How to Cure
To make your own corned beef you will need a large, probably 2-gallon, zip-lock bag and a roasting pan that will accommodate the bag when filled with meat and brine and will fit in your refrigerator.
I like to use Alton Brown’s recipe for a wet brine. Place a 6 or 8-quart stock pot over high heat and add 1 quart of cold water. Stir in 12 ounces by weight of kosher salt (weight is the only way to ensure the correct quantity of salt) and ½ cup light brown sugar.
Add 4 teaspoons of curing salt if you want the corned beef to be pink. If you don’t want the nitrites, leave it out, but the meat will be a nice gray color when cooked.
Add the following herbs and spices:
1 stick of cinnamon, broken into several pieces
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
8 allspice berries
12 juniper berries
2 crumbled bay leaves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and add 3 pounds of ice cubes to cool and dilute the brine. Place in the refrigerator and cool to 40 degrees.
Place a 4 to 5-pound piece of beef brisket in the 2-gallon zip-lock bag and add the brine. Remove excess air and seal the bag securely. Lay the bag in a pan that will
accommodate it and refrigerate. Leave in the refrigerator for 5 days, turning the bag and massaging the brine every day.
After 5 days remove the brisket from the brine. Cut off a bit of beef and taste. If it seems well flavored, rinse in cold water. Plan on wrapping in plastic and cooking the brisket in a day or so. If you think it needs a little more time, return to the bag for an additional day.
How to Cook
Place a 3 to 5-pound piece of corned beef, your own or store bought, in an 8-quart stock pot and add water to cover by 1-inch. Add 2 teaspoons of coarsely cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon of allspice berries, 2 bay leaves and 2 teaspoons kosher salt.
Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook for about 3 hours.
Add 3 or 4 coarsely diced carrots, 2 coarsely diced medium onions, 1 pound of russet potato chunks and 2 stalks of diced celery. Return to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Add a small head of cabbage that has been cut in thin wedges or coarsely diced. After a few minutes take out the beef and let it rest on a cutting board, tented with foil.
Continue to cook vegetables for a total of 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and cabbage are tender. Fish out the bay leaves.
Slice the beef across the grain and arrange on a platter with the vegetables and some of their juice.
Serve with whole grain bread and Irish butter. Guinness stout would be a good beverage choice, or a sturdy white wine or light red.
Plan on having leftovers to chop and brown for hash for breakfast or supper.