You can make a decent corned beef dinner by buying a corned beef brisket, simmering it in a pot of water for a few hours, and adding vegetables at the end of cooking. But you can make superb New England-style corned beef if you skip the commercially made stuff and “corn” the meat yourself.
When this curing process is done properly, the meat isn’t just generically salty; it’s seasoned but balanced, with complex flavor thanks to the presence of aromatics and spices. Although the process takes several days, we found that it’s almost entirely hands-off: After a six-day soak in a brine made with both table and pink curing salt, and flavored with sugar, whole spices, and garlic, the seasonings had penetrated to the core of the meat.
To break down the brisket’s collagen, we gently simmered the meat in a low oven, adding carrots, potatoes, and cabbage to the pot while the meat rested so that they simmered briefly in the seasoned cooking liquid.
Pink curing salt No. 1, which can be purchased online or in stores specializing in meat curing, is a mixture of table salt and nitrites; it is also called Prague Powder No. 1, Insta Cure No. 1, or DQ Curing Salt No. 1.
In addition to the pink salt, we use table salt here. If using Diamond Crystal kosher salt, increase the salt to 1 1/2 cups; if using Morton kosher salt, increase to 1 1/8 cups. Choose a uniformly thick brisket. The brisket will look gray after curing but will turn pink once cooked. This recipe requires refrigerating the brined brisket for six days.
HOME-CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE
Start to finish: 4 hours (not including days of brining)
3/4 cup salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons pink curing kosher salt No. 1
1 (4 1/2-to-5 pound) beef brisket, flat cut, fat trimmed to 1/8 inch
6 garlic cloves, peeled
6 bay leaves
5 allspice berries
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
6 carrots, peeled, halved crosswise, thick ends halved lengthwise
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, unpeeled
1 head green cabbage (2 pounds), uncored, cut into 8 wedges
For the corned beef, dissolve salt, sugar, and curing salt in 4 quarts water in large container. Add brisket, 3 garlic cloves, 4 bay leaves, allspice berries, 1 tablespoon peppercorns, and coriander seeds to brine. Weigh brisket down with plate, cover, and refrigerate for 6 days.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275 F. Remove brisket from brine, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels. Cut 8 inch square triple thickness of cheesecloth. Place remaining 3 garlic cloves, remaining 2 bay leaves, and remaining 1 tablespoon peppercorns in center of cheesecloth and tie into bundle with kitchen twine. Place brisket, spice bundle, and 2 quarts water in Dutch oven. (Brisket may not lie flat but will shrink slightly as it cooks.) Bring to simmer over high heat, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook until fork inserted into thickest part of brisket slides in and out with ease, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Remove pot from oven and turn off oven. Transfer brisket to large oven-safe platter, ladle 1 cup of cooking liquid over meat, cover, and return to oven to keep warm.
For the vegetables, add carrots and potatoes to pot and bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until vegetables begin to soften, 7 to 10 minutes.
Add cabbage to pot, increase heat to high, and return to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all vegetables are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
While vegetables cook, transfer brisket to cutting board. Slice brisket against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Return brisket to platter. Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to platter with beef. Moisten with additional broth and serve.