Well, after a week of curing and a whole night in the slow cooker, there's my final plate of corned beef and cabbage. How did it turn out? Very pink, as you can see, thanks to those slightly suspicious nitrates and nitrites. (I figured one plate a year can't hurt too much.) Read on for the rest of my thoughts, and the final outcome of my little corned beef experiment.
I usually like to mess around with the classics; if I made corned beef regularly I probably would have cooked this one in the oven with mustard or horseradish, and served cabbage braised in wine. But since this was my first time making corned beef, I decided to stick close to tradition and boil it. I cooked my home-corned beef brisket two ways:
• One half went in the slow cooker with water, some spices, celery, onion, and carrot. It cooked overnight, and then I put a couple wedges of cabbage, sprinkled with black pepper, on top of the meat in the last hour of cooking.
• The other half soaked in water overnight (I was concerned about how salty it was) and it went into a pot this morning for a long slow simmer with vegetables and spices.
The results? We liked the slow cooker version better, but the long-simmered beef in the pot was still pretty close. I felt that the slow cooker beef was was moister and softer, with that tender melting texture I expect from brisket. But the stovetop beef was also very good, once it had cooked for about three hours. (We tried it after about an hour and a half, and it was still tough.)
And the briskets weren't too salty; you all were right on that account. I think the overnight soak was unnecessary. If I make corned beef again I'll just do a quick blanch in boiling water to remove any excess salt.
I loved the cabbage, steamed on top of the moist brisket. I didn't cook it very long; I like my cabbage with a little bit of crunch left in it. It had just enough salt and taste of the spices to be really delicious.
Served with sour cream and horseradish, this is a splendidly old-fashioned meal, with enough beef and salt to increase your blood pressure. It's great every so often, although we wouldn't eat this more than once or twice a year. There are plenty of corned beef hashes coming up; this little experiment definitely yielded some nicely-spiced beef, but it's far beef more than we would ever eat in a week! It's going to get shredded and put in the freezer in little packets for use later.
Are you cooking corned beef today, and if so, how are you cooking it?
(Image: Faith Durand)