Homemade Corned Beef Recipe (without nitrates)

homemade corned beef recipe without nitrates

Have I ever told you how horrible of a cook I used to be?

It was bad, you guys. Really bad.

So bad that when Christian and I got married, my speciality was broiled spam sandwiches. (For realz.)

So bad that it was years before I fed my family pork chops that weren’t reminiscent of corrugated cardboard.

So bad that once I cooked a store-bought corned beef for only a few hours (without added seasonings) and then proceeded to shred it (instead of slice it), which resulted in bright pink strings of chewy, flavorless beef, which prompted Christian to think corned beef was the devil. (Can’t say that I blame him.)

Let’s just say I struggled.

All that to say, if I can end up loving to cook and writing a cookbook 12 years later (which is coming at ya Spring 2019!), then I think there’s hope for pretty much anyone…

Anyway. It was many years before I tried corned beef again after that original incident, but I eventually got back on the horse (ya know, the whole “get bucked off and get back on” thing…) and it was totally worth it.

Nowadays, I make homemade corned beef from scratch to avoid the nitrates and junk in the store-bought versions, and it’s unbelievably easy. In a nutshell:

  1. Stick a beef brisket in brine.
  2. Let said brisket bask in the brine for 5 to 10 days. (“brisket bask in the brine” say that 5 times fast)
  3. Cook the brisket long and slow.

BAM. This one is hard to mess up, folks. Even if you struggle in the kitchen (like my old self).

homemade corned beef recipe without nitrates

Homemade Corned Beef vs. Store-Bought Corned Beef

First off, you probably already know this, but corned beef doesn’t have anything to do with corn. Shocking.

The “corn” in corned beef actually refers to the large grains (or corns) of salt that are used in the recipe. Makes sense, huh?

Good. Now we’re on the same page.

Corned beef is a salt-cured meat, and it usually contains pink curing salt or saltpeter (not to be confused with kosher salt, pink Himalayan salt, or table salt).

To be honest, I’m still slightly on the fence about the health issues associated with nitrates and nitrates, especially since they occur naturally in many foods. However, I figure if I can easily avoid them, then I will.

homemade corned beef recipe without nitrates

The only downfall I see to *not* using saltpeter in this recipe is that the resulting corned beef will be more brownish (like a typical brisket or roast) than bright pink. But that doesn’t really bother me much.

Corned beef reminds me a bit of a good ham– salty and spiced–except it’s made with beef, not pork, of course. Once you try this homemade corned beef recipe with the brine that packs a punch from the mustard, cinnamon, and juniper berries, I have a hunch it’ll become a regular on your table.

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homemade corned beef recipe without nitrates

Homemade Corned Beef Recipe

You Will Need:

  • 4 quarts water*
  • 2 cups coarse salt (use one cup of salt per 2 quarts of water)
  • 1/2 cup unrefined whole cane sugar (like this or regular brown sugar works too)
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 beef brisket (3 to 5 lbs)

*The water needs to completely cover the meat during the brine process, so the exact amount of water required will depend on the size of your brisket and the size of your brining container. Reduce the salt if you use less water (the general rule of thumb is 1 cup of coarse salt per 2 quarts of water).

Place the water, salt, sugar, garlic, and all the herbs and spices in a stockpot and bring to a simmer. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved, then set aside to cool.

Put the brisket in a large non-reactive container and pour the cooled brine over the top. The brine should cover the meat completely. If the brisket wants to float to the top, weigh it down with a plate. (I use these large food-grade plastic tubs with lids for brining.)

Let the brisket brine in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 days. The longer it sits, the saltier it will be. I accidentally left my most recent corned beef for 14 days but it was definitely still edible. If you are in a hurry, you can brine for a shorter amount of time, although the finished product might not be as flavorful.

homemade corned beef recipe without nitrates

To Cook Corned Beef:

You Will Need:

  • 1 brined corned beef brisket (above)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit this if your corned beef has been brining the full 10 days or longer– it likely will be salty enough)
  • 1 12 oz beer (stouts or porters are good options)- optional
  • 1 pound small red potatoes
  • 2-3 cups carrot chunks

Thoroughly rinse the corned beef until cool water– this will prevent the finished product from being too salty.

