Corned beef and cabbage is the traditional meal of St. Patrick’s Day, and while you can buy a pre-packaged brined brisket at most grocery stores, it’s actually pretty easy to make your own corned beef at home. You just have to work ahead — like 5 to 10 days ahead — so while there’s still time, you need to get on it now. I started brining my beef brisket yesterday. Start your own today for a fresh, homemade corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day.
Begin with a fresh cut of meat. (Use Hannah’s tips for buying local beef.) I am not planning on feeding a huge crowd, so I got about 2.5 pounds of beef brisket. You can go larger for a big group or for a week of sandwiches. Vegetarians, look away … here’s my hunk o’ beef.
The secret to corned beef is the brine. I made mine using a combined recipe from Alton Brown (results shown above, courtesy of FoodNetwork.com) and Michael Ruhlman, in part because I didn’t have the time or access to some of the ingredients (namely the juniper berries) called for by Alton. Here are the ingredients for my adapted corned beef brine recipe. It’s mostly Alton, but using Ruhlman’s pink salt and shorter brining time.
Corned Beef Brine Ingredients
- 2 quarts water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons pink salt
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 whole cloves
- 8 whole allspice berries
- 2 bay leaves, crumbled
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
I then (mostly) followed Ruhlman’s advice, adapted here:
In pot large enough to hold brisket, combine all brine ingredients. Bring to a simmer, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled. Place brisket in brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5 days.
The brine smells wonderful when simmering, almost like mulling spices. My brisket is curing in the fridge as I type, and I won’t be able to share the post-cooking results with you until St. Patrick’s Day. But if you, too, want to cure your own corned beef, try this recipe now, cook according to the Michael Ruhlman, Alton Brown or your own recipe, and we’ll talk again in a week! And why you’re waiting, try making your own Irish soda bread and pouring yourself a proper Guinness for the big day, too.