So I started with throwing some notes together.
Last year I stuck strictly to Michael Ruhlman's and Brian Polcyn's recipe from Charcuterie, which is an excellent recipe, but I like to venture out on my own a little bit, so I made a few small changes. The one thing I did not make a change to was the Pickling Spice recipe, which can be found on page 70 of Charcuterie, because it's so good I see no reason to change it. Why mess with perfection? (And I made so much last year that I still have more than enough to use this year.) Note: It is perfectly fine to use store bought pickling spice. It isn't as sweet as the one from Charcuterie, but it is perfectly acceptable.
2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
2 tablespoons of mustard seeds
2 tablespoons of coriander seeds
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
24 bay leaves, crumbled (a money saving hint here - buy your bay leaves from the plastic packages in the Mexican food department - they're perfectly fine and so much cheaper! You can do the same with the cinnamon sticks.)
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger.
Lightly toast the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander in a small dry pan. Remove them and smash them with the side of a knife just to crack them.
Combine the toasted cracked herbs with the other ingredients and mix well. You can store these in an tightly sealed plastic container or glass jar. This yields about 1 cup of pickling spice.
3 and a half pound brisket (Thank you Campton Heights Market for being the only place I could find one and cutting it to the size I wanted! Be warned, brisket seems to be hard to find this time of year.)
1 gallon water
2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 teaspoons pink salt (Note: If you can't find this in your area or you're not comfortable with Nitrites you don't have to use this ingredient. Be aware though, that your corned beef will not come out pink like what you see in the store, it will be grey. Not to worry, it will still taste better than anything you bought pre-done in the store. If you plan ahead and want to use pink salt, the source I ordered mine from was Butcher & Packer Supply Co. located in Madison Heights, MI (800) 521-3188.)
3 cloves of garlic, minced.
2 tablespoons of Pickling Spice (see recipe above, or use store bought)
8 dried juniper berries (can usually be found in the spice section - but can easily be skipped if you can't find them.)
Combine all of the brine ingredients (not the brisket) and bring to a simmer and stir constantly until the salt and the sugar have dissolved. Remove the brine from the heat and allow to come to room temperature. Once the brine has reached room temperature place in the refrigerator until chilled.
As far as the cooking I'm going to list two options, which you can use based on your time constraints. The first is boiled on the stove top for about 3 hours and the second is in a slow cooker for about 8 hours.
Method number 1:
Place brisket, fat side up, in a large pot and cover it most of the way with water. Pour a 12 oz. beer on top (preferably a stout like Guiness) and make sure the brisket is completely covered in liquid. Add two more tablespoons of Pickling Spices from the recipe above, or store bought, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. If the water gets below the meat at any time during the three hours replenish with more water. If you are not cooking your vegetables separate and would like to cook along with the brisket put in potatoes (about 10 baby reds, unpeeled), turnips (two, halved) and carrots (3 or 4 peeled and cut into large pieces) about an hour and a half later. After another 45 minutes add the celery (2 or 3 stalks cut into large pieces), onion (1 quartered) and, of course, cabbage (one head quartered). In about another 45 minutes the meat and vegetables should all be done.
Remove the corned beef (you can use the liquid from the corned beef to moisten the meat and vegetables.). Slice and serve the corned beef warm with the vegetables. Any leftover meat can be cooled, wrapped, and refrigerated for up to a week.
Method number 2 Slow Cooker:
Layer the bottom of the slow cooker with peeled and large cut carrots (about 3 to 4), about 10 whole unpeeled baby red potatoes, a quartered onion and a couple of halved turnips. Place brisket on the vegetables fat side up and mostly cover with water, add two tablespoons of the pickling spice and finish off with a bottle of stout. (Again, preferably Guiness.) Cook for 6 hours on low. Add the head of cabbage, quartered and a couple stalks of celery cut into large pieces and continue to cook on low for another 2 hours.
Remove the corned beef, slice and serve warm with the vegetables. The liquid can be used to moisten the meat and vegetables. Any left over meat can be cooled, wrapped and refrigerated for up to one week.
I hope you enjoy brining your own corned beef and may the Luck of the Irish Be With You. Let me know how it goes for you.