The March Charcutepalooza challenge was brining and I was hoping to try something a little different. My friend the chef, who came through with the pork belly last month, said he might surprise me with some lambs tongue to experiment with but I ended up traveling to see family in Ohio and Illinois for over a week in the beginning of March and found myself running up against the deadline with no charcuterie prepared to blog about.
While in Mackinaw, IL, on the second part of my trip visiting my brother, we stumbled upon a nice 10 lb beef brisket. I just happened to be traveling with my spice box and curing salts, (doesn’t everyone?) so I suggested we split the brisket in half and brine both pieces to make Corned Beef. I doubled the recipe I was using from Charcuterie for 5 lbs of brisket to accommodate our 10 pounds. Then I combined, toasted and ground a mixture of pickling spices (allspice, cloves Cinnamon, coriander, bay leaf, mustard seed, mace); mixed that with pink salt, regular salt, sugar and water and placed the briskets in containers to get pink, corney and briney for a few days. In the mean time I got to share my bacon from last months challenge.
When I returned home Sunday with my half of the brisket, I rinsed the brine off and put it on the stove to boil with some fresh water and some of the remaining pickling spice. I had originally planned to put it in a Dutch oven to cook in the oven but the recipe specifically called for boiling and since this was my first time around for home corned beef, I followed the directions. After about 3 hours on the stove, the house smelling wonderful with the pickling spices, I dropped in some carrots, onions, cabbage and chunks of celery root.
About an hour later, when the vegetables seemed done, I pulled out the brisket and let it rest for a while. I decided to make a puree of the root vegs and what was left of the onion. I fished out the cabbage chunks to serve whole along side the puree and corned beef and set the dark aromatic boiling liquid (Corned Beef Stock?) aside to transfer to a gravy boat and use as au jus later.
The brisket sliced easily and was very tender. I was afraid it would be tough or stringy but it was beautiful sliced against the grain as I tested it, making thinner and thinner slices. Each piece hung together as I was slicing it but then fell apart with my fork on my plate and I was able to appropriately mash the cabbage, corned beef and celery root puree into a nice little pile ready for my fork to take to my mouth. I have to admit it is not the most colorful plate. The cabbage and the other vegetables took on the color of the brining liquid, not that it would have looked much different had they not done so, and it looked like I had some little piles of putty next to my corned beef.
No matter. In spite of not being very photogenic, it was delicious. I think If I am going to continue to photograph my food for this contest, I probably should learn a little more about my camera and photography in general. At least I stepped up from the camera on my Blackberry and used a real camera. Even though it is 10 years old, it takes pretty good pictures..when someone who knows how is behind the viewfinder.
I am already planning tomorrows corned beef dish…Fried Corned beef with a couple of poached eggs. Then for lunch…
A few notes for the margin of my Charcuterie book and to share with my brother before he prepares his half for his family: the cooked corned beef was plenty salty and peppery. I like a lot of pepper but this was almost too much. For him, I am going to suggest he not only rinses the brine off thoroughly but also soak in water overnight before he boils or changes his water half way through the boil with fresh water. I am also going to double check the amount of salt and pepper in the pickling spice mix I used to in the fresh water boil and maybe adjust it next time, or even omit.