Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In the Garden and the Finished Corned Beef

Dear Folks,

What's growing in our front yard?  An Artichoke!  Along with a lot of ornamentals and some edible additions I have been slowly adding over the last couple of years -- including this transplanted artichoke last fall.

We have the main plants in the back edible gardens, but this is the first artichoke of the year.

Later in the season I let the last of the artichokes go to flower because they are just flat out gorgeous.  The plant slowly dies back during the summer and sends out new 'pups' in the fall to be left alone or transplanted elsewhere.  Did you know artichoke hearts are in the top 10 antioxidant foods?  Great stuff.

On March 6th, getting ready to go to my relatives to stay with her for her second routine surgery, I harvested from the garden to take with me.  Asparagus, sugar peas, white and red alpine strawberries, blood and navel oranges and pink grapefruit.  This is why I garden with edibles. Oh boy!

 On March 6th I posted about my decision to do my own "corning" for our St. Patrick's Day dinner of Corned Beef and Cabbage.  Click here for the post

I have been wanting to do this for several years after Martha Stewart showed how she did it.  My timing simply did not work until this year - you have to allow a couple of weeks for the process.  Check that first post for the explanation and origin of "corning" actually a brining/pickling process for inexpensive cuts of meat and also preserving.

First - it turned out great!  The verdict is in from my meat and potatoes guy and myself - absolutely the way to go!  When you are used to a commercial taste of something, it is always a challenge to recreate the taste when you want a healthier alternative.  This home-corned beef was a tasty as the commercial kind and Deane even liked that he could taste the individual spices giving it a more complex flavor.  It was not too salty and just as tender as the commercial product.

As a taste comparison I purchased a commercial corned beef to cook separately from mine.

The Picture at the right shows the cut up vegetables and the two types of meat.  You will see in my notes below the explanation of why my beef (on the right) is NOT pink and that is a good thing :-)  The plate in the first frame shows the three spices I added to the cooking (not brining) part.  Conehead thyme, some of my dried bay leaves and some black peppercorns.

The last frame shows the cooked meats, mine on the left this time and the commercial product on the right.


My first experiment with corning beef for St. Patrick's Day (2012).

Note:  Traditionally corned beef (actually a pickling/brining process) uses saltpeter, sodium nitrate or "pink salt" to maintain the pinkish color.  Since I'm doing my own corning I wanted to control the ingredients and did not want to add nitrates to the meat.  Therefore the cooked meat is more un-browned steak in color.  We did not find that unappealing.

1 1/2 pounds of grass-fed beef brisket (Red Mountain Cattle Company)
1 teaspoon each mustard seed, coriander see and black peppercorns
1 small stick of cinnamon
2 bay leaves, broken
1/4 cup of organic sugar
1/2 cup of kosher salt
about 3 cups of water

1 non-reactive dish or pan large enough to hold the piece of meat plus liquid
1-2 glass dishes or plates to weigh down the meat (some say any plate, but I did not want any un-glazed china to be in contact with the meat)
1 glass cover or plastic wrap
1 tray large enough to hold the dish to contain any spills

Grind the seeds and peppercorns to a coarse ground, grind the cinnamon just to break up.

Dissolve sugar and salt in water.  If boiling to do this, let cool before proceeding.

Pierce the meat multiple times on one side to infuse more flavor.

Place meat in the dish, rub spices over one side.  Use brine to completely cover the meat.  Add dishes or plates to weigh down and cover all.  The meat MUST be completely covered at all times.

Place on tray and refrigerate for 2 weeks.   You can turn the meat once part way through but it is not necessary.  Re-check periodically to make sure the meat continues to be completely covered.

I did not use all the brine and thought I would not, which is why I added the spices first to the meat.


Drain but DO NOT rinse the meat the day you want to cook it.

Traditional Corned Beef, Vegetables and Cabbage in a crock pot.

3 sprigs of thyme (I used conehead)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Corned Meat

In a crock pot, place rinsed and coarsely cut onion, potatoes and carrots.  (I used small red -unpeeled potatoes and a variety of heirloom carrots.)

Place the herbs and peppercorns on top of the vegetables, add meat and just cover with water, the meat will try to float, so do not over-add water.

Cover and turn on low for 8 hours.  Test a piece of meat for tenderness.  8-9 hours is typical for cooking time.  Add hot water if too much evaporates before finished.  Remove meat and keep warm.  Turn heat to high and add cabbage quarters and cook for 30 minutes.

Serve and enjoy your own corned beef.

Meat Options:  The brisket from Red Mountain had almost no fat on it, compared to commercial briskets.  However, the next time I make this I am going to try a round steak or round roast for a little more tender cut of meat.  I may need to reduce the cooking time to compensate for that.

Crock Pot vs. Stove Top.

I like to use a crock pot for this kind of cooking and I had a lecture the day of, so it worked out great for me.  You can certainly do this on the stove top, simmering everything for about 4 hours give or take.  Just test for tenderness before adding cabbage in the final 20-30 minutes (depends on how crispy you like your cabbage).

Have fun with your bounty!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

For beginner gardening help or ideas for using edibles in the kitchen, check out my books:

"Edible Landscaping In the Desert Southwest: Wheelbarrow to Plate"

"101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady"

Available through my publisher or Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your favorite bookseller can order it for you.

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