Arrange the onion wedges and garlic in the bottom of a slow cooker, then place the corned beef on top, fat side up.

Add the mustard seeds, bay leaves, allspice, pepper, salt, and beer. Fill the slow cooker with hot water until the corned beef is almost completely covered. (As it cooks it will sink down a bit.)

Cook on low for 5 hours, then add the carrots and potatoes. Cook for another 2 to 3 hours, or until tender.

Thinly slice the corned beef across the grain and serve with the carrots, potatoes, grainy mustard, and/or cabbage, if desired.

homemade corned beef recipe without nitrates

Homemade Corned Beef Notes:

  • To cook cabbage in the slow cooker with the corned beef, placed a cored and quartered head of cabbage on top of the beef one hour before the cooking time is complete.
  • If you’d rather skip the beer, no worries– just use additional water.
  • If you’re missing some of the spices and herbs called for in the brine recipe, it’s not a huge deal. You can omit or adjust quite a bit without hurting the flavor of the finished beef.
  • I didn’t have juniper berries when I made my brine, so I used 4 drops of juniper berry essential oil instead.
  • If you don’t want to use a slow cooker, add all the ingredients to a large pot, cover, and simmer for 3 to 4 hours on the stovetop until the meat is fork tender.
  • Turn leftover corned beef into reuben sandwiches made with homemade sauerkraut.

homemade corned beef recipe without nitrates

5.0 from 5 reviews

Homemade Corned Beef Recipe
Author: The Prairie Homestead
Recipe type: Main Course- Beef
 

Ingredients
  • FOR THE BRINE:
  • 1 gallon of water*
  • 2 cups coarse salt (use one cup of salt per 2 quarts of water)
  • ½ cup unrefined whole cane sugar (or regular brown sugar works too)
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 beef brisket (3 to 5 lbs)
  • TO COOK THE BRISKET:
  • 1 brined corned beef brisket (above)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt (omit this if your corned beef has been brining the full 10 days or longer– it likely will be salty enough)
  • 1 12 oz beer (stouts or porters are good options)- optional
  • 1 pound small red potatoes
  • 2-3 cups carrot chunks

Instructions
  1. FOR THE BRINE:
  2. *The water needs to completely cover the meat during the brine process, so the exact amount of water required will depend on the size of your brisket and the size of your brining container. Adjust the salt if you use less water (the general rule of thumb is 1 cup of coarse salt per 2 quarts of water).
  3. Place the water, salt, sugar, garlic, and all the herbs and spices in a stockpot and bring to a simmer. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved, then set aside to cool.
  4. Put the brisket in a large non-reactive container and pour the cooled brine over the top. The brine should cover the meat completely. If the brisket wants to float to the top, weigh it down with a plate. (I use these large food-grade plastic tubs with lids for brining.)
  5. Let the brisket brine in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 days. The longer it sits, the saltier it will be. I accidentally left my most recent corned beef for 13 days but it was definitely still edible. If you are in a hurry, you can brine for a shorter amount of time, although the finished product might not be as flavorful.
  6. TO COOK THE BRINED BRISKET:
  7. Thoroughly rinse the corned beef with cool water– this will prevent the finished product from being too salty.
  8. Arrange the onion wedges and garlic in the bottom of a slow cooker, then place the corned beef on top, fat side up.
  9. Add the mustard seeds, bay leaves, allspice, pepper, salt, and beer. Fill the slow cooker with hot water until the beef is almost completely covered. (As it cooks it will sink down a bit.)
  10. Cook on low for 5 hours, then add the carrots and potatoes. Cook for another 2 to 3 hours, or until tender.
  11. Thinly slice the corned beef across the grain and serve with the carrots, potatoes, grainy mustard, and cabbage, if desired.

3.4.3177

homemade corned beef recipe without nitrates

 

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