmer on the stove-top, then cover with aluminum foil and cook for 2-3 hours until it’s fork tender. Serve and enjoy!
*Pink salt is a curing salt and not the Himalayan pink salt you might come across.