A few years ago, I was out at a restaurant enjoying a reuben sandwich…probably before I started having kids…I mean, I was at a restaurant, enjoying my food? Yeah. Pre-kids…anyway, I thought to myself, “Self? What on earth is corned beef and why is it so delicious?” One date with Google and two pints of Guinness later, this near-half Irish girl had her answer; corned beef is just a beautiful brisket, brined and preserved with salt, tenderized in the brine over time. St. Patty’s day was coming up, so why not? Many insist that homemade, as is usually the case, is better than store-bought, so I set out to see what all the fuss is about.
Alton Brown is where I started. When it comes to cooking meat, A.B. is the bee’s knees (have you TRIED his roast turkey?!). Only, the Food Network’s food geek had a Corned Beef recipe calling for Saltpeter.
Saltpeter, as it turns out, is potassium nitrate that can be used to cure meats, but more commonly has been used to make explosives. Also, rumored to reduce libido in men! The military, allegedly, used to keep saltpeter in their “arsenal”, using it as a food additive in order to keep the troops’ “little soldiers” at bay, if you will; a practice which reportedly began during the Revolutionary War.
Fascinating, but where could I get this urge-suppressing gun powder for my St. Patrick’s Day feast?
Turns out, you can’t buy saltpeter. Irish holiday ruined. Thanks, Alton.
Luckily, I’m resourceful and found an alternative, less-explosive option that, according to urban legend, would do just as well; Morton’s Tender Quick. It’s not quite as elusive as saltpeter, but not exactly at every neighborhood Piggly Wiggly, either. A little location finder, HERE, helps.
A few tweaks later and I have the perfect St. Patrick’s Day recipe;
Start curing a week or so beforehand and you will have the most tender meat ever. Seriously, worth the effort every time. And the leftovers, if there are any, make a to-die-for Reuben sandwich!
My Irish ancestors would be proud.
You still have time, with the big day a week away. So, grab a pint and get brining!
Erin go Bragh!