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Corned Beef

In preparation for St. Patrick’s Day, I sat down with our very own Jeremy Johnson, Willy West Meat Manager, to talk corned beef. Along with taking some time to explain to me what corned beef is and why people eat it on St. Patrick’s Day, I also learned that he started making the corned beef we sell in the meat case a few years ago to make sure that there was a local, grass-fed option for all of us Co-op shoppers.

Corned beef is often thought of as a traditional Irish food and, while it was a main export from Ireland for quite some time, its consumption is more of an Irish-American tradition. When it was primarily exported from Ireland, it was too expensive for most Irish families to buy and eat. As the Irish immigrated to the US and found it inexpensive and readily available, it replaced bacon in several more traditionally Irish recipes.

The nitty gritty
Down to the nitty gritty. Corned beef is just spiced, salt-cured beef. It is generally made with brisket, but it can be made from most any cut. It can be made dry—that’s how Jeremy makes it and that’s the recipe he’s shared here—and it can be made in a saltwater solution as well. The spice blends used vary greatly and should always be adjusted to personal taste. If you plan to make your own, make sure to get a head start, as it takes a whole week just to cure, plus another day in the slow cooker if you’re making corned beef and cabbage. No pressure to do it yourself though, we will have plenty ready for you at the meat counters.

How to make corned beef at home:

  • 4-5 lb. brisket
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 Tbs. cracked peppercorns
  • 3-4 bay leaves crumbled
  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • 1 Tbs. mustard seed
  • 1 Tbs. allspice
  • 1 Tbs. dried thyme

Directions:Mix all the spices together and set aside. Take a fork and poke holes all over the brisket. Rub all sides of the brisket with the salt and spices, using it all up. Place the rubbed brisket in a resealable plastic bag, removing as much air as possible before sealing. Place the bag between two cookie sheets and weigh it down with heavy cans and refrigerate. Flip brisket everyday for the next seven days. Remove the now-cured brisket from the bag and rinse well with water, patting dry afterward.

Optional cooking method: Place corned beef in a large Dutch oven and add enough water to cover meat plus an extra half-inch.
Simmer for 2-3 hours or until fork tender.

Corned Beef and Cabbage
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • 2 celery stalks
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 small onion, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 lb small potatoes (cut them into big chunks if they’re on the larger side)
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 1 corned beef brisket
  • 1 Tbs. pickling spice
  • 1/2 head savoy cabbage, cut into wedges
  • grainy mustard, for serving

Directions: Chop carrots and celery into large chunks. Throw all the veggies except cabbage into the bottom of a large slow cooker. Put the corned beef on top of the veggies, fat side up. Sprinkle the pickling spice on top. Add enough water to not quite cover the meat, probably a little more than a quart.
Cover and cook for 8 1/2 hours on low (or about 4 hours on high if you’re in a hurry).

Lay the cabbage on top of the corned beef and cook for an additional 1 1/2 hours (45 min on high) until both the cabbage and beef are tender. Slice the corned beef against the grain in thin slices and serve with veggies, cooking liquid, and grainy mustard.

Corned Beef Hash
(Adapted from Epicurious)

  • 1 lb. russet potatoes, diced
  • 1 lb. piece cooked corned beef, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 4 large eggs (if making as breakfast dish)
  • 1 Tbs. flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions: Boil potatoes in salted water for 3 minutes and drain. Put the corned beef into a food processor and pulse until it’s chopped into smallish pieces. Sauté onion and bell pepper over med high heat in a large skillet until browned. Add in the potatoes and sauté another 5 minutes or so. Stir in the beef and continue to cook until everything is looking browned and smelling delicious. Stir in the cream and continue to stir for another minute.

If this is going to be a breakfast dish, now is the time to make four wells in the hash, breaking one egg into each well. Turn the heat down to med low and cover for about 5 minutes, depending on how runny you like your eggs. Garnish with parsley and enjoy.

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