Charcutepalooza Challenge #3 Corned Beef Experimental Sunday
I love my friends. Back in 2006, when I told people that I was making the move from Manchester, England to Sydney, Australia someone actually said to me “you’ll never make any friends”. Well how wrong they were. I found a fabulous group of friends who I feel I’ve known and loved for much longer than 4 1/2 years!
I love my friends because they all humour me and my crazy ideas.
So when I had to think of what to do with my corned beef for the March Charcutepalooza challenge, I knew my friends would come to the rescue. Three days before the beef went into the brine I called an EMERGENCY Experimental Sunday. Experimental Sunday is basically a dinner party we have all been taking it in turns to host over the last few years. The rules for Experimental Sunday are this:
1. You have to cook something you have never cooked before.
2. You are absolutely not allowed to practice before the day.
3. All guests have to bring enough money for take-out pizza (just in case).
We hadn’t had an Experimental Sunday in a while so corned beef seemed to fit the bill perfectly and to my great joy all of the friends invited were super keen to be part of the Charcutepalooza Experimental Sunday! This untried recipe involved a little more effort than usual. The first challenge was to source the meat (the recipe calls for brisket), but every butcher I went to sold ready corned silverside. Apart from the odd comment of “Why not just buy the ready corned beef, love?”, I also had the problem that brisket is sold here but not in 2.25kg pieces, they seem to be sold in individual serving sized chunks. I’m becoming a bit of a butcher whore and I’ve been searching high and low for a good, local butcher that sells good quality, humanely raised, organic beef. I have tried many different butchers now and the problem I am finding is that Australian butchers seem to have a love affair with pre-cutting all of their meat into cuts they think the customer would like…
Eventually I found a butcher with a whole side of brisket out the back; it also had a bone in, so I politely asked if I could have a 2.25kg piece without the bone. This proved a little too taxing for my butcher and I ended up with four pieces of meat - two chunks with bones and two chunks without. The largest piece weighed in at just over a kilo, so I figured that would be OK but I really did want to do a large piece of meat so I ended up visiting another butcher and bowing to peer pressure bought a 1.2kg piece of silverside. Again, not quite as large as I’d hoped, but now I had two bits to play with. This also meant that Experimental Sunday was now a taste-test of brisket versus silverside – which cut of meat would be the winner?!
On Tuesday I made the brine. The toasting of the herb and spice mix filled the house with beautiful aromas, this mix was then added to the water, salt, sugar and cure #1 and allowed to cool – brine ready.
On Wednesday the brisket and silverside were submerged in the brine, weighted down with ramekins and transferred to the fridge. My poor husband lost his beer fridge to meat for a second time (the other still has meat hanging at 15 degrees, and although he’s a Brit too, contrary to popular belief he doesn’t like warm beer!).
That was all I had to do until Sunday, when the meat was removed from the brine, rinsed, and simmered slowly in order to cook it. I was a little concerned that the beef might be very salty, so I soaked it in fresh water for a couple of hours before cooking. I also brought it to the boil in fresh water and discarded before simmering the meat, in a third pot of fresh water, with the rest of the pickling spice.
The beef was served as I remember other cured meats being served as a child, with boiled veg and a comforting parsley sauce.
The verdict: both the brisket and the silverside, according to my husband, tasted exactly like the beef in the tin, (he actually enjoys it on his sandwiches), only ten times better! Phew, it was worth the effort. On the taste front, I had to take his word for it, as I have never managed to eat the tinned stuff as even the idea of it repulses me. However, the flavour and texture of this beef was actually pretty satisfying.
For everyone else, corned silverside was a familiar childhood memory, but apparently Australian corned silverside is renowned for being a bit dry. According to the judges mine was much more tender, but the winner, by a country mile was the brisket. The brisket fell apart, and was incredibly juicy and tender, with a fabulous herby/spicy flavour. Even my friend, who would be a vegetarian if she could, went back for seconds and possibly thirds of the brisket!
Such was the awe of the homemade corned beef it led to conversations about how to make such dishes from scratch. So out came the charcuterie bible which, once they had recovered from the lack of photographs, was followed by many gasps of “ooh” and “aah” and “when are you having the next dinner party?”
In amongst all of the excitement the biggest revelation of the evening was allspice. Pre- homemade corned beef we had all thought that allspice was a secret combination of spices that someone had ground up and put in a jar, but every day’s a school day and out of the cupboard came the whole allspice berries that had been a key ingredient in the pickling spice.
There wasn’t any left over brisket, but the silverside made very nice salads and sandwiches for the rest of the week. Following the success of the corned beef I have promised my dad I will take some pickling spice and cure back to the UK for my next visit so he too can share in the new found joy that is REAL corned beef – he too is also a fan of the canned variety but I’m convinced I can convert him.
Posted: March 15th, 2011 under charcutepalooza.