Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bag-Free Brisket (Scratch Made)

The Lowdown:

If corned beef reminds you of some log shaped piece of meat in a bag, you're not alone. With fond memories, I pass by it every time I'm hunting and foraging in the grocery store. I don't remember the last time I had corned beef, but I do recall loving it. That fall apart texture. The aroma. The grip-you-by-the-balls flavour. All things that I appreciate in a meal.

But how many of you have actually made one yourselves? I sure know I haven't. Part of the problem -- that damn curing salt (Prague powder #2 or pink curing salt). I live in Victoria, BC which is by no means a small town. However, finding that salt proved to be a killer. I searched for weeks, going to specialty butchers, delis, grocery stores, markets, and meat shops. Nothing. Then I got the brilliant idea to search online. In the true spirit of difficulty, I couldn't find a place that would ship to Canada. Then, I did. But they had issues dealing with my visa. For the love of everything holy, why can't I buy this damn salt! It's like it's the international salt of mystery. Double-0 Salt, with the dastardly plan of preventing people from making cured meats.

Obviously, since I'm writing this post, you know I've somehow got my grubbly little mitts on some. Let me take you back... way back. So two days ago I was complaining (and by this I mean ranting out of control) about this predicament with a friend, the GM of Smoken Bones, when his chef, who I've become friends with, over heard me. With a simple gesture of his hand, he vanished with a puff of smoke and reappeared moments later with the secret ingredient. No, not eye of newt, a porcupine quill, or old man's beard. It was the Double-0 Salt that has eluded me all these tiresome weeks. Okay, he's not a magician per se, so he didn't really vanish with a puff of smoke. However, he did get me the salt and he is a mastermind when it comes to smoking meats, cheeses, and just about anything else. Warning! Warning! Shameless plug alert! If you're ever in this part of the world check out Smoken Bones.

Back to the mission at hand. I now had the salt of curing in my possession. Fast forward 12 days. The brine has done its magic. The brisket is either ready to be smoked (to make Montreal smoked meat) or boiled to make a traditional brisket dinner. Decisions decisions.

The Lowdown:

3 lbs Beef brisket
1/4 cup Sea salt
2 tbsp Pink curing salt (Prague Powder #2)

2 tbsp Coriander*
5 whole Chili peppers, dried*
2 tbsp Peppercorns, whole*
6 Bay leaves, dried*
2 tsp Cumin, whole*
1 Cinnamon stick, crushed*
1 tsp Clove, whole*
1 Cardamom pod, whole*
1 tbsp Mustard seed*
1 tsp Allspice, whole*

*These ingredients can be skipped if you are choosing to use store bought pickling spice.

The Lowdown:

  1. Place the beef brisket into a sealable container that is large enough to house the brisket, then add pickling spice ingredients, salt, curing salt, and enough water to entirely cover the brisket, and then some (I used approximately 4 cups).
  2. Place in a refrigerator for 7-12 days to allow the pickling spices to ramp up the brisket's flavour.
  3. Remove the brisket from the brine, and allow to soak in regular water for 20-30 minutes to get all the excess salt out of it.
  4. Dump out the soaking water and refill the pot so that 3/4 of the brisket is covered by water. Optional, add a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, some mustard seed, some peppercorns, and some all spice to the water (this will really make the brisket a knockout).
  5. Cover, bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours. Remove from water and serve warm.
  6. Enjoy.

Featured on: Chef in Training, 33 Shades of Green, Premeditated Leftovers, Spain in Iowa, Food Renegade, Lady Behind the Curtain,

Stay Rad - h


  1. CONGRATULATIONS!!! Your recipe is on Todays Feature Post from Cast Party Wednesday #47!
    Thank You for sharing your recipe with us!
    ---Sheryl @ Lady Behind The Curtain---

    1. Aw wicked cool! Thanks a lot. I will definitely be playing around with brisket a bit more often after this one. Once again, thanks for the support :)


    2. Oh wow, that is so cool that you made corned beef from scratch! I'm so glad you managed to get hold of that salt- isn't it wonderful how things work out? I'll be interested to see what you do with this lovely piece of meat - it looks delicious!

    3. I ended up boiling it for the corned beef style. Next time I will be smoking it for sure!


  2. I will definitely be trying this! My husband loves corned beef - I like having control over the ingredients I serve my family.

    BTW, the best gravy I have ever made has been from corned beef drippings.

  3. Have you since been able to find pink curing salt in Victoria? I am having the same problem!