Don’t stop, don’t think, just stop what you are doing and go to the store right now. Monday is St. Patrick’s Day and you need to set your beef to cure for your corned beef dinner.
In investigating corned beef brining recipes I found a lot of stellar recipes, one classic offering from Michael Ruhlman, and a more beer-minded offering from Sean Paxton aka The Home Brew Chef. I studied what these wise men had to say on the subject and then drew a few conclusions of my own. The idea was to use mainly classic spices, but add a twist that would work really well with the porter brine.
I love the classic corned beef spices like coriander, allspice and clove, but wanted to add a personal touch in the form of caraway. Growing up, we never ate the traditional Irish immigrant meal of corned beef and cabbage, but my Americanized mother made it into bastardized Reuben sandwiches covered in yellow mustard. I like to think of it as the perfect blend of her Irish-German heritage on a plate. She always used bread with a strong caraway characteristic and I can’t imagine having corned beef without that flavor, so it is a good thing that caraway compliments the roasty, toasty characteristics of most dark beers.
The most important part of this recipe is of course the addition of Port City Brewing Company’s Porter, I first tried their porter in the Port City Taproom here in Alexandria, VA with founder Bill Butcher. Bill is a solid guy with a great product on his hands and a rapidly expanding business. In the three years they have been in existence they have already expanded more than once, and if their packed taproom tells me anything it is that things won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
I had forgotten how great they do porter on the East Coast, something I put down to keeping cozy in the winter, and I practically gulped down my glass in my bliss. The flavors were so well balanced with cocoa and fruit coupled with a slight astringency that comes in quite handy in the kitchen.
This is the first time I’ve cooked with this particular porter, but I’ve found that it lends itself easily to savory dishes as I imagine it does with the sweet. I found that it had a cocoa backbone that would do really well with the traditional and non-traditional spices for the brine, adding depth of flavor. The resulting corned beef was tender and well-seasoned with a satisfying richness from the porter.
For more information on Port City Brewing and their delicious porter click here. Keep an eye on this space in the coming weeks for my recipe for Port City Chocolate Pudding.
Corned Beef Cure
1 TBS. peppercorns
1 TBS. allspice
1 TBS. coriander
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. caraway
1 garlic clove
1 c. kosher salt
¼ c. sodium nitrate
¼ c. sugar
3 qt. water
2 bottles Port City Brewing Co. Porter (or your favorite)
3 to 4 lbs. beef chuck roast* (bone-in, if they still exist)
In a large stockpot, add the all ingredients, except the porter and beef. Cook the brine until the salt dissolves completely. Cool the brine completely. Place the beef in a large sealable container and cover with the brine and refrigerate for 2 to 5 days.
After the brining period, discard the brine, rinse the beef and drain. Allow the beef to come to room temperature before braising.
*This is my nod to Ruhlman. He believes that a chuck roast is a better option than brisket since it is a fattier cut and won’t dry out as easily. I think he is a very smart man.
Cooking Your Porter Cured Corned Beef
Here is where the astringency factor comes in. A few years back, my friend and occasional mentor Sean Z. Paxton aka The Homebrew Chef gave me sage advice about working with this sort of X-factor characteristic. To tame astringency while cooking with a dark beer, the addition of root vegetables in absolutely paramount. In the case of this recipe, I have added a bit of carrot to the braising liquid for a silky cooking liquor and a balanced dish.
2 TBS. canola oil
1 bottle Port City Brewing Co. Porter (or your favorite)
1 carrot, sliced into coins
1 small onion, sliced
1 3-4 lb. corned beef (cured with the recipe above or store bought), drained and pat dry
Preheat the oven to 275F.
Heat a braising dish over medium high heat and add the canola oil. Sear the corned beef on each side until a nice crust has formed, deglaze the dish with the porter, add in the remaining ingredients, cover, and place it the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until fork tender.
Serve with cooked cabbage or do like my family and eat tasty, if very non-traditional, Reuben sandwiches.