Corned Beef for St. Patrick’s Day

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Happy St. Patrick’s day! It’s an Irish-American tradition to eat corned beef with cabbage on St. Patrick’s day. I usually don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s day (most people in the Netherlands haven’t even heard of it), but when I came across a recipe for corned beef with cabbage I thought the cooking technique was very interesting. You see, beef brisket is first cured in salt and spices (similar to the first curing of pancetta or gravlax), and then it is cooked. What finally won me over is that the recipe requires saltpeter (potassium nitrate, KNO3 or E252). Ironically, this ingredient is not available in Ireland, and so I bought it for Conor so he could make spiced beef. Although Conor only needed 12 grams, the smallest amount I could order was 2.5 kilograms.

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I mailed enough of the ‘dangerous substance’ to Ireland for Conor to make spiced beef twice, and got stuck with the rest. By preparing corned beef for St. Patty’s, I used up another 1.2 grams. This means 25.2 grams down, 2474.8 grams to go… 😉

Seriously though, the corned beef turned out very nice. I followed the recipe from Serious Eats, cooking the beef sous-vide after the curing stage. The cabbage, potatoes, and carrots are then cooked in the liquid from the sous-vide pouch to give them some beefy flavor. I served it with sharp English mustard on the side. We hardly ever eat “potatoes, vegetables and meat”, which used to be, and still is for many, standard diet in the Netherlands. But now we did, in honor of an Irish holiday that Kees had never heard about before.

I mostly followed the recipe of Serious Eats, except that I reduced the salt by about a third. I am glad that I did, because the saltiness was just right. I made a portion for two, but you can easily scale the recipe using the percentages provided. Oh and if you want to make this for St. Patrick’s day, you’ll have to wait until next year, as it requires a week to cure the meat.

Ingredients

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For the corned beef, 2 servings

360 grams (.8 lbs) [100%] beef brisket

10.8 grams [3%] salt

1.2 grams [.33%] saltpeter

4.7 grams [1.3%] brown sugar

2.9 grams [.8%] black peppercorns

3.5 grams [.97%] yellow mustard seeds

1.6 grams [.44%] coriander seed

.95 grams [.27%] whole allspice

1 clove [.022%]

.85 grams [.24%] ground ginger

1 bay leaf, torn

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To serve

beef, cured and cooked, from above, with the juices

200 grams (.44 lbs) cabbage

500 grams (1.1 lbs) potatoes

200 grams (.44 lbs) carrots

sharp mustard

Preparation

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Combine sugar and salt in a small bowl and stir until well mixed. Rub the meat with this mixture on all sides. Mix up the spices.

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Press the spices onto the surface on both sides.

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Vacuum seal and store in the coldest part of the refrigerator for a week, turning every day.

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After a week, take the meat out of the refrigerator.

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Rinse it under cold running water and remove all of the spices.

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Pat dry with paper towels.

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Vacuum seal.

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Cook sous-vide for 10 hours at 82ºC/180ºF for a traditional texture. This will make the meat a bit dry, but you will have lots of juices to cook the vegetables.

Alternatively, cook 48 hours at 57ºC/135ºF. The meat will be much more juicy that way, but not as traditional and less juices to cook the vegetables.

Allow the meat to cool in the bag overnight. The meat will reabsorb some of the juices that way, and will be easier to slice when it’s cold.

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Peel the potatoes and carrots and cut them into chunks. Cut the tough vein out of the cabbage.

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Pour the juices into a large pot, making sure that you have a frying pan with its own cover that you can use to cover the pot. (You will understand why soon.)

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Add the vegetables. As the juices are quite salty, there is no need to add salt.

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Add about 1/2 litre (2 cups) of cold water.

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Slice the meat thinly against the grain.

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Arrange the meat in a frying pan, and add about 60 ml (1/4 cup) of the diluted juices from the pot to moisten it.

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Cover the frying pan and put it on top of the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, and boil the vegetables until they are tender, about 40 minutes.

