It is that wonderful time of year where my Jewish and Irish heritages intersect in the culinary delight that is Corned Beef. Corned beef began as a Jewish butcher/deli staple, but the original Irish dish was cabbage and bacon. During the great period of American immigration at the turn of the last century, Irish and Jewish immigrants tended to settle in nearby neighborhoods of major cities, like the Lower East Side of New York and the hometown of both my parents, the South Side of Chicago. The Irish immigrants found bacon in America to be expensive and discovered from their Jewish neighbors the joy of corned beef. Today corned beef and cabbage has become synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day, and the grocery stores are piled high with pre-brined briskets with little spice packets included. Corned beef also remains a delight of the Jewish deli and the key ingredient for the most joyous of all Jewish sandwiches : The Reuben. I have started my own little tradition of brining a corned beef brisket to serve with cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day and then using the leftovers for Reubens. Much like anyone with with the smallest ounce of Irish blood, St. Patrick’s Day is the one time of year I fully embrace my Irish heritage. While my culinary taste run closer to the Kushner side of the family, once a year I proudly give thanks to the O’Brien side for the ability to hold my liquor and appreciate a fine whiskey, but, much like corned beef, I can thank both side for the recessive gene that gave me my red hair (and the unwavering talent for inflicting guilt).
Corned beef is incredibly simple but requires a 5 day head start. I once again consulted Ruleman for the basic recipe. He does call for sodium nitrate (pink salt) which will keep the corned beef pink and allow for the longer brine. If you prefer to not use the pink salt, cut the brining time to 3 days to avoid bacteria formation and be prepared for a grey color to the meat. For the cabbage I like to use plain green but also like to throw in some multi-colored potatoes for a starch. You can replace the cabbage with brussel sprouts or add pretty much any root vegetable to the boil for a side dish. I usually like mine plain, but if a sauce is necessary I like to go with a horseradish mustard sauce. This year I went with a smaller 2 lb brisket so I cut the brine recipe in half, but will provide you with the full size measurements.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
- 1 5lb brisket
- 1 head of green cabbage, cut into sixths
- 1 lb potatoes
- 1 onion quartered
- 2 Tbs Pickling Spice
- 5 cloves of garlic smashed
- 1 gallon of water
- 2 C kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 oz (5 Tbs) pink salt
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 Tbs pickling spice
Mustard Sauce (mix ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve)
- 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 2 tablespoons prepared mustard
- Combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool and then refrigerate until it is completely chilled.
- Place your brisket in a large (2+ gallon) zip top bag and place into a pan. Pour the brine into the bag and ensure the brisket is completed covered, removing as much air from the bag as you can. Place in the fridge for 5 days.
- Remove the brisket from the brine and brush off the spices. Place the brisket in the bottom of a large pot or dutch oven with the onion, garlic, potatoes and any root veggies. Add enough water to cover the the meat, mix in the pickling spices and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover the pot cooking for about 3 hours (replenish the water if it gets low).
- Add the cabbage and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the meat and vegetable and slice the meat against the grain.
- Serve warm with vegetables and sauce.
- Use the leftovers for Reubens the next day