How to Prepare Traditional Corned Beef

It is desirable to have an ample supply of corned beef on hand. For traditional corned beef any part of the beef may be used but the parts usually selected are the plate, rump, cross-ribs and brisket, which are the tougher cuts of the meat. The brisket and plate are especially good because of the character of the fat, which is somewhat like a tissue.

How to Prepare Meat

Cut all around the meat to about the same thickness, so that it will make an even layer in the barrel. It is best to remove the bone, although this is not necessary. Be sure to start the pickling or curing while the meat is perfectly fresh, but well chilled.

Allow ten pounds of pickling salt to each 100 pounds of meat. Sprinkle a layer of the salt in the bottom of the crock, barrel, or whatever container is used. Have the salt about one-fourth of an inch in depth. After the layer is in the bottom of the container put the cuts of meat in as closely as possible, making the layer five or six inches in thickness, then put on another layer of salt, following that with another layer of meat. Repeat until the meat and salt have all been packed in the barrel, care being taken to reserve salt enough for a good layer on the top. Cover the meat with a board and weight down with a stone and not an iron weight. Do not allow any meat to project from the salt or mold will start and the brine will spoil in a short time. Let the meat stand over-night.

NOTE: Do not wait like some people do until they think the meat is beginning to spoil and then salt it down just to save it.

How To Prepare Traditional Brine

Prepare a brine by boiling 7 pounds pickling salt, 3 pounds brown sugar or 6 pounds molasses, 2 ounces baking soda, 2 ounces salt peter and 4 gallons water for every 100 pounds of meat. This quantity of brine should be sufficient to cover that amount.

Remove any scum that rises to the surface and filter the hot brine through muslin. Set the brine aside, best over-night, to become perfectly cold before using.

Curing Meat

In the morning tip the container in which the meat is packed so that all liquor which has separated from the meat over night may drain off. Cover the meat with the cold brine. Put the container in a cool place. The curing will be more satisfactory if the meat is left at a temperature of about 38 degrees F. Never let the temperature go above 50 degrees F. and there is some risk with even a temperature of 40 degrees F. if it is continuous. The sugar or molasses in the brine has a tendency to ferment in a warm place.

After about five days the meat should be overhauled and repacked, putting the pieces which were previously on the bottom on top. Pour back the same brine, and five days later repeat the overhauling. This may seem like some trouble and possibly look like a useless waste of time but it is well worth while as it insures a more rapid and uniform curing of the meat.

When unpacking the meat watch the brine to see that it is not ropy or moldy. If you find either condition existing remove the meat and rinse each piece with cold water and after scalding the container pack the meat as at first with a little salt. Scald and skim the brine and after it is cold pour it on the meat as before.

Pickling Salt or Dairy Salt is fine-grained salt that has no additives and is generally used in brines to pickle foods. Unlike table salt, the lack of additives will help keep the pickling liquid from clouding.

Real Cooking

Using Corned Beef
You can use corned beef if necessary after a week in the cure, but it is not thoroughly cured until it has been from 20 to 30 days in the brine. If kept for sixty days it will be salty enough to need freshening before cooking.

If the meat has been corned during the winter, and is to be kept until summer, watch the brine closely during the spring as it is more likely to spoil then than at any other time.

Did You Know?
Meat can be preserved by jugging, the process of stewing the meat (commonly game or fish) in a covered earthenware jug or casserole. The animal to be jugged is usually cut into pieces, placed into a tightly-sealed jug with brine or gravy, and stewed. Red wine and/or the animal's own blood is sometimes added to the cooking liquid. Jugging was a popular method of preserving meat up until the middle of the 20th century.
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Food may be preserved by cooking in a material that solidifies to form a gel. Such materials include gelatine, agar, maize flour and arrowroot flour. Some foods naturally form a protein gel when cooked such as eels and elvers, and sipunculid worms which are a delicacy in the town of Xiamen in Fujian province of the People's Republic of China. Jellied eels are a delicacy in the East End of London where they are eaten with mashed potatoes. Potted meats in aspic, (a gel made from gelatine and clarified meat broth) were a common way of serving meat off-cuts in the UK until the 1950s. Many jugged meats are also jellied.
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A traditional British way of preserving meat (particularly shrimp) is by setting it in a pot and sealing it with a layer of fat. Also common is potted chicken liver; compare pâté.