Thursday, March 3, 2011

Home Deli

I decided to finish off the corned beef earlier than expected. The cut I was corning was smaller than a full sized, entire brisket, so I thought a 10 day cure would make it too salty.  Instead, on day six, I took the brisket from the brine and boiled it up.

And here it is, cured, boiled and simmered for, oh, two plus hours.

And started slicing.  One really interesting thing to note. As the beef brined, it turned pretty pallid and grey-green, pretty much as you'd expect for a slab of meat stuck in salt water for a week.  But I had included saltpeter in the cure, which is supposed to prevent exactly this discoloration.  Well, as you can see, once the beef was simmered, it turned a perfectly pleasing pink, just as you'd hoped it would.  So the nitrates must be activated by heat- any food science folks care to comment (does ANYONE care to comment?? On ANYTHING.   Yours, the lonely blogger)

I've got enough out of my 3 plus pounds of brisket to make probably 12-15 sandwiches, so I sliced some more up and brought it over to my friend, Margaret, whose daughter, Sophie, had broken her wrist.  What could be more comforting than corned beef on rye?!  Well, they liked it, so I figured it was safe to try...

Here are the Reubens on the skillet.  Crispy goodness already.  I really wanted to use some of April Mcgreger's Farmer's Daughter sauerkraut, but the whole town is sold out. And April was right in my own house over the weekend - why did I let her leave without putting some cabbage up to cure on the spot!?! In any event, the sauerkraut and ementhaler I used were more than fine.

I have no idea when - or if - I'll be making corned beef again.  It's certainly one of the easiest forms of charcuterie to prepare - really there's nothing to it, but the waiting. And it's good, don't get me wrong. And as in all of these endeavors, there's a palpable degree of satisfaction that comes from knowing that you've created the food yourself, attended to its transformations, modified the mixture according to your own observations.  These are new pleasures, never before associated - for me - with corned beef.  But I think I prefer the whole deli experience for my reuben sandwich.  And, if you push me a little bit, I think I'd rather make a good, oniony brown pot-roasted brisket for the few times a decade I make a brisket.  

Oh, don't let me end this on such a disparaging downer.  It's corned beef! It's sauerkraut and cheese - I made the whole damned thing myself, bringing joy to friends and neighbors. Delicious!

End of kvelling. 


  1. It looks delicious, except for the ruining it with sauerkraut, and the explicit mention of nitrates. I'll take mine with cabbage and potatoes.

  2. Uh, almost all the corned beef you've ever eaten has nitrates in it- sorry. And you do know that sauerkraut is cabbage - well, in the same way that corned beef is brisket. I don't think I've ever even had corned beef and cabbage - corned beef is for delis!!

  3. I know it all has nitrates... but saying or reading that word immediately reduces the appeal of the food anyway. And I have only liked sauerkraut once -- in the Czech Republic -- just the right amount of caraway, almost sweet. But I love cabbage. Especially in tomatoey beef soups.