Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Irish American Corned Beef Brisket & Cabbage ~ Brine Cured Beef Brisket

     Corned Beef Brisket Made From Scratch!
     Corned beef is salt preserved beef.  There are two ways to make corned beef.  Dry curing is one method, but the most common way is to pickle the beef brisket in brine.  

     The basic rule of thumb for the amount of time that is required for pickling beef in brine can be estimated by using a simple formula.  For every inch of thickness of the beef, 5 days of pickling time is necessary.  For a a cut of brisket that is 3" thick, it will be necessary to pickle the beef for 2 weeks plus 1 day.  For a 1 1/2" thick piece of brisket, 7 or 8 days is plenty of pickling time.   
     Brine curing is a very forgiving method of preserving meat.  The salts are mixed with water to create a pickling brine.  The only critical measurement is the amount of preserving salt per quantity of water.  
     The proportion of curing salt to water does not change, not matter how much beef needs to be pickled.  Only enough brine is needed to completely cover the meat in a container, so the meat is surrounded by 1/2" to 1" of liquid.  Too small of an amount of pickling brine will not be sufficient for thorough penetration.  Too much pickling brine would simply be a waste of pickling salt, so there is no threat of consuming an excess amount of preserving salt.  
     Brine for pickling beef can be made with just Kosher Salt, but the meat will not gain the pink color characteristic of corned beef that consumers expect to see.  Nitrate salts, nitrite salts and trace amounts of glycerides are necessary for preserving the meat quickly and these strong preserving salt compounds will give the beef a nice pink color.  
     Sugar is also a necessary ingredient in the pickling mixture, because sugar actually is a liquifying agent that facilitates salt penetration.  Sugar also balances the salt flavor and allows the additional spice flavors to penetrate the meat.
     Only professional chefs, sausage manufacturers and butchers can legally access strong pure powerful curing salts.  The FDA regulates the use of Prague Salt I and Prague Salt II for good a reason.  Too much pure professional grade curing salt in a cured meat product can cause illness or death.  
     The only kind of curing salt that is recommended for home use in this food website is a pre-mixed curing salt blend.  Pre-mix curing salt blends are user friendly and very forgiving if a mistake is made.  
     Over the counter curing salt blends can be purchased at butcher shops, hunting supply stores and meat markets.  Morton Tender Quick is one of the best curing salt blends and this product is user friendly.  One would have to use nearly eight times the recommended amount of Morton Tender Quick to enter the excessive curing salt danger zone.    

    The selection of seasonings, spices and herbs that are added to curing salt brine for pickling beef are pretty much the choice of the chef.  Ground herbs and spices should not be used, because the surface of the meat will discolor.  Whole dried herbs and whole spice seeds are the best choice for flavoring pickling brine.  

     Brisket and Eye Of Round are the two most popular beef sections for making corned beef.  Brisket is the best choice, because there is more fat marbling and the finished corned beef will be more tender.  A whole beef brisket can weigh over 10 pounds and this much corned beef will feed many people.  Most butchers will cut a whole beef brisket in half or into thirds upon request.  
     I purchased a center section of beef brisket for today's recipe.  The center section weighed almost 3 pounds and the price was less than $8.  By pickling the beef in the kitchen a lot of money was saved, because good corned beef at a delicatessen sells for about $5 to $6 per pound.  Not only was there a savings in price, the quality of manufactured store bought corned beef is not nearly as good as freshly made hand crafted corned beef!  

     Corned beef is not Irish!  In Ireland, corned beef is looked upon as being just another foreign food item.  There is no traditional St Patty's Day meal of corned beef and cabbage that is served in Ireland.  Corned beef and cabbage actually is an Irish American St Patty's Day tradition.  
     The origin of corned beef actually has its roots in Germany and Eastern Europe.  Every culture has a history of preserving meat with salt.  Because of the unique preserving salts that are native to Eastern European countries, this region of the world is where the best meat curing knowledge can be found.  
     During the late 1800's and early 1900's in America, corned beef helped many poverty stricken citizens and immigrants to survive poor economic times.  Irish immigrants had it tough when they landed on American shores.  The deck was stacked against the Irish immigrants and banding together was the only hope when push came to shove.  
     Many Irish American families were dirt poor during wartime recessions and the Great Depression.  Corned beef or canned corned beef was the only affordable choice of meat for the family dinner table.  Canned or fresh corned beef was food for the poor laborers that worked all day for a pocket full of pennies.  

