There are few food related holidays that I don’t like – none, in fact. I do love to eat, I do love to cook, and I especially love to prep good food from scratch. From scratch cooking gives you the most value, the most flavor, the most nutrition, and the most versatility. I pride myself on being a good cook, growing many ingredients myself, and sourcing locally and sustainably. One area where I am always improving is curing meats, as this craft is not to be taken lightly (you can make yourself and others sick if you’re not careful). What I’ve found are numerous articles to support the newby (me), fantastic recipes, and all the resources needed to make great cured meats.
A simple cured meat, and one that is quite timely considering that St. Patties day is just around the corner, is corned beef. Corned beef is possibly the simplest cured meat, being not really cured but really brined. The brine is a mixture of pickling spices and pink salt. The meat, a good beef brisket, is cured for about a week in the brine, then removed and cooked. Typically the brisket is simmered with additional pickling spices (the leftover brine is discarded), cabbage, and potatoes. Pink salt is a bit controversial due to its composition including nitrite. Nitrites are well regarded as being linked to health concerns, but it is largely believed that the small amount of nitrite in pink salt does not pose a health risk. I opt to use pink salt to limit the chance of botulism, and to ensure that my corned beef turns out pink in the interior (only possible when using pink salt. Pink salt also gives pastrami is characteristic pink color, as pastrami is really just a smoked version of corned beef.
There is nothing that compares to homemade corned beef and cabbage, especially when accompanied by fresh Iris soda bread and a dark stout. If you can get your hands on a beef brisket this week, along with the pink salt and pickling spices (both available at this link), you’ll have just enough time to make your own corned beef for St. Patties Day. Enjoy!