Home-cured Corned Beef

In Cambodia I used to visit a small shop that made home-made sausages. From time to time, the shop owner would make some corned beef and if you’re lucky you can get some. As I became a regular shopper he started notifying me whenever he made corned beef. Needless to say it was much better than the canned stuff. Of course I asked him how he made it. Although he didn’t give me his recipe, he walked me through the process–preparing the pickling spices, making the brine, the curing that lasted for days, and the hours’ worth of boiling it to a fork-tender consistency.

I’ve been longing to make my own corned beef so I searched for recipes and found 3 that I could adapt–from Michael Ruhlman and Alton Brown. Last week I finally decided to try out my adapted recipe, which I’m sharing to you.

Home-cured Corned Beef

Ingredients:

1 kg Beef Brisket (ask your butcher to trim the excess fat)

Pickling Spice*

  • 1 tbsp ground allspice
  • 1 tbsp ground mustard seeds (brown or yellow)
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 6 large bay leaves, crumbled**

Brine

  • 2 liters water
  • 1 cup sea salt+
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pink curing salt++
  • 2 tbsp pickling spices
  • 1 stick cinnamon

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Process:

  1. To make the pickling spice, toast the coriander, black peppercorns, and the bay leaves on a hot pan. Turn off the flame when you hear the coriander seeds popping. Pound them in a mortar and pestle, transfer it to a bowl then add the remaining powdered spices. Mix well.
  2. To make the brine, put all the ingredients in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, let it cool to room temperature then refrigerate until well chilled.
  3. Place the beef brisket in a 2-gallon freezer bag (I used Ziplock) followed by the brine. Squeeze out the air from the bag before sealing. To minimize the risk of leaking, I put the freezer bag on a plastic container (a rectangular Lock and Lock) before putting it in the refrigerator.
  4. Chill for 7 days. Flip the bag every day so that both sides of the brisket are cured evenly.
  5. At the end of the cure, remove the brisket from the brine and rinse off the brine with cold water. Place the brisket in a large pot that just fits around the brisket and cover with at least one inch of water. If you want your brisket less salty, add another inch of water to the pot. Add a tablespoon of the pickling spices to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a very low simmer (barely bubbling), and cook 3-4 hours, until the corned beef is fork tender.
  6. At this point you can store in the fridge for up to a week. Remove the meat to a cutting board. Slice thinly against the grain to serve.

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Some tips:

* these spices can be found in supermarket; I found some in SM while others in Landmark

** when I made this, I had a bunch of fresh bay leaves so I used those; I just cut them into small pieces because fresh leaves can’t be crumbled

+ don’t use iodized salt

++ you can skip this ingredient if you’re not comfortable using it; however, for me, corned beef isn’t corned beef if it isn’t colored red

And because I’m Filipino, I like eating corned beef when it is sauteed in garlic, red onions, and tomatoes. Sometimes, with diced potatoes and a bit of broth even. We had it for breakfast and it was perfect with crusty pan de sal. I’m sure it would be great with rice as well. To conclude, was all the effort in making my own corned beef worth it? Texture and taste-wise, I think it is. Although corned beef is such a rich food that it doesn’t have to be eaten very frequently. I’ll be making corned beef again, sure, but only when I’m feeling indulgent. 🙂

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