What the Blarney is this?
Well, at least not in the pot. And there is a logical reason for that as corn refers more to small kernels or corns of spice. Like... um, peppercorns. or allspice...or kernels of salt. Because at its heart corned beef is a salted dish, brined in fact.
In the last couple of years it has become popular to brine meats before roasting them.. We have brined turkeys a couple of times with great success. But corning? Well, it was something of an adventure. And we, GastroNerds love an adventure.
The brine for corned beef was simple enough... a combination of salt (kosher), brown sugar, water, pickling spice and sodium nitrate (sold as InstaCure No. 1). Yes, I know that nitrates are bad for you, but it is St. Patrick's Day, for the sake of all that is Holy! Live a little.
The salt in the mixture helps draw water out of the meat which decreases the chances that the water will be used as a conduit for introducing bacteria into the meat. The nitrates, mix with the fixed iron in the muscle tissue and help preserve the nice pink color.
Yeah, I know, I could make it just as tasty without the nitrate but pink is my favorite color... and besides, I think the end product would have had that dead grayish color of boiled meat... which is decidedly un-appetizing... so, I think that I will stick with my chemically altered meat.
The point is that the experiment worked and was very tasty. We ate our corned beef with boiled red potatos and cabbage that was coarsely chopped. I know that seems like heresy as even in my childhood, it was deemed a pre-requisite to eat that cabbage as a big wedge. But if you will indulge me for a moment, you will notice that our cabbage has some color... and some texture... which made it awfully tasty. Thanks to Alton Brown for the suggestion. Oh, and as a result of cooking it that way, we avoided the explosion of hydrogen sulfide as it was being expelled by the cabbage leaves. This worked at both ends of the dining process (TMI? Sorry, but everyone farts)
Now for those of you who want to tell me that no self-respecting Irishman would eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day, don't get your undies in a bunch. I am aware of this. You would more likely eat stew or a boiled dinner including smoked butt. I know... that is what my "Currie" mother often served us. On the other hand, this is the American tradition, which naturally means that it got screwed up. The Irish wouldn't drink themselves into a stupor (at least, just one night a year), drink green beer (which is revolting) or paint shamrocks on their cheeks at a parade.
They would go to mass.
Still want to be authentic?