Lately, when we go out to eat for Sunday brunch, I’ve been way into corned beef hash. And the store bought stuff just doesn’t quite do it for me, so I decided to make my own.
Generally corned beef is made with a brisket, but I opted to use bottom round roast. We go in with a few friends two or three times a year on half a cow and take home around 100 pounds of grass-fed beef. The beef is local, from a farmer in Mount Airy, MD – Judy England. I always end up with more roasts than I know what to do with, so I thought this might be a nice way to use a lesser cut of meat.
Why can I get away with using bottom round roast? The brining process tenderizes the meat in addition to flavoring it. And we slow roast the meat at the end to boot.
Corned beef is brined for at least 10 days. I brined mine for two weeks, so be patient.
The saltpeter, which helps preserve the pink color of corned beef, was not trivial to find. I tried my local hardware store first (call first, not all have it in their gardening center), no dice. Next I went to my local pharmacy. They ordered it for me – for about $12 I got a nice sized bottle. Why was it so challenging to get? Saltpeter is one of the primary components of gunpowder; so it’s heavily regulated.
For this recipe, you will need:
2 pounds ice 4-5 pounds of beef, brisket or bottom round roast
2 quarts water
1 cup salt
1/2 c. palm sugar
2 T. saltpeter (aka potassium nitrate)
1 cinnamon stick
1 t. mustard seeds
1 t. black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
8 whole allspice
1/2 c. gin or 12 whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. ground ginger
1 small onion, quartered
1 large carrot, chopped 1″ pieces
1 stalk celery, chopped 1″ pieces
Truthfully, the entire process is quite easy, but it does require patience. The first part of the process is to make the brine. In a large stockpot, add the water, salt, saltpeter, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, gin, bay leaves, and ginger.
Cook the brine over high heat until all of the salt and sugar have dissolved.
Remove the brine from the heat and add the 2 pounds of ice to the stockpot. Stir until all of the ice dissolves. Check the temperature of the brine – if it is above 45 degrees F, place it in the refrigerator for additional cooling. I had to cool my brine about an extra 20 minutes in the fridge.
Once the brine has cooled, place the beef in gallon zip top plastic bags (I divided mine into two) and fill with the brine. Seal the top and lay flat in a container in the refrigerator for at least 10 days.
I put my plastic bags back into the stockpot I used to make the brine – everything fit in there quite nicely and it provided a fail safe in case the bags started to leak.
I checked on the beef periodically. I made sure that it was completely covered by the brine and used the opportunity to mix the brine around a bit. This gives equal exposure to the different spices in the brine.
A LOOOOOOOONG 14 days later, I removed the beef from the brine and rinsed it in cool water. I did any additional trimming here as well.
Finally, I placed the corned beef in a medium stockpot with the chopped onion, carrot and celery. Cover the beef with 1 inch of water and place on high heat.
Once the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for an additional 3 hours. The beef should be pull apart tender with a fork.
I let mine cool and dry out a bit (because that’s how I like corned beef). Slice the beef against the grain and viola – homeade corned beef.
That evening for dinner we had Rueben (sans bread) for dinner. Delish!
For a corned beef hash, simply cut the beef into small cubes and saute with butter or ghee and small, diced yukon potatoes. Serve with scrambled eggs for a classic Sunday brunch.