There are several times of year when I make corned beef a lot, usually once in the autumn when I make a big pot of sauerkraut when the weather turns crisp and I subsequently want reuben sandwichess as part of that cooking. Another is around New Year’s Day and then again around St. Patrick’s Day, not so much for the Irish nature of it but because of the corned beef and great prices.
You might find more than one kind of corned beef in your market. All of it is made from roast beef, which is “corned” from “corns” of rock salt, which was an early preservation method popular before home freezers were more widespread. The usual type of corned beef you might see is corned beef brisket which is made from the same type of beef used for brisket that is smoked for barbecue, or the type of roast brisket popular during Jewish holidays. The other type, the corned beef round, comes from a beef round roast, which you might be more familiar with if you perhaps make a lot of roast beef for your family Sunday dinners.
There are several ways to prepare corned beef: stove top, in the roasting pan, or in the crock pot. The best way is to make it at low temperature whichever method you use, to keep the corned beef from drying out.
As to slicing the corned beef up for sandwiches, it is best to let it refrigerate overnight to solidify any fats in the meat which help you slice it more easily without so much breakage. Using the round is better than the brisket for this simply because it has a fuller shape. But if you don’t mind thinner slices, brisket is alright.
If you have a lot of corned beef sliced up, this can be frozen in freezer bags for several weeks without loss of quality, so it is perfect to save extras for making lunches. And while my favorite way is to serve this on grilled bread as a "Reuben" with kraut, or as a "Rachel" with coleslaw instead of kraut, it is also very good on hard rolls or artisan bread with cheese, grainy mustard and “fixins” such as lettuce, tomato and shaved onion.
Always carve the meat away from your body and use a meat fork to steady the roast, and have the meat on a cutting board that will not suddenly slip or slide. Placing a wet towel underneath the board is quite helpful there. And if using the slicer, please be cautious with the blades, especially when removing and replacing them when cleaning.
The weather seems to be warming up nicely this week and one can almost feel spring in the air. Soon green will be everywhere and St. Patrick’s Day as well, with the wearin’ of the green, the eating of the Irish foods, and feeling lucky that any of us, especially my friends in Boston, have made it through this winter.
Corned beef for sandwiches
4 pounds corned beef round roast
1 (12 fluid ounce) bottle Guinness stout ale [editor's note: can substitute nonalcoholic beer or chicken, beef, or mushroom stock]
2 large onions, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons pickling spice
1-1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
1. Place beef in slow cooker.
2. Surround with onions.
3. Pour Guiness [or chicken, beef, mushroom stock] over all.
4. Season beef with black pepper.
5. Top with a mixture of horseradish, garlic, and Dijon.
6. Sprinkle pickling spices and mustard seed over everything.
7. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
8. Refrigerate beef overnight and slice thinly while cold.
9. Serve corned beef on sandwiches or reserve for another use.
Related post on A Palatable Pastime: Corned beef hash