home-cured corned beef sandwich, with pickles and mustard
I was never much of a corned beef and pastrami fan until a couple of good sandwiches set me straight.
In previous trials of both corned beef and pastrami from long-forgotten joints, I always found the meats too salty for my liking, the salt, nitrates, and/or nitrites killing whatever flavour there was supposed to be savoured. I felt I was going into sodium shock after ingesting these sandwiches.
I loved Katz's pastrami and liked Kaplan's corned beef sandwiches enough that they put pastrami and corned beef back into the rotation of my food cravings.
I don't get pastrami-corned beef cravings often -- but the point is, now I do get them, as opposed to not getting any before. Prior to six months ago, I've gone more than ten years without any desire for either pastrami and/or corned beef.
When I saw a small pieces of beef brisket being sold, I immediately thought of making corned beef or pastrami. I grabbed a couple of pieces, totalling approximately 5 pounds.
Personally, I like pastrami more than corned beef, but corning beef seemed more attainable than making pastrami at this point so I went with corned beef. I didn't want to fiddle with the grill outside.
It was quite easy corning the beef -- just a matter of measuring out ingredients for the brining solution and a matter of hoping for the best, as the meat would have to be left in the fridge for three weeks.
After 3 weeks, I took out the corned beef and simmered them for about an hour and a half. I didn't want them to be fall-apart tender as they still needed to be sliced.
TS cut the pieces a little too thick!
(She probably won't be able to handle being a cutter at Katz.)
I was trying to emulate the thickness at Katz's! Their meat wasn't sliced super-thin (it wasn't thin like those packaged deli meats). Also, the meat was cold when I sliced it, so the result was very blocky-looking slices.
I'm very satisfied with the flavour of my corned beef, although I'm not satisfied about the colour. Because I did not use saltpeter or prague powder, the colour was brownish-gray and does not look very appetizing. Next time, perhaps I will buy some curing powder so my meat will still be that nice appetizing, pink colour.
We didn't have rye bread either so had to make do with some supermarket bread. I didn't have time to bake a deli-style rye bread, but should have.
After having a couple of sandwiches, we still had quite a bit of corned beef left. I cut up the corned beef into small pieces and sauteed them with some onions and added cabbage. It made a nice ulam with rice.
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5 lbs beef brisket
4 liters water
1.5 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
8 allspice berries
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
6 bay leaves
Bring water to a boil. Add salt and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer until both dissolves. Add the rest of the ingredients and take off from heat. Wait for the brining liquid to cool.
Put the beef brisket in the brining liquid, making sure that the beef is entirely submerged in the water. (Being completely submerged in water, I did not have to turn the beef brisket pieces over every week.)
Wait for 3 weeks.
To cook corned beef, just put corned beef in water to boil and simmer until desired tenderness.