Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Saint Patrick’s Day Adventure, part I, Curing the “Corned Beef”

It all started with my friend, John, reminding me that St Paddy’s was comin’ up by posting a recipe for Irish Soda Bread at his blog. Like him, I have very little Irish in me. Both my mother’s lines (Utah Mormons from way back), and my wife’s dad’s lines go back to wales. That’s about as close as I get.

But that’s OK, because come March 17th, EVERYONE becomes an honorary green-wearing, shillelagh-swinging, rainbow-gold-chasing, jig-dancing, shamrock-wishing Irishman. It’s the law.

As I was looking up recipes for Corned Beef and Cabbage, I found a lot of them that said, basically, just buy a roast of corned beef, add the spice package and boil it with some potatoes and cabbage. Well, where’s the fun in that? So, I did some research to learn how to cure the corned beef myself.

I found a lot of variations. Basically they all involved rubbing the meat in a lot of salt and a few spices and letting it sit in that for a week or so in the fridge. The research I saw said that this was a more traditional method, and a more modern approach involved soaking it in brine. Some said you had to do it for 72 hours, others said a week, some said as much as two weeks. I’m going for the week-long salt/spice rub, because that both sounded yummy and matched my time frame pretty well.

So, I chose a recipe and shopped out the few ingredients I didn’t already have.

  • 4+ lbs of some kind of beef roast
  • 1 ½ cups coarse salt (I bought some kosher salt)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 3 crumbled bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

I mixed together all the spices, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Then I opened up the meat, and stuck it with a sharp knife, to make sure it was really dead. No, actually, that was so that there were plenty of holes for the spices. I put the meat in the bowl and coated it, then grabbed the spice mix with my hand and rubbed it into the surface of the meat pretty thoroughly.

Then I put the coated meat into a big ziplock baggie and poured in all the spice mix that didn’t stick to the meat. I sealed, then shook the bag to coat it even more. Finally, I got as much air out as I could, and sealed the bag again, and put it in a bowl in my fridge.

I also found out, in my research, why it’s called “corned” beef, when there’s no corn in the recipe. It seems that in the days of olde, when they’d prepare the salt and spices, it would clump together into kernels about the size of corn. Then it would be rubbed onto the meat.

I also learned that pastrami is essentially corned beef that, once it’s cured, is coated with its own spices and peppers. So, maybe I’ll take a bit of this corned beef and make some pastrami with it.

Stay tuned!


  1. I would really love to find out how this turned out. I have been intrigued by trying to make corned beef myself, but I never got the courage to do it. In my case it isn't for corned beef and cabbage but rather for a homemade reuben sandwich. I thought it would be cool to try and make one with home made corned beef and home made sauerkraut. Maybe one day...


  2. yeah, it all flopped. You can read about it at: It was a mess.



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