Making your own salt beef is reasonably straight forward – all you need is time, plenty of space in your fridge and, of course, the ingredients. Starting with the meat – you need a decent sized piece of brisket – 2kg should do it. For the brine you’re looking to spice it up to suit your taste – I love the sweet aniseed of Star Anise so I go fairly heavy in that direction. I don’t want to overdo it with the cloves though so maybe just 1 or 2 would be enough for a week’s brining. The saltpetre isn’t essential but it does help in giving you that vibrant pink colour. You can buy it on Amazon – just search for saltpetre for curing.
You’re going to need a large, non-corosive container to hold the brine – I used a large ceramic mixing bowl. You’ll also need something to weigh the meat down – a couple of heavy plates placed on top of the meat should do the job.
- 1 large piece of brisket (approx 2kg)
- 400g salt (I used kosher salt – you can buy a big box of the stuff on Amazon)
- 200g light-brown sugar
- 30g saltpetre
- 2 teaspoons of juniper berry.
- 1 or 2 cloves
- 5 star anise
- 2 teaspoons coriander seed
- 3 or 4 chillies
- 3 bay leaves.
To cook the beef
- 1 onion, carrot and stick of celery roughly chopped
4 litres of water goes into a large pan. Add all your brining ingredients and bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are well dissolved. Allow to cool completely.
Pour the brine over the brisket in a large, non-corrosive container. Weigh the meat down with a couple of heavy plates. Leave in the fridge for at least 7 days.
When you’re ready to cook the meat, remove it from the brine, give it a quick rinse in clean water. Place the meat in a pan of clean water with the onion, carrot and celery and simmer very gently for approximately 3 hours. You can check the meat is done by running a skewer through it – the meat should give little resistance when it’s done.
Serve immediately – hot.
I like thick slices of salt beef in a sandwich (or a bagel with enough mustard to take your face off). You can go for a New York style sandwich – salt beef in lightly griddled bread with sauerkraut, Russian/Thousand-Island dressing and topped with a slice of swiss cheese melted over the beef under a hot grill. Rye bread is traditional for this sandwich but a sourdough or even a decent white bloomer will do just as well.
The dressing I make is sort of a variation on Russian dressing and Thousand Island but is probably not true to the original of either of those sauces. Still – it’s exactly how I like it so is worth giving it a try:
4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup
A dash of Worcestershire sauce
An equal dash of tabasco
A couple of finely chopped sweet pickled cucumbers
A couple of teaspoons of cider vinegar
A pinch of sea salt.
Mix them all together, give it a taste and adjust, adding more of the stuff you think it’s missing.
By John Loydall