I went on a search last year for a "gray" corned beef like my mother use to get. I never really knew why she preferred gray corned beef but all I knew was I couldn't find one. All I could find were red brisket in cryovac packs with a packet of spices in it. I tried one of those and, well, let's just say THEN I knew why my mother always insisted on gray corned beef. I still did not understand what made them gray but I knew I needed to find one or there would be no corned beef and cabbage dinner for St Patrick's Day. Being half Irish that was NOT an option. The other thing I discovered about the cryovac briskets is they are loaded with preservatives and chemicals. Well, being an organic farmer, that also was not an option.
I knew that to cure a ham took months, so as I sat down with my laptop to Google how to make a corned beef, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this is not the case with corning beef.
After reading a few articles on the procedure and getting an idea of a curing brine recipe I set out to create an ideal corned beef. If you have never corned your own beef brisket you have no idea what you are missing. It is incredible!
Corned Beef Recipe
1 1/2 cups kosher salt*
1/2 cup sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons pickling spice, divided
1 5-pound beef brisket*
In pot large enough to hold brisket, combine 1 gallon water with kosher salt, sugar, 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.
After day five I removed the cover from the pot and lifted the plate off. The aroma of the brine was so yummy, I could have drank it. As I lifted the brisket out ... Voila!! It was GRAY! Now I knew what made it gray.
Remove brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it and vegetables that will be added later. Cover with water and add remaining pickling spice. 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. After first 2 hours, add potatoes, carrots and cabbage and cook with vegetables for last hour or until veggies are cooked.
I hope you will try this and enjoy homemade, preservative free corned beef.
* I was not able to get one brisket that was five pounds so I got two smaller ones that equaled five pounds, roughly.