Corned Beef Step-by-Step Tutorial

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Corned beef is one of those foods that has gotten marginalized due to its association with Saint Patrick’s Day. For many people, the only time they eat corned beef is in March. And that is a shame, as corned beef is a truly great meat, in my opinion. Of course, if you live in a city with a really good Jewish Deli, such as Katz’s in New York or Langer’s in Los Angeles, then you can get an excellent corned beef sandwich year round.

But I am referring to making corned beef at home, which is near impossible because supermarkets only bring out the packaged corned beef right before Saint Patrick’s Day in March. What to do? Follow this Step-by-Step Corned Beef Tutorial and you can make it anytime you want.

I first made my own corned beef five years ago, and have been doing it ever since. It is such a simple process, although it takes time. Most of that time is just waiting for the meat to cure, so it is painless. Unless you are an impatient person.

Corned Beef

The photo above is of my first corned beef I ever made. It was so delicious and so unlike the packaged corned beef I had always made. For one thing, I didn’t trim the fat, which gave the corned beef and cooking broth much more flavor. Once your broth is cooled overnight you just remove any solidified fat from the surface and throw it away. The flavor remains, and you can cut the fat from the slices before you eat them.

The main component of a good corned beef is a good piece of brisket, usually the first cut. The first cut brisket is the flatter piece. If you are unsure, ask your butcher to get one for you.

The next component is your pickling spice.  This pickling spice recipe is an all purpose pickling spice. Store it in a jar as you would any spice blend, and when you want corned beef or quick pickles, you have a fresh pickling spice on hand.

Pickling Spice
 
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Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole allspice
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Instructions
  1. Mix the spices together and seal in an airtight container to store.

 

The next component is a brine to cure your corned beef. The brisket needs to stay submerged in the brine for a minimum of one week to let the meat cure.

Corned Beef Brine
 
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Serves: 1 corned beef
Ingredients
  • 7-8 cups water (depending on size of brisket)
  • 1 bottle dark ale
  • 1½ cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • ¼ cup pickling spice
  • 1½ tablespoons pink curing salt
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp Tellicherry peppercorns
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients into a large bowl, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  2. Place your brisket into a large pot.
  3. Pour the brine over the meat.
  4. Be sure the brisket is submerged. If needed place a plate directly onto the brisket to weight it down.
  5. Cover the pot and place into the refrigerator for one week.

 

Once the brisket has been brined and become a corned beef, all that is left is cooking. Remove the brisket from the brine, rinse it well to remove the spices and extra salt. Place your brisket into a large pot, pour in a bottle of ale or stout, the fill the pot with water so it covers the brisket by at least an inch.  Bring the pot to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook the brisket for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender.

If you want to make a traditional boiled dinner, add potatoes, cabbage wedges and carrots to the cooking liquid once the corned beef is done. Slice the corned beef and return it to the pot with the cooked vegetables.

Or you can slice the corned beef for sandwiches, salads, hash or whatever comes to mind.

Gumbo Step-by-Step Tutorial

Gumbo

Gumbo is not just a dish to serve for Sunday dinner, or to guests on special occasions. Gumbo is a tradition. Gumbo recipes are passed generation to generation in families from Louisiana. Just as Kentucky has its Burgoo and Georgia its Brunswick stew, gumbo is all about the melting pot that is Louisiana.

On the website of the Southern Foodways Alliance, a group which documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South, is an in depth study of the origins of gumbo.

 Gumbo is often cited as an example of the melting-pot nature of Louisiana cooking, but trying to sort out the origins and evolution of the dish is highly speculative. The name derives from a West African word for okra, suggesting that gumbo was originally made with okra. The use of filé (dried and ground sassafras leaves) was a contribution of the Choctaws and, possibly, other local tribes. Roux has its origin in French cuisine, although the roux used in gumbos is much darker than its Gallic cousins.

 

Gumbo was always an experience I looked forward to as a child. It was an experience just because of the number of steps and ingredients needed to properly make gumbo. And it had better have been made properly, or my grandmother Thelma, from Shreveport, LA would let my mother know what was wrong.

As a child I was able to help with the preparation somewhat. I remember helping my mother cut the okra (and getting all slimy from it) and vegetables for the trinity, measuring the rice to serve along with the gumbo. The house would smell so wonderful as the gumbo was cooked. The roux, chicken, shrimp, sausage, crab legs and file powder made a magical aromatic cloud so thick you could almost taste it.

My mother and grandmother are both gone now, and I haven’t found a written recipe for their gumbo yet. But I was able to re-create it from my memories, with a few minor changes. I don’t always add okra to my gumbo, although it is used not only as a flavor enhancer but also as a thickener for the gumbo. I am still traumatized by all that slime I had to endure as a child, so I usually forgo the okra.

Although gumbo is a labor-intensive dish, it is worth the effort.

 

Gumbo

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1 1/2 hours

Makes 12 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rendered bacon fat
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 64 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 package (15 oz) smoked sausage, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon gumbo file powder