I think, pretty much without fail, every holiday, or day of some named importance, has a special food associated with it: Thanksgiving has it’s Turkey, Christmas it’s ham, Valentine’s Day has Chocolate, the Fourth of July has BBQ, and St. Patrick’s Day has Corned Beef. Growing up, I was never really a fan of boiled meat, but it was tradition, and I did appreciate the salty boiled potatoes and green beer, so when I became an adult, the whole boiled meat thing kind of got lost. That was until I had kids.
The kids, of course, need to at least be aware of cultural traditions, and so, we started boiling some meat on St. Patrick’s Day. The only problem was that it wasn’t cheap and it was laden with chemicals and salt. As chance would have it, one year, we split a side of beef with two friends and somehow we ended up with the brisket; now it was uncured brisket, but it was still a brisket and so we figured why not try brining it ourselves? It was a risk, but it was only boiled meat, what could go wrong?
This was a turning point in my boiled-meat-career; it was brilliant, so much better than the pre-brined garbage you get at the grocery store. Unfortunately, the following year we didn’t purchase a cow, and we thought we would be stuck going back to the grocery store. But we weren’t! We had previously come into some venison, and thought this would be an excellent opportunity to try brining some venison roasts ourselves. It was delicious!
We eat corned venison throughout the year these days – not just St. Patrick’s Day – and everyone always loves when we do. Over the years, the recipe has changed, but the flavor is always delicious, and it’s a great way to get rid of those big old shoulder roasts (they just need to be boiled a bit longer and aren’t as tender as the other rump cuts.)
In half-a-gallon of water, boil 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of kosher salt, 1/2 cinnamon stick, 2 tablespoons of whole allspice, 1 teaspoon of mixed peppercorns, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon coriander, roughly chopped garlic cloves (you know how many you need) and other spices you want to experiment with (we’ve tried dill and fennel, both okay). Once the salt and sugar have dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature as you don’t want to cook the meat when covering it with brine.
When the brine has cooled, put your meat into a large sanitary container and add brine to cover. The meat will float so a weight may be necessary. Depending on the size of the container and cut of meat, it may be necessary to flip the meat daily. We usually brine our meat for five days in the refrigerator.
Before cooking, remove the meat from the brine and give it a quick rinse in the sink. Add the meat to a large sauce pot, cover with fresh water and cook just like you would a piece of corned beef you bought at the store.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!