Anglo Indian Salt Beef or Irish Corned Beef Recipe

Some would say that salt beef/ corned beef and cabbage go together like a horse and carriage. You just can't have one without the other. 

In my book, salt beef and travel journeys go together.  Just ask the local gentry and they will say it's elementary.

Salt Beef and mustard, Irish Corned Beef, Salt meat, brined meat, preserved meat with curing salt, home cured meat

As children growing up in India, the long summer and Christmas hols were something that we looked forward to with impatient anticipation . Some form of travel was always on the cards and whatever journey we were making, there was always a lavish homemade spread that was carefully pre-prepared and packed away to accompany us on our travels. Mince puffs, boiled eggs and pound cake were our standard travel fare.  But the piece de resistance was mouth watering, white bread salt beef sandwiches slathered with butter and mustard. No more than fifteen minutes into our journey, we would be begging that the food bag be opened so that we could start feasting. Let it not be said that we looked forward to our destination more than our journey. 


Salt Beef and mustard on rye sandwich , Irish Corned Beef sandwich with mustard, Salt meat, brined meat, preserved meat with curing salt
Have salt beef sandwiches.
Will travel!


SALT BEEF

'Salt beef', as it is commonly known in the U.K,  India and other commonwealth countries, is typically a tough cut of meat that has been cured and preserved with salt and then cooked with aromatics (allspice, cloves, cardamom, coriander, ginger, garlic etc.). Coarse salt is usually mixed with a tiny quantity of pink curing salt to cure the meat. The salts draw moisture out of the meat to create an environment that inhibits the growth of bacteria, making the meat less susceptible to spoilage. These salted meats were ideal to take on long journeys where no refrigeration was possible.

On a trip to London years later, I stopped in at the iconic 'Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery', best known for their fantastic salt beef sandwiches, so popular that there are often queues of hungry people out the door waiting to place their order.

Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery in Spitalfields, London, UK, corned beef bagel sandwich

I can proudly say that my salt beef recipe is just as good as 'Beigel Bake' and while I'll still wait in a queue to get one of their hugely popular sandwiches, I don't have to wait for a trip to London to get my salt beef sandwich fix.

CORNED BEEF

In North America, Canada and Ireland, 'Salt Beef' is called 'Corned Beef', named after the large-grained rock salt, commonly referred to as 'corns', that are used to treat the meat. In the U.S, corned beef is typically served with boiled cabbage and potatoes for St. Patrick's Day on March 17th, as part of the Irish- American tradition.

Typically, the curing salt used is salt-petre (sodium nitrate), which gives the meat a lovely, soft, pink color

Salt Beef and mustard, Irish Corned Beef, Salt meat, brined meat, preserved meat with curing salt, home cured meat

If cured with just ordinary salt (sodium chloride), the meat would have an unappealing grey color. My mother had her special source at the meat market who would supply her with a little bit of salt petre at a time. At the time, salt petre, was not the easiest commodity to come by in India given its magical properties to not just cure meat but to make gun powder as well. Of course, now in India, salt petre might not be the only thing one might have difficulty finding at the meat market.

Nevertheless, if salt petre is not available, curing meat with sodium nitrite, rather than sodium nitrate, is another popular option.


PRAGUE POWDER #1

Now that I live in North America, getting my hands on curing salt isn't too difficult. I use Prague powder #1 which is a combination of 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% salt. This pink curing salt is also sold as Instacure #1 or Pink Curing Salt #1.  Prague powder #1 is most effective when curing meat for a short time (about a week) and then cooking it, just as this salt beef recipe calls for.

Prague powder #2 is a mix of sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite and salt. It is typically used for curing meat over long periods (a month or more) like air dried serrano ham and salami. So, I would not recommend using it for this salt beef preparation.


DOSAGE OF PRAGUE POWDER #1

As the packet indicates, only a small quantity of this powder is required to cure meat. Recommended levels are 1 teaspoon of Prague powder #1 per 5lb (2.2kg of meat).

Prague powder #1, pink curing salt, sodium nitrite

Important cook's note:

You will see that in my recipe, I have used a lot more than the recommended levels on the Prague Powder #1 packet. This is because there are two ways of curing meat. 

1) Directly applying the curing salt to the meat (dry rub). The recommended levels above are to be used when directly rubbing the curing salt onto the meat.

2) Creating a brine by dissolving the salts in a specific quantity of water and submerging the meat in the brine. This is the method, that I use for making my salt beef. When using a brine, more curing salt is required in a particular ratio of salt : sugar : water.


GENERAL BRINE PROPORTIONS BY WEIGHT 

This is the general formula for creating your brine. Be sure to use a weighing scale to weigh the salt since different kosher/ rock salts have different densities.

Coarse Salt/ Kosher salt-  75 grams
Sugar-  25 grams
Pink salt/ Curing salt/ Prague powder #1- 6.5 grams (approx. 1 teaspoon)
Water- 1 litre or 1/2 gallon (approx. 4 cups)

You should make enough brine to completely submerge the meat.


