Corned Beef from scratch in Mexico
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1 quart/liter water
1/3 cup salt
10 Allspice balls, slightly less than 1/3 teaspoon (Pimienta Gorda Entera)
1/2 teaspoon Mustard Seed (Mostaza Semilla)
1 teaspoon peppercorns (pimienta entera)
4 whole cloves of garlic
4 whole cloves of cloves
3 bay leaves
Bring it to a boil and let it cool back down.
That's about enough brine to cover 1.5 to 2 kilos of meat. If not, just top it off with water. Note: The longer it sits in the brine, the saltier it gets. I use only 1/3 cup salt because I let it sit for at least two weeks.
Put the meat in a *good* sealed container and stick it in the bottom of your fridge, next to the beer. That way every time you grab a beer the corned beef will get a little wiggle. I also pull it out every now and then and give it a good shake, just mix the brine up a bit.
Leave it there for two weeks. Really. The salty brine is a preservative, and beef needs to age for at least two weeks anyway before it's ready to eat. Depending on the grain of the meat, it will take at least two weeks for the brine and flavor to work all the way through.
Then, finally, it's time to eat.
Prepare the broth in a pressure cooker:
1 medium onion - chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic - chopped (about a tablespoon if using prepared)
1 4-inch carrot, chopped fine
1 single stalk of celery, chopped fine
1 12oz bottle of Modelo Negro (or Guiness Stout if you can find it. Good luck...)
1/2 teaspoon Allspice
1/2 teaspoon Mustard Seed
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
If using a pressure cooker, bring the mixture to a simmer under pressure, then let it cool -- that's just to get the flavors mixed well into the beer.
Pull the meat from the fridge and *wash it really well* and put it in the pot.
Add enough water to cover it. I actually like to add lots of water, because corned beef broth tastes so great that I like to have extra just for soup.
With a pressure cooker, bring it to a hiss and let it simmer
slowly for 20 minutes, more or less, depending on whether it's a big hunk
of meat or a number of little scraps.
Without a pressure cooker, you're going to burn a few hours of propane.
Prep as many veggies as you want.
Green Onions are bigger down here, because a common way to prepare them is to wash them and toss them on the grill with your carne asada, and serve them on the side. However, they make really great 'Pearl Onions' and hold together well when boiled. I peel them and just use the little bulb, but also have taken some of the green stuff and chop it like chives and toss it in the broth.
Cabbage cooks really fast. I like to cut the cabbage in wedges, using the stem to hold each wedge together so that it doesn't dissolve into 'cabbage soup.'
So toss the onions, potatos and carrots in the pot, put the lid back on and boil until done. With a pressure cooker, that's about 5 to 8 minutes.
Pull the meat and veggies out with a slotted spoon and put
them in a big bowl.
Toss the cabbage in the broth and turn the heat back on.
By the time you've sliced the corned beef up, the cabbage is done.
Ladle broth into bowls, add meat, potatos, carrots, onions and cabbage to your satisfaction. Then get a big spoon, and a knife and fork, and a terry cloth towel. Use the towel to catch the broth and drool that will be running down your mouth onto your chest and lap.
I really like Corned Beef, and have been
unable to find it here in Mexico.
Corned Beef and Cabbage for dinner, left over corned beef and potatoes and eggs for breakfast, leftover broth with noodles for soup (hot or cold.)
I finally decided to make it myself from scratch.
The trick here in Mexico is to let the meat
sit in the brine for at least two weeks.
In Mexico they don't age beef, which is one of the reasons that local steaks are so tough.
(I've started to buy beef well in advance and let it age on the boat.)
Beef here has a lot of interesting names,
and most of the cuts we see in the USA are different unless you shop at expensive
places that cater to gringos. For instance, one won't find brisket, because
that cut of meat is commonly used for Arrachera. Just about everywhere, though,
one can find 'Carne de Res para cocinar' or 'Carne de Res para Cocer'
which means 'beef for cooking.'
It could be anything from top sirloin to scraps, so take a good look before buying.
Frankly I don't take my own advice, because
the point of corned beef is to take a cheap cut of meat and tenderize it into something tasty.
Another interesting thing I learned is that
Allspice is called Pimienta Gorda Entera,
which literally means Big Fat Pepper. Apparently when the Spanish first encountered Allspice
here in the New World, they thought it was just big peppercorns, and the name stuck.
I accidentally bought whole Saffron seeds
on my first try. Oops.
That's okay, because I'm just wild about Saffron.
I'm actually not sure what to do with it, but then again
one can buy packages of chicken feet here, and I don't know what to do with that either.