Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza: Brining - Cider-Braised Corned Beef

It's the 15th of the month so that means it's Charcutepalooza time. This month's challenge was brining. Just in time for your St. Patty's Day fun, I have a corned beef recipe for you that is a little sweet along with your salty. You can get corned beef already cured at your local supermarket or farm in most cases. I cured my own, based on the process in the pages of "Charcuterie", by Michael Ruhlman. However, curing takes at least 5 days in the fridge. You can cut the process by a few days, you just might not get the taste you want.

the cooling brine
In my case, I picked up a 5-pound brisket from my local farm, Tendercrop Farm in Newbury, MA. I knew the husband and I wouldn't go through 5 pounds of the corned beef so I cut it in half, tucking the other half away for another time. I put that baby aside and started the process of putting together the brine. Basically when you brine, you're putting together a solution of salt/water, spices, and in this case, pink curing salt to let your piece of meat cure in. The key here is time, you need to be able to make up your brine, cool it completely, before setting your brisket in to cure. I'm impatient, so I threw it out on my very chilly back steps.

this was the first week in March, still snow out there, fun.
Once that brine is completely cooled, I simply dropped my brisket in, placing a plate on top of it so it was completely submerged in the brine and into the fridge it went for 5 days of curing fun. Once you take it out, you rinse it and get ready to cook it in whatever way you'd like. A very traditional way of preparing corned beef is boiling it, however, I've always like the idea of braising it instead. You get a meat that falls apart a little bit more, and is a bit more tender. However, it does take quite a bit of time, so you'll have to plan ahead. So let's get down to it, shall we?

The husband, slicing up the beef, it is easier to slice when more cooled, but we couldn't resist.

Cider-Braised Corned Beef with Cabbage and Vegetables
Inspired by Guinness Corned Beef
Serves: 6-8

2.5 lbs. corned beef
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 16-ounce bottles of Irish Hard Cider (like Magner's)2 large carrots, sliced
2 large parsnips, sliced
1 head of cabbage, heart removed, cut into eighths

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. 

Take your corned beef and rub completely with brown sugar so it's coated on all sides. Place in a large dutch oven (big enough to hold brisket and enough room to later add the liquid and vegetables, I used a 5-qt. round one), fat side up. Add your onions over the to of the brisket and then pour your hard cider over the top. Now, if your liquid isn't covering the brisket, add water until there's about an inch of liquid covering the meat.

Put your lid on that dish and pop it in the oven. I braised mine for 2.5 hours, which was OK, but I found the brisket to still be a bit tough. I'd suggest 3.5 hours of braising time. When you have an hour of cooking left, add your carrots and parsnips. Finally when you have about 20-30 minute left, add your cabbage. In the end, you'll have a sweet, lovely corned beef, full of flavor. Frankly, I loved the veggies done this way as well, they were perfect.

Beautiful cabbage and other vegetables to go with your corned beef
Now, what you do with your corned beef from this point is your business. You can serve it as-is with the vegetables on the side, or you can make one kick-butt sandwich with this tasty meat. I whipped up a loaf of pumpernickel bread (recipe coming in the next few days) and we decided, inspired by Charcutepalooza queen, Mrs. Wheelbarrow, to make Cloak and Dagger Sandwiches. They were insanely tasty.

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Mardi Michels said...

Oh MY - I LOVE the idea of cider braised corned beef. Inspired!!!!!! Looks soooooo good!

Anonymous said...

More fine work from the Lighter and Local kitchen! Thanks for the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

This looks so yummy, I really wish I had picked up a brisket this week! Maybe on Sunday...

Molly said...

My husband's brisket is brining in the fridge right now. He read a number of recipes that called for saltpeter but couldn't find any. The way the recipes sounded, his meat won't be pink without it. But from the looks of yours, I think we're in the clear.

Lynn said...

I love this idea of using hard cider... I am so going to try your brine. I'm thinking of duck.
And the steam on the hot corned beef makes my mouth water!

Kimmy Bingham said...

Thanks all!

Molly- the recipe above is for preparing the brisket after it's cured. I used pink curing salt in the curing process. However, you can omit it, you just won't get the pink color but it will still be ok to eat!

Kate @ Diethood.com said...

I'm loving that brine... what a great idea! That last photo made me drool a bit... looks amazing!

Celia said...

A hard cider braise is SUCH a great idea! Great way to add a personal touch to this month's challenge!

Lynn said...

I love this idea of using hard cider... I am so going to try your brine. I'm thinking of duck.
And the steam on the hot corned beef makes my mouth water!