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Brining Your Own Brisket

Traditional corned beef dinner with boiled potatoes, cabbage and carrots.  This is basically the boiled dinner so popular in the Maritimes.

I have never cooked a corned beef brisket.  Ever.  It is so easy but just has not been on my radar.  So I decided it was time.  Then go back one step and I wondered how much fun it might be to brine my own beef?  My butcher cut me a 9 pound brisket tip and I was on my way.
I used the bottom drawer of my fridge to brine it…works like a charm, and there’s no worry about rips in a ziploc bag or dripping onto other food! It was a great tip I read somewhere.

There was way more food than I could eat so I pressure canned some of the corned beef and I can enjoy it later.

From Michael Ruhlman's blog

The following recipe is from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.

Home-Cured Corned Beef
2 cups kosher salt*
½ cup sugar
4 teaspoons pink salt (sodium nitrite), optional
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons pickling spice
1 5-pound beef brisket
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in two
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped.

In pot large enough to hold brisket, combine 1 gallon of water with kosher salt, sugar, sodium nitrite (if using), garlic and 2 tablespoons pickling spice. Bring to a simmer, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.
Place brisket in brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5 days.

Remove brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it. Cover with water and add remaining pickling spice, carrot, onion and celery. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer gently until brisket is fork-tender, about 3 hours, adding water if needed to cover brisket.

Keep warm until ready to serve. Meat can be refrigerated for several days in cooking liquid. Reheat in the liquid or serve chilled. Slice thinly and serve on a sandwich or with additional vegetables simmered until tender in the cooking liquid.

*A note about the salt. Salt level not hugely critical here because it’s basically boiled and excess salt moves into cooking liquid.  You can weigh out 10 ounces here if you feel better using a scale.  Or you can simply make a 5% brine of however much water you need to cover (6.4 ounces per gallon).  When you cook it, season the cooking liquid to the level you want your meat seasoned.  Another option is wrapping the brisket in foil and cooking it in a 225 degree oven till tender.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

Pickling Spice
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
24 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger

Combine peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a small dry pan. Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, being careful not to burn them; keep lid handy in case seeds pop. Crack peppercorns and seeds in mortar and pestle or with the side of a knife on cutting board.
Combine with other spices, mix. Store in tightly sealed plastic or glass container.
I love this mace.  I bought it in India at least 4 years ago and just grind it as I need it.  I swear it is as potent as the day I bought it.  And it is so moist and soft when it is freshly ground.

If I can borrow a corny phrase from Rachel Ray or Emeril Legasse, I wish there was 'smell-a-vision".  The aroma from this spice mixture is amazing!  I cannot imagine buying pickling spice ever again.


  1. Wow, your briskets looks splendid ...gorgeous clicks with neat presentation.

  2. I am jealous of a 9 pound brisket! I can only find 2 to 3 pound ones, so I have to cook 3 to feed everyone!

    and I Just Love corned beef! In place of boiling, you can also put in a covered roaster at about 300F with a little water for several hours. Wonderful!

    I never thought of the fridge drawer for brining - brilliant! Of course, mine are always full!

  3. Marjie> I should have cut it in two and put one in the oven and the other in the crockpot. Put the whole thing in the crockpot (it's a big crockpot!) I had the butcher cut the brisket for me...they said they have never had the request before. The fridge drawer is a stretch especially if you have a family! Even I had to empty one.

    Jay> thanks.

  4. Yet another thing that I've wanted to try! It looks fantastic. I can only imagine how much better it tastes than per brined ones from the store.

  5. Andrea> I am by no means a connoisseur of corned beef, but this was delicious. Not as red but then I didn't use much salt nitrite.

  6. I think I just copied every word of this post, Sarah. I love corned beef but hate all the chemicals... now I can make it myself!!! Thanks so much for the great info...I love the spices and am crazy about bladed mace!! You have inspired me to go on a hunt!

  7. Deana> perhaps the reason I rarely ate corned beef is all the chemicals. Don't you love the mace! I am so sad because I have ground the last of my mace. I think I might buy the cookbook. I would love to learn more about charcuterie, especially now since I am in a small town and cannot buy it.

  8. I never even thought of making my own corned beef! I love corned beef, I have got to give this a try!

  9. Girl... the recipe is super. And the photos are great!

  10. Love corned beef brisket! Be careful with quantity of sodium nitrate..I got mine from a butcher's supply, and is far more powerful than Mortons Tender Quick( pink salt) you have described!

  11. Corned beef always reminds me of growing up in the east. It is similar to Montreal Smoked Meat which was a mainstay when I lived in Calgary.

  12. I have always wanted to do this... I have seen the pre-brined corned beef in the store and been wary, so I've never actually mades corned beef myself. My step-dad brines his own, and it is SO good. I love that refrigerator door idea! I'll have to try that!

  13. Molto bello questo modo di preparare la carne, sopratutto fatta in casa. Il tuo panino della foto è invitante, ciao :)

  14. Sarah, I am so impressed. You've made your own corned beef, and with spices you bought in Bombay? I am soooo loving your spirit of adventure!
    Well Done!

  15. Pam> it does sound oh so adventurous, doesn't it. My sister was living in India at the time and we took a trip to Goa. Spices are so wonderful in Goa and I bought a few things, cinnamon, peppercorns, mace and I can't remember what else. I dream about the mace. It was the best.

  16. Looks fabulous Sarah. Love, love, love corned beef.

  17. I have never brined nor made a brisket in any way before. They scare me like pie dough and biscuits. I need to step outside my comfort zone and try this because it looks absolutely delicious.

  18. I've never thought we can make homemade corned beef. You are amazing! This looks fabulous and thanks for the tip of using a fridge drawer to brine it. Well done!
    Gros bisous

  19. wow! I truly admire your zeal! I don't know if I would have the courage to deal with a 9 pound cut of beef! Looks good though and I would love to eat it! Brining is an important step but it requires people like you to do it!

  20. Made this recipe tonight. Added juniper, star anise and celery seed to the flavor profile. It was a total hit. Thanks for the starter recipe

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