     Today's Corned Beef and Cabbage plate presentation is an example of how this classic entrée is served at a good pub or tavern.  The portion size is generous and the food is arranged in a way that creates eye appeal.  
     Whole red bliss potatoes can be cooked so the bright color is preserved, just by placing them in the same pot with the simmering buttered cabbage.  Large red bliss potatoes should be partially turned or scored with a fluting tool, in order to increase eye appeal.  
     Kale is in the cabbage family of plants and it is a popular vegetable in Ireland.  In America, kale has gone from being a garnish that was tossed in the garbage after a meal to being a trendy health food item.  Organic Purple Kale was added to the cabbage for color and flavor.  Kale increases the appeal of boiled cabbage in this modern age.   

     Pickling Brine:
     This recipe yields 1/2 gallon of pickling brine.  About 1/2 gallon of brine is enough to completely cover a 2 1/2 to 3 pound piece of beef brisket on a shallow container.
     If more or less beef is pickled, the proportion of curing salts to water remains the same.  
     Morton Tender Quick is a very easy to use curing salt mixture that is safe to use in a home kitchen.
     Place 1/2 gallon of water in a container.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of Morton Tender Quick.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt.
     Add 6 laurel leaves.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole mustard seeds.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole coriander seeds.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole Brazilian Peppercorns.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole Szechuan Pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of dried whole rosemary.
     Add 1 whole dried chile pepper.  (Cayenne, Chile Japon or Chile Arbol are good choices.)
     Add 8 to 10 dried allspice berries.
     Add 6 to 8 dried cloves.
     Stir the ingredients together.

     Corned Beef Brisket:
     Step 1:  Place a 2 1/2 to 3 pound piece of beef brisket in a shallow container.
     Add enough pickling brine to cover the beef with a minimum of 1" of extra liquid.
     Cover the container with a lid.
     Step 2:  Judge the pickling time by the thickness of the beef.  For every inch of thickness, 5 days of pickling time will be needed.  Record the starting time and date and the estimated finish time on a paper label.  Attach the label to the container.
     Step 3:  Place the container in a refrigerator.  
     Once every day or two, flip the beef over in the pickling brine.
     When the finish date arrives, the beef will be fully pickled. 

     Oven Roasted Corned Beef:
     Step 1:  Place the the piece of pickled beef brisket in a high sided roasting pan, so the fat cap side of the brisket faces up.
     Add 1 cup of the pickling brine and spices from the container the beef was pickled in. 
     Add enough water to barely cover the brisket.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of malt vinegar.
     Step 2:  Cover the roasting pan with foil or a lid.
     Place the pan in a 290º to 300º oven.
     Slowly roast till the corned beef becomes fully cooked and tender.  Beef brisket takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours of slow roasting to become tender.  Add water to the pan if necessary.  Do not roast for too much time, or the brisket will become so tender that it will shred apart!
     Keep the corned beef brisket pan warm on a stove top.

     Boiled Cabbage and Potatoes:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion!
     Step 1:  Place 4 cups of large bite size cabbage pieces in a pot.
     Add 1 cup of bite size purple kale pieces.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 cup of chicken broth.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of malt vinegar.
     Add enough water to cover the cabbage with 1/2" of extra liquid.
     Step 2:  Place the pot over medium heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Place 2 large red bliss potatoes in the pot.  (Decoratively turn the potatoes with a fluting tool or paring knife.
     Step 4:  Cover the pot with a lid.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and steam, till the cabbage and potatoes are fully cooked and tender.  Flip the potatoes over in the simmering liquid occasionally, so they cook evenly.  The lid will hold the steam and flavor in the pot.  The steam is actually what cooks the potatoes!  Only add a little bit of water, if the level of liquid drops below the level of cabbage.
     Keep the cabbage and potatoes warm on a stove top.
     Irish American Corned Beef Brisket & Cabbage:
     Step 1:  Remove the brisket from the pan.  
     Brush off any spices that cling to the corned beef.
     Trim off any excess fat, but leave a tastefully thin layer of fat intact.
     Step 2:  Bias cut thin slices of the corned beef brisket at a 45º angle across the grain of the meat.  About 9 ounces is a good St Patty's Day portion!  
     Step 3:  Use a slotted spoon to place a generous portion of the cabbage on a large plate as a bed for the corned beef.
     Place the 2 red potatoes on the back half of the plate.
     Overlap the corned beef slices on top of the cabbage, so they fan outward from the potatoes. 
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Viola!  Hand crafted perfection corned beef brisket!

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