Corned Beef: the American Tradition

Corned BeefWith St. Paddy’s Day right around the corner this year, I thought I would make corned beef from scratch. So I started looking for an authentic Irish corned beef recipe and that is when I found out that it’s not even an Irish tradition for them to cook it on St.Paddy’s Day, nor is it a recipe that is cooked or served in Ireland except as touristy locations.

Corned BeefCorned beef is actually a recipe invented by the Irish-Americans  immigrants who came to the United States. They normally would use cheaper cuts of pork and cure it into Irish bacon. Since beef was the regular meat of the American diet, it was cheaper than pork for the immigrants so they used the same curing process on the brisket and then boiled the meat in a pot of water with more spices until tender. The adding cabbage or potatoes or both to the beef as it cooks was also happened in America, because both were cheap. Corned beef and corn beef and cabbage are an American classic for celebrating the day of green, clover, leprechauns and green beer (another American tradition, not Irish).

Corned BeefAfter all that research, I still decided I wanted to cure a corned beef and would post it in time for St. Paddy’s Day. I just realize now it’s an American tradition and one that I grew up with and enjoy, so I’m keeping it.

Corned BeefIt was a time-consuming process but extremely easy! The time-consuming part just comes in the brining process which takes the minimum of 5 days and up to 14 depending on how much flavor you want to brine into the meat (or have the time and patience for the brisket to sit in your fridge brining away). When it’s done brining, you toss it in a pot of water or in my case, beer and boil (yes, I said boil) the meat for a few hours until fork tender. You can also use a crock pot to make this, which I have done before but this particular piece of meat was too big for my crock, so it went on the stove.

Corned BeefYou can also make your own brining seasoning or buy a good pickling spice. I went the easy route because Savory Spice Shop had a pickling spice with all the ingredients in it that I would have used to make my own up. Also you are going to need some pink curing salt. This keeps the meat from coming out grey and instead is that beautiful red color of corned beef. I am not talking about pink table or sea salt. It’s actually dyed sodium nitrite (I know it’s bad for you) used in the curing of most meats such as bacon, sausages, etc.

Corned BeefI brined my brisket for 6 days and it came out beautiful. It was so tasty and yummy on corned beef sandwiches and in corned beef hash (corned beef, potatoes, onions and an over-easy egg).

Corned Beef

  • Servings: 16-20
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1- 4 to 5 pound brisket

1/4 cup pickling spices + 2 Tbsp, divided

1 gallon water

1 cup Kosher salt

5 tsp. pink curing salt (DO NOT EAT)

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp. black peppercorns

3 Bay leaves

Enough water or beer to cover brisket for cooking

To prepare brine, add the pickling spices, 1 gallon water, salt, pink curing salt and brown sugar to a large pot. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside until cool.

Once the brine is cool, place the brisket in a large ziplock bag or container with a lid and add the brine. Seal or cover and place in the fridge, turning once a day. Brine for as long as you would like, the longer it takes, the more flavor the meat will soak up.

When finished brining, place the brisket in a large pan and cover with water or beer. Cover the brisket to at least 1″ over the top of the meat. I like to use the Guinness Black Lager to cook the corned beef in, it adds so much more flavor. If using the beer, I use five, 12.oz bottles and then make sure the meat is covered with water to finish it off. Add the peppercorns, 2 tablespoons of reserved pickling spices and bay leaves.

Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook until meat is fork tender (3 to 4 hours). If adding cabbage or potatoes to the pot wait until about 45 minutes before the meat is done or they will be extremely overcooked or just wait and remove meat then cook the veggies.

Allow the meat to rest before slicing across the grain. You can even cool in the brine for overnight and then serve the next day for even more flavor.

More recipes using corned beef:

Savory Corn Beef Brisket from Half Baked Harvest

Corned Beef & Cabbage Tacos with Guinness Horseradish Cream Sauce from A Teaspoon of Happiness

Corned Beef Grilled Cheese from Brandy O’Neill

The Mighty Reuben from Little Figgy

Corned Beef, Cabbage and Potato Hash from Nutmeg Nanny

2 Comments Add yours

  1. That was a surprise fact wasn’t it Heidi. I found out the same thing about the origin of corned beef and cabbage for my Monday post. I am not a fan but my husband is Irish, so I make it once a year. Your cut of meat looks beautiful.

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