St Patrick’s Day will be upon us before you know it and this is a great excuse to treat your family and friends to a special occasion using your venison stores. What you know as “Corned Beef” is a salt curing process that was perfected in the Middle Ages. The curing process was purely a means of preservation before refrigeration was possible, however, the salt cured meats that were eventually referred to as “corned”, were likely a far cry from what you know today as”corned beef”. The corned meat of antiquity was roughly more akin to jerky rather than a tender roast.
The process of making corned meat, in this case, venison, is relatively simple. I like to use large roasts for this process and, particularly, I find that roasts from mature deer are well suited since the meat will be slow cooked for as long as necessary. You could, however, use most any whole cut of venison, including shanks and necks (allow yourself more cooking time). As far as a brine recipe, there are a number of variations.
One aspect to consider is whether or not you wish to use a nitrate. Traditional corned beef uses a sodium nitrate primarily as a means of preservation. This is also what gives corned beef its pink color. As previously discussed in the jerky post, there is no noticeable taste difference between using or not using a nitrate and there are arguments on both sides of the fence as to whether or not sodium nitrate is unhealthy or has no negative health effects.
Some of the most common brine ingredients are: Salt, Mustard Seed, Peppercorns and Bay Leaves. Mace is also a popular ingredient. If you are a kitchen improviser, you could start with that and run with whichever flavor profile you desire.
Here is the recipe we used last year for a 3.5 lbs roast:
4 quarts of water
1 cup of Salt
8 whole Cloves
1 Tsp Mustard Seed
1 Cinnamon Stick (broken)
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
2 Tblsp Salt Petar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
8 Allspice Berries
4 Bay leaves (crushed)
12 Juniper Berries
Bring this to a near boil (when the salt and sugar dissolved) and then cool back down to room temperature. Place the roast in your brine for 5 days in the refrigerator. After the corning process is completed, rinse the meat and place it along with pepper, allspice, bay leaves and salt into a pot, dutch oven or slow cooker, cover and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to low and cook, at a low simmer for 3.5 to 5 hours (beef would be 2.5 hours, but venison will be more variable, depending on the toughness. Basically cook it until tender. It will be tender when you can shred it with a fork. There are always variables with venison, so allow yourself plenty of time, especially if using meat from a mature animal).
After ~3.5 to ~5 hours, add carrots, onions, potatoes and celery. Return to a simmer and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add the cabbage (hash) and cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes and cabbage are tender. Remove the bay leaves and serve.
Don’t forget the homemade soda bread… and Guinness… and whiskey.
Other brine recipes and/or suggested reading:
You can’t go wrong with Michael Rhulam’s recipes.
Penzey’s has a corned beef spice mix already to go -you only need to add salt and, of course, water.