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Corned Beef at a Glance
Ancient Europe, Middle East
Type of Charcuterie
Beef brisket, kosher salt, sugar, curing salt, garlic, onion, bay leaves and other spices
Point cut corned beef, flat cut corned beef, corned beef hash, salt beef, bully beef
Corned Beef Description
Despite its name, corned beef has nothing to do with corn grains. Instead, this name is taken from the preservation process used. The salting technique used to produce this charcuterie product is known as corning, since rock salt kernels or "corns-of-salt" were often used.
During the Anglo-Saxon times, the term corn, taken from the Germanic "kurnam" referred to anything that was like a small seed. The word corned eventually came to mean "before refrigeration". Today this term is more commonly known as "brined".
The exact beginnings of corned beef cannot be traced back to a single culture since the practice of salting meat is widespread throughout many cultures in history. However, industrialized corned beef production can be attributed to the English.
Corned beef is made by pickling the brisket. Brine is made by simmering water and adding the kosher salt, sugar, curing salt, garlic, onion, bay leaves and other spices then simmering it. Once the brine is ready the brisket is then submerged in it and held in place with weights. This is left to soak for several days after which it is thoroughly rinsed and braised with additional ingredients.
The meat is cooked for 3 hours or until it is fork tender. On the other hand, dry cured corned beef is made by rubbing the seasonings onto the brisket then allowing it to cure for several days.
Unlike commercial corned beef, those made at home or in specialty shops are not shredded. Instead, you get a slab of beef that is bright pink to red in color. Those that do not use curing salt may have a brown color. It has a savory beef flavor that is quite salty.
Dry cured corned beef may also be cooked through braising or simmering with the addition vegetables. It pairs well with a variety of vegetables including cabbage, beets, carrots, horseradish and potatoes. This may be sliced thinly and used for sandwiches, or added to pasta. It may also be sliced thicker and served with eggs for breakfast, or even with various sauces and vegetables for a full meal.
Photo Credit: stu_spivack