We often think sandwich meats need to be store bought from a deli or meat counter. These giant hunks of meat dry or wet cured, tightly wrapped meats, sitting in behind the glass case seems like something that isn’t meant for the home cook to even try to take on. Heck, corned beef for that matter is often only found in tins and resembles something more like cat food. Surely this isn’t meant to be made at home.
Well, as I dug into The Gefilte Manifesto I came across their recipe for Pastrami. Wait, what? Pastrami at home? That seems crazy hard but I love pastrami! So I started flipping through the book and stopped when I noticed right before pastrami was corned beef. Now, I have a confession I don’t know that I have ever had real corned beef before. Oh, sure I have had the canned stuff but never sliced off of a hunk of meat.
Each of the recipes starts with a story about the recipe and as I got lost in reading about the corned beef they note the brining process is the same for both corned beef and pastrami. This then got me thinking about Reuben sandwiches. I love a good Rueben. So I put both the corned-beef and the pastrami on my list of possibilities for interesting ways to use beef in winter as part of my menu planning.
In early December I was doing my grocery shopping at Costco and saw they had brisket. Very LARGE brisket. Not only that but it was a fantastic price. So I picked one up knowing I wanted to make my first brisket at some point. I got it home and then started reading about this cut of beef and hot to deal with it’s size. What I discovered is that there are three parts to a full brisket. First cut, the thinnest end, second cut, the middle, and the end. For my brisket it asked for the second cut. For the Corned Beef it asked for the first cut, and for the pastrami it asked for the end. Being able to get all three pieces from one single brisket was not only going to give me lots of different meals but it allowed me to try out various cuts of beef helping me think more about using the whole animal. I carved up my brisket and put the different cuts into freezer bags labeling each as to what it was for.
I was nervous about making my corned beef and pastrami but a few weeks ago I came across a much less time intensive recipe for a pastrami using country ribs. It was for Pastrami Tacos. Ounce I saw how well this quick technique worked I was given enough confidence to move forward with the more involved meats.
What I learned is that with corned beef it’s not hard. Can you measure ingredients? Can you put a hunk of meat in a large container fill of water? That’s about all the skill you need. The rest is all about the ingredients. This is not a recipe where you want to take too many liberties. Wet curing like any type of curing is a science. To get the meat to react correctly requires specific quantities of Pink Curing Salt and regular salt.Then comes in all the flavorings. I have to say the The Gefilte Manifesto nailed it on the flavor. So much so that 16 hours after trying it for the first time I am still thinking about it and how amazingly delicious it was. The recipe calls for things like Juniper Berries, Whole Peppercorns, Mustard Seeds, Coriander Seeds, and Bay Leaves. If any of these things are hard to find I love a sight called Spicejungle.com Their quality is fantastic, they have great business principles, and work with farmers who are ethical and responsible in how they grow their crops.
Everything then goes into a large tub. I have 6 quart food grade plastic tubs with lids I got from my local restaurant supply store specifically for these types of tasks. I put everything in and let it sit for a week to ten days, turning it every so often. Then yesterday I pulled it out, rinsed it off and put it in a 6 quart dutch oven. I added the mirepoix of veggies and covered it with water, put it in a 225ºF oven for 3 ½ hours. Then I put it on a cutting board tented with foil for an hour.
It was finally ready to try and boy was it good! This is for sure going into my regular annual rotation of recipes I love. We used it to make Classic Reuben’s. I’ll be posting about those next!
For this recipe I decided not to post that actual recipe. I want to encourage you, if you are wanting to make this amazing treat at home yourself to go out or online and order The Gefilte Manifesto. Recipe after recipe I have done from this book has been phenomenal. If you are willing to try making this recipe the rest will be with trying too. You’ll love having this cookbook in your library.