Corned beef is both delicious and versatile and it is so easy to make from scratch yourself. Compared with buying an already corned brisket to cook, you control the whole process, can make a point of getting a high quality cut to use, plus the satisfaction of doing it yourself.
Corned beef is, in essence, just salted beef. It’s name comes from the fact that in the old days, the salt that was used to cure the beef was in large crystals that looked a bit like corn kernels. Today we typically add some sugar and spices to the brine.
A whole brisket is quite large and it is usually cut in half for sale. The so-called first cut is rectangular in shape and a bit leaner, while the second cut is sort of triangular and has a bit more fat. Both are fine for corned beef, although the first cut makes for neater and larger slices. You want a nice cap of fat on the top.
To Pickle the Beef
One 4-5 lb brisket
Put the meat in a pot or bowl just large enough to hold it and add room-temperature tap water, measuring as you go, to cover by half an inch or so. Remove the meat and for each quart of water add:
1/2 c kosher salt
2 TB sugar
1 tsp pink salt (see note below)
Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Return the meat to the pot and toss in
4 minced garlic cloves
2 TB pickling spice
Put a plate or other clean object on top to ensure the meat stays submerged, then put in the fridge for 5-6 days.
To Cook the Beef
Remove the meat and discard the brine and spices. Rinse the meat under cold water. Return to the pot and cover with fresh water. Add 2 TB fresh pickling spice. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until fork-tender, about 3 hours. Replensish the water if needed to keep the meat covered,
About Pink Salt
Pink salt contains 93.75% regular table salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite. This is NOT the same as pink Himalayan salt. It is sometimes called Insta Cure #1 or Prague Powder #1. And yes it is really pink, it is dyed pink to make sure it is not accidentally mistaken for regular salt. It is used in very small quantities when making cured meats, sausage, etc. It has three benefits: inhibiting the growth of bacteria, improving taste, and giving the meat a better color. There are no demonstrated health dangers, you can read more here. You can omit it from this recipe but your result won’t be as tasty or attractive.