The Irish look at us celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and just shake their heads. And they sure don’t gorge on corned beef. Well, screw ’em.
I had a small brisket in the deep freeze, so I separated the point from the flat and cured them separately.
Corned beef did originate in Ireland but the history is complicated. “Corn” referred to the large grain salt the meat was preserved in. This was well before refrigeration and preserving meat in salt was a standard practice throughout the world. This is a pretty entertaining read on the history of salt.
Most modern corned beef is wet cured in a brine solution but having done it both ways, I like the texture that results from dry curing. It also takes much less space.
Okay, as we discussed with bacon, the amount of cure is critical to developing a safe product. I weighed out my two pieces and plugged them into the cure calculator on the Digging Dog Farm website.
Next up are the seasonings:
3tbsp black pepper
1.5tbsp ground coriander
.75tsp mustard powder
.75tbsp brown sugar
1.5tsp garlic powder
1.5tsp onion powder
Pepper and coriander were toasted and ground up. All the ingredients were combined, split in half and blended with the cure for each cut of beef. A note on quantities, this is roughly based on the weight of the meat. You can be creative here and do what you want. There are plenty of spice recipes out there on the Interwebs.
Ziplock bags will work just fine for the curing process, but I find vacuum sealing works slightly better and the vacuum gives better penetration of the cure and seasonings.
Each piece of meat is put in a bag and half the cure mixture is poured in on each side. *euphemism alert* You need to massage your meat well to get the rub evenly distributed. Seal the bag, getting as much air out as you can, if you’re using a Ziplock bag, mark with the date and toss it in the fridge. Flip it every couple of days and give it a little massage. I let mine go two weeks.
When we reach the day of reckoning, remove the meat from the bags, rinse them well, trying to get as much of the rub off as possible. There will still be some leftover. Slice off a small piece and do a fry test. You’re looking for flavor and salt level. Any off odors or flavors, out it goes. If you’re going to continue on to pastrami and the fry test is too salty, you can soak it overnight in cold water. Dry the meat and toss in the fridge on a rack overnight.
I decided to turn the flat into pastrami. After it had dried overnight, I rubbed it with a bit of whiskey, and then coated it with equal amounts of coarse ground black pepper and coriander. Then into the smoker at 240 on cherry, until it reaches an internal temperature of 200-205.
For the point on St. Patty’s Day, I like to braise in Guinness. Any dark beer will work but, hey. Time depends on the size of the cut, I believe this small piece took 2 – 2 1/2 hours.
Now the style points. You could easily pull it, let it rest why you cook your vegetables, or you could go an extra step. I like to take some of the braising liquid, add a touch of honey and mustard, and cook it down to a glaze. The meat goes into a roasting pan and gets glazed several times over 20 minutes while in a 350 degree oven while the vegetables cook. Trust me, it’s worth it. Just make sure to adjust the sweetness in the glaze, if necessary before using it.
Slice and serve with your favorite Irish beverage of the day.