The heat from the pot will also gently heat up the meat without overcooking it.

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Meanwhile, make the mustard by gradually adding water to the mustard powder.

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Adding the water gradually will help to prevent lumps.

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Check with a fork whether the potatoes and carrots are cooked.

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Serve the meat and vegetables on preheated plates with the mustard on the side.

Flashback

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I love Peking Duck, but I always thought it was very difficult to make at home. This shortcut is easy and works pretty well: just boil the whole duck with some honey and soy sauce, allow it to dry in the refrigerator and then roast it for 1.5 hours.

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19 thoughts on “Corned Beef for St. Patrick’s Day

  1. Very nice Stefan. I, too, read the Serious Eats approach, as well as who knows how many others. I’m glad to see you tried it. Did you do the 10 hr sous vide or the 48 hr? Also, did you notice areas of meat with more spice than others by opting for the dry cure? One other point is the meat seems a little grey which is indicative of corned beef without nitrates, i.e. Saltpeter. It’s a chemical thing. So, I’m curious about the amount and process. Overall, was it worth doing again? Would you make changes and, if so, what?

    Thanks. 😊

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    • Hi Richard, I did the 10 hour sous-vide as per the Serious Eats recipe. I think though that I’d prefer the 48 hour preparation because it is more juicy. The spiciness and color of the meat were uniform. It wasn’t a large piece of brisket, so the 7 days were sufficient for the dry cure to penetrate all the way through.
      If you look closely at the pictures, you can tell the meat is quite red when it is first sliced. It seems to be the heating up process that killed the red color.
      I would like to dry cure brisket with spices again before cooking it sous-vide, perhaps combined with smoking (which I’ve done before and was sublime). I don’t really care about the color, but will go back to 48 hours at 57/135 degrees again next time. It’s also nice to use a fattier brisket if I can find it.

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      • We got very busy before St. Patty’s day and I didn’t find time to break down a brisket to cure – we did colcannon fritters and fried eggs. So, I got to it on St. Patty’s day itself. I’m using the deckel (more fatty portion) of the brisket and a wet cure. I also am not using saltpeter. I’m going to try the 48 hr. sous vide and will let you know what I think. Have you thought about corning a tongue? Everything I have read/heard about it is very positive.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kees hates tongue, and it is one of the very few things he won’t eat, so I haven’t cooked it yet in any way.
          I’m interested how your 48-hour corned brisket will turn out.
          Most beef here is grass-fed and very lean. It may be healthier, but it sure is less tasty…

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’m not eating healthy beef. I’m sure it’s grain fed and full of fat. The portion of brisket I cut out for the corned beef was 8+ lbs. After trimming the fat, it weighed 5.5 lbs. I’m really looking forward to it. I will start it tomorrow evening. 😄 Hopefully, a post will follow.

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            • As an FYI-we’re at 48 hours on 59 C, 4.5 lbs of deckle and 1.0 lb of point – it’s just the way it worked out. Both the point and deckle have a lotto flavors as expected but both are VERY chewy and tough. 😮 I’m really surprised. Going to let it go for another 12 hrs and see what happens. It will be an interesting post when I get around to it.

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              • Weird! Brisket for 48 hours at 57 has always been very tender for me. So tender that I’d even consider cooking it for less. So I am really surprised, too, that even at 59 it is not tender after 48 hours. I assume you’ve checked the bath is actually 59 and not 49? 🙂 If it’s still VERY chewy, 12 hours more is unlikely to fix it. It will get tender in the end, but you may need 96 hours.

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  2. Well I bought my corned beef from the local grocery store and cooked it in my crock pot for 10 hours. But I can understand how you had to fend for your own in the Netherlands. This is easily available here in the states pre-seasoned and cured. I’m glad you took on the challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sjaak, if you look at the photos you can see that before heating it back up, it was quite red. I am not sure if it was the heating procedure that reduced the redness or that I should have used more saltpeter. I did use the amount of saltpeter as per the recipe of Serious Eats.

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