SALT BEEF / CORNED BEEF RECIPE


Ingredients for Salt Beef or corned beef brisket, pickling spice aromatics, cinnamon, clove, allspice, pink curing salt, kosher salt, garlic, ginger, pepper corns, brown sugar

INGREDIENTS:

A cut of beef (preferably brisket):
☐ One  2.5-3 pound cut of beef* (round or silverside are other alternatives to brisket)

Pickling spices: (Aromatics): Makes 1/4 cup
☐ 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
☐ 1 teaspoons whole cloves
☐ 5 whole cardamom pods
☐ 1/2 tablespoon whole allspice berries
☐ 1/2 tablespoon whole mustard seeds (brown or yellow)
☐ 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
☐ 1/2 tablespoon dried red chili flakes
☐ 3 large bay leaves, crumbled
☐ 1 teaspoon ground ginger
☐ 2 inch stick of cinnamon, broken into pieces

(Use 1 1/2 tablespoons of the pickling spice while brining and the remaining while cooking)

Brine:
☐ 1/2 gallon or 1.9 litres of water
☐ 150 g Kosher salt (approx. 1/2 cup of Morton's Kosher Salt). Different salts have different densities. Be sure to weigh the salt and do not rely on a cup measure.
☐ 13g of pink curing salt (approx. 2 flat teaspoons)
☐ 1.5 tablespoons pickling spices
☐ 1/4 packed cup of brown sugar
☐ 3 cloves of garlic, minced

* For larger cuts of beef, increase the pickling spice mix and brine proportions accordingly. The most important thing is to use enough brine solution to completely submerge the meat.


METHOD:

STEP 1: Make the pickling spice

Combine all the dry spices (aromatics) together and dry roast the spices lightly on a pan over medium heat to release the fragrances.

Roasting pickling spice for salt beef, corned beef brisket,  cinnamon, clove, allspice, pepper corns


Crush the spices coarsely using a mortar and pestle or in a dry grinder for a couple of pulses.



Crushing pickling spice for salt beef, corned beef brisket,  cinnamon, clove, allspice, pepper corns

Crushing pickling spice for salt beef, corned beef brisket,  cinnamon, clove, allspice, pepper corns




STEP 2: Make the brine solution

In a separate saucepan, combine all the 'brine ingredients' together. (Water, sugar, kosher salt, pickling salt, garlic and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the pickling spice). Bring it to a boil, stir well to dissolve all the sugar and salts.

Allow the brine to cool.

Brine solution for salt beef or corned beef brisket, preserving meat with salt


STEP 3: Soak the meat in brine solution for 7 days

Once the brine has completely cooled to room temperature, transfer the brine to a dish and completely submerge the meat in the brine. It is important that the entire piece if meat is completely submerged, so use an appropriate sized dish. 

Cover with cling wrap and then place a weight on the meat to keep the meat submerged. A couple of cans of beans or a small bag of rice or pulses does the trick.

Place the dish on a tray (to catch any unwanted spills) and then refrigerate for 7 days.

Allow the meat to soak in the brine for 7 days, flipping the meat in the brine solution once a day.

Brining beef brisket for salt beef or corned beef, preserving meat in brine solution, salting corned beef



STEP 4: Soak the meat in fresh water

Below is what the meat will look like after being brined for 7 days. It won't look pink, rather a bit grey. But, don't worry about it. After it is cooked and sliced, the insides will be pink.

Brining beef brisket for salt beef or corned beef, preserving meat in brine solution, salting corned beef

After 7 days of brining the meat, remove the meat from the brine solution and wash the meat well. Discard the brine solution and spices. 

Fill the dish with clean, cold, fresh water and soak the washed meat for about 2 hours to flush out some of the excess salt.


STEP 5: Cook the meat

Discard the water that the meat has been soaking in before following the instructions to cook the meat.

To cook salt beef/ corned beef in a pressure cooker: 

Cover the meat completely with fresh water, close pressure cooker lid, sprinkle the remaining dry pickling spice into the water.   Bring to a boil on high flame, until steam emerges from open valve. Put the stopper on the pressure cooker and wait for one whistle.

After one whistle, reduce the heat to low and cook for 70 minutes. Allow the cooker to cool naturally before opening.

Salt Beef, Irish Corned Beef, Salt meat, brined meat, preserved meat with curing salt, home cured meat


To cook salt beef/ corned beef on stovetop:

Place the meat in a large pot/ dutch oven which has a lid.  Sprinkle in the remaining dry pickling spice. Add cold, fresh water to completely cover the meat. Water level can be up to one inch over the meat. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low so that the meat is just about simmering. Cook for 3-4 hours.

To cook salt beef/ corned beef in Instant Pot:

Add 3 cups of cold, fresh water to the Instant Pot. Place the trivet inside. Place the meat on the trivet and sprinkle on the remaining dry pickling spice. Close and lock the lid. Turn venting knob to sealing position. Select high pressure and cook for 90 minutes. Allow approximately 15 minutes after cooking time for a natural release. Then turn venting knob to venting position and open the lid carefully.

To cook salt beef/ corned beef in a crock pot:

Place the meat in a crock pot and sprinkle it with the remaining dry pickling spice. Cover the meat with fresh, cold water. Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 7-8 hours. 


STEP 6: Slice the meat

The way you slice the meat is very important. 

Firstly, allow the meat to rest for at least one hour before cutting it. If not, all the lovely juices will run out of the meat when you cut it and you will be left with dry salted beef.

Secondly, after removing as much of the fat cap as you like (brisket has a large portion of fat), be sure to cut against the grain of the meat. If you look at the picture below, you will see the grain running in long strands from left to right. Hold your knife to make a 'T' against this grain and slice the salted beef in thin slices. This will give you soft, succulent slices rather than long, stringy, chewy pieces.

Salt Beef and mustard sandwich, Irish Corned Beef, Salt meat, brined meat, preserved meat with curing salt, home cured meat
Time to make a sandwich!

 

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes


Check out my my other Anglo Indian or Global inspired recipes by clicking on "ANGLO INDIAN" or "GLOBAL" below.



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