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Mar 23, 2018
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The Weekend Project: Corned Beef & Cabbage with Irish Soda Bread

Monday, March 10th, 2014



During the week, recipes are all about speed and ease. But when the weekend rolls around, it’s time for cooking low and slow, proofing dough and overnight marinating, soaking and resting. It’s time for a project. Each month, Dan and Anne Marie Lodholz present The Weekend Project with the game plan, the shopping list and the recipes to ensure all that work and time is well worth your effort.

Growing up with the very German last name “Lodholz,” we didn’t really celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, nor did we eat a lot of corned beef. The first time I cooked one was just after Anne Marie and I started dating. She had fond memories of the holiday, always eating corned beef with boiled cabbage, so I set out to impress.

It seemed simple enough: Buy a corned beef in a bag, rinse it, and boil it until tender. It tasted fine, but it was nothing like the corned beef sandwiches I used to get from the kosher deli. I tried roasting it slowly in a slow oven, but it took forever and the end result was dry. Finally, I combined both methods and added a mustard sauce for little more flavor. Still, I wasn’t satisfied. As the saying goes, “If you want something done right…”  

Unfortunately, doing it myself the first time proved a disaster. I tried to follow Julia Child’s method for corned beef and failed miserably. The recipe required me to heavily salt the meat, seal it in an airtight bag, and massage it daily for two weeks. This method, Julia claimed, would fill the bag with the juices produced as the meat cured. Well, she was right. Unfortunately, the liquid leaked, leaving a lurid mess in the refrigerator, and the brisket smelled foul, as though it had turned. I was so upset, I threw the whole thing away and bought a sad, bagged corned beef.

But this mess was not Julia’s fault. I just needed to find a simpler way to corn the beef, so I turned to brining. It’s a foolproof way to impart flavor and moisture, and brining the beef means no daily massaging of a potentially leaky bag.




First, a quick brisket lesson: A whole brisket usually weighs 14 to 16 pounds and is divided and sold in two parts, the leaner flat and the fattier point. This recipe only requires 6 to 8 pounds of meat, and a good butcher should be able to sell you just the point, which I prefer.

To get the right flavor right, I experimented with different spice combinations for the brine, continually returning to pickling spice. I prefer Penzeys version, which includes brown and yellow mustard seeds, allspice, cinnamon, bay leaves and a plethora of other seasonings, available in 4-ounce packages.




Adding beer to the cooking liquid gives the beef another layer of flavor. I’ve used a lager before, but the lighter style of beer didn’t really change the flavor profile much. Since this corned beef is for St. Patrick’s Day, I used Boulevard’s Irish Ale, and any good Irish ale will do.

To achieve the lovely red color associated with corned beef, I add Insta Cure No. 1, available at Baumann’s Fine Meats. Also called pink salt or quick cure, it is a mixture of salt and 6.25 percent sodium nitrite. It’s optional, but it helps develop the flavor and color. I also use a Jaccard meat tenderizer on the brisket before brining. This is mainly done for aesthetics; without it, you can end up with a thin layer of brown meat in the center instead of a rosey pink. Whether you use these optional tools or not, they won’t affect the taste greatly, just the appearance. Sláinte!


An Irish Feast: Corned Beef & Cabbage with Irish Soda Bread

The Game Plan
Active Day 1: Brine the brisket. This takes 5 to 7 days with one day of active cooking.
Active Day 2: Cook the brisket and the cabbage. Make the soda bread.




The Shopping List*
1½ cups dark brown sugar
4 oz. (about ½ cup) pickling spice
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Insta Cure No. 1 (optional)
1 ½ bottles Irish ale
1 6- to 8-lb. brisket (the point, if available)
½ cup Jameson Irish whiskey
½ cup yellow mustard
1 head of cabbage
4 Tbsp. butter
1¾ cups buttermilk
2 cups raisins

*This list assumes you have kosher salt, bay leaves, freshly ground black pepper, flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and an egg at hand in your kitchen. If not, you’ll need to purchase these items, too.



Corned Beef
6 to 8 Servings, plus leftovers

1½ cups kosher salt
1½ cups dark brown sugar, divided
4 oz. (about ½ cup) pickling spice
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Insta Cure No. 1 (optional)
1½ bottles Irish ale
1 6- to 8-lb. brisket (the point, if available)
2 bay leaves
½ cup Jameson Irish whiskey
½ cup yellow mustard

Active Day 1: In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water, the salt, 1 cup brown sugar and the pickling spice to a boil over high heat until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from the heat and let cool.
• Add Insta Cure No. 1 and the beer to the brine.
• Use a Jaccard meat tenderizer to pierce the brisket, if desired. Submerge the meat in the brine and make sure it is fully covered (Place a plate on top of the meat to weigh it down if necessary.). Refrigerate 3 days, then rotate the brisket and stir the brine. Submerge and refrigerate another 2 to 4 days.

Active Day 2: Remove the beef from the brine and rinse under cold water. Discard the brine.
• Place the rinsed corned beef in a clean stockpot and fill with enough water to cover by two inches. Add the bay leaves.
• Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover and simmer the meat 2 to 3 hours until fork tender.
• Meanwhile, whisk together ½ cup dark brown sugar, the whiskey and the mustard in a bowl. Set aside.
• Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set a rack inside a roasting pan.
• Remove the corned beef from the pot and place it on the rack with the fat cap up. Pour 1½ cups of the cooking liquid into the roasting pan. Reserve another 2 cups of cooking liquid for the cabbage (Recipe follows.).
• Pour the mustard sauce on top of the corned beef. Bake 45 minutes.
• Let the meat rest 15 minutes before slicing thinly against the grain to serve.



Boiled Cabbage
6 to 8 Servings, plus leftovers

1 head cabbage, cored and sliced into wedges
2 cups reserved corned beef cooking liquid (Recipe above.)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
Kosher salt to taste

Active Day 2: Arrange the cabbage in a large saute pan with a lid. Add the reserved cooking liquid, the pepper and salt to taste.
• Cover and cook over medium-high heat about 12 minutes, until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.



Irish Soda Bread
Makes 2 loaves

4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
1¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
4 Tbsp. butter, cubed
1 egg, beaten
1¾ cups buttermilk
2 cups raisins

Active Day 2: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.
• In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
• Cut in the butter until the pea-sized clumps form and the butter is incorporated.
• Stir in the egg and buttermilk until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated and a shaggy, wet-looking dough forms. Add more buttermilk as needed to incorporate all of the dry crumbles. Mix in the raisins.
• Divide the dough in half and form each half into a ball. Place the loaves onto the baking sheet. Bake 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover the loaves with foil if they darken too quickly or they raisins begin to burn.
• Soda bread will keep 2 to 3 days at room temperature in a ziptop bag or covered with plastic wrap.

-photos by Michelle Volansky

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