Making your own authentic Salt Beef is fairly easy – particularly if you use the equilibrium brining technique described below. I recommend using Weschenfelder’s superb cure mix. It’s essentially just right blend of salt and nitrates to do the job and produce that lovely pink colour. If you don’t wan to buy a bag of that, you can use a blend of approx 90% salt, 10% cure #1 (or saltpetre)
Equilibrium vs Gradient BrinesEquilibrium Curing – or brining in this case – is a technique whereby you use exactly the right amount of salt to cure the meat rather than using a heavily saline mix and basing it on a shorter cure time. The main advantage is that you use the correct amount of salt, you can pretty much leave the meat in the brine for as long as you like without the worry of it turning out inedibly salty.
Gradient brines are extremely salty and the technique involves you taking the meat out of the brine at the correct time, based on the meat weight, thickness and general personal experience, and then letting it rest for a day or two while the salt works its way through the meat. Leave it in a day or two too long and it’s inedible, take it out too soon and it isn’t properly cured.
All you have to do for equilibrium brines is weigh the meat with the water and add the right amount of cure! For salt beef we want to aim at 2.5-3.5% of salt absorption. Therefore the below example assumes that you will use a 1kg lump of brisket and require 2kg of water. 3kg in total is then multiplied by the desired 3% salt to give us a result of 90g of cure mix.
Last important note – if your final product is going to be salt beef and not pastrami, then using too much salt is no big deal as any excess will come out during the boil. Pastrami is a form of salt beef that is smoked instead of boiled, and so if you think you’ve over salted then you may need to soak in fresh water for a day to coax some of it out.
Directions for both below…
- Make the brine by adding all the ingredients to the