WOWZA!  I was really excited when I read about the March Charcutepalooza Challenge;  brining.  I have been wanting to brine a brisket, to make my own Corned Beef, ever since I received the Bi-Rite newsletter, last year. Cathy and Kim, our taste-buds thank you for picking this challenge.

This month’s challenge gave us two options to play with.  The Apprentice Challenge, where we could simply brine a whole chicken or pork chops.  The Charcutiere Challenge, where we could brine, and then corn, a piece of beef, such as brisket.   I have brined a turkey before, so I decided to forgo, the Apprentice Challenge, and grab the Charcutiere Challenge by the horns.

It would be unlike me if I did not deviate away from the required suggested recipe, and this challenge was no exception.  The recipe in Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie:  The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing for brining has the addition of “pink salt”.  As I have mentioned before, I have a problem with using pink salt, and especially after Dominique taught me, that I do not need to use it.  I did omit it from this challenge.  Brining is simple;  dissolve salt, and sugar, in water,  then add warm spices to it.  I used unprocessed sugar, which gave my brine a nice amber color.  The spices I used were juniper berries, black cardamon pods, bay leave and some yellow onion.

Since there are only two of us, and we don’t need to be eating brisket for days, I went with 2 1/2 pounds of beef.  This would be enough for a traditional corned beef dinner as well as a little extra for hash.  I picked up a beautiful cut of beef brisket at the market.  Once my brine mixture was ready, I submerged the brisket into the salty bath, put a small plate on top of the meat, to hold it down, covered my pot, and put it into the fridge;  out of sight, and slightly out of mind.  I did check, every couple of days, to make sure the brisket was still well submerged.  Finally, day seven approached, I could not wait.  I figured the process would work, or I would risk making us sick or kill us for not properly brining meat.  The brisket, was slightly pink in color, very firm, and definitely smelled like corned beef.  I rinsed it very well, patted it dry, and simmered it long and slow, in a  mixture of minced onion, garlic, tomato paste and white wine.  After the brisket was done cooking, I let it cool, overnight.

I tossed around the idea of simply reheating some of the stock, and drizzling it over slices of the meat, but, I wanted more.  I made a glaze using Jamesons Irish Whiskey, grainy mustard, honey, and brown sugar.  I lightly painted the slices of corned beef, with the glaze and gently reheated for a few minutes.  It reminded me of candy chicken with a “kick”.

Traditional Corned Beef dinner is served with boiled cabbage, carrots, and potatoes.  As I was getting ready to plunge my vegetables to their death, in a boiling pot of stock, that was left from boiling the meat;  it hit me smack in the side of the head.  We both hate boiled veggies, except potatoes;  they are usually over-cooked, zapped of their beautiful colors, and left as a dirty, grayish heap of unidentified vegetables.  Why don’t I roast them?  I took the long, bright, orange carrots and drizzled them with olive oil.  The chunks of cabbage, were also, lightly drizzled with olive oil, a little lemon, and a sprinkle of salt.  I roasted both until sweet and lightly caramelized.  I did boil the potatoes, but I added a healthy dose of crushed garlic to the boiling water.  Once the potatoes were tender but still holding their shape, I tossed them with a pat of butter and a handful of parsley.
The caramelized vegetables were the perfect addition to my slightly salty corned beef.  For the first attempt at brining a brisket, I was pleased.  It was edible, pretty, and comforting.  Incredibly most, tender, and juicy.  Next time, I would rinse it a little longer, as we felt the meat was a bit salty, otherwise;  Perfection!
 Recipe:  Corned Beef

* serve with Roasted Cabbage and Roasted Carrots

2 1/2 pounds beef brisket
3/4 cup of kosher salt
1/8 cup sugar
8 cups of water
1 teaspoon allspice berries
2 teaspoon juniper berries
2 black caradmon pods
3 bay leaves
1 yellow onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups chicken stock
olive oil
In a large stainless steel pot, bring the water, salt, and sugar to a low simmer, only until dissolved.  Stir in the allspice berries, juniper berries, caradamon, 2 bay leaves, and half of the yellow onion.  Save the other half of the onion for later or use in another recipe.  Cool the brining mixture until cold.  Add the brisket.  You want to make sure the brisket is submerged.  You may have to put a small plate on top of the meat to keep it under the brine mixture.  Cover with a lid.  Put into the refridgerator and forget about it for 7 days (up to 10).  Remove the meat from the brine and rinse with cold water.  Pat dry.  In a large dutch oven, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.  Mince the other half of the onion.  Add it to the olive oil, cook until caramlized.  Add the tomato paste.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine.  Add 1 bay leave and the brisket.  Add the chicken stock, you will want to add enough to submerge the brisket;  may be 6 cups or a little less or a little more, depending on the size of your dutch oven.  Cover with a lid.  Cook over a low simmer, for 2 hours.  Let cool.  Put into the refridgerator over night.
Heat oven to 375.  Remove the brisket from the refridgerator.  Take out of the stock and disgard the stock, unless, you are going to use for your vegetables.  Trim any extract fat from the brisket.  Slice into slices.  Lay the slices on a baking sheet covered with foil.  Lightly paint the glaze over the slices.  Bake for 6 – 8 minutes, until heated through.  Serve.  Eat.
Recipe:  Irish Whiskey Glaze

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
Combine everything in a saucepan, over low heat, cook until sugar is dissolved.  Set aside until ready to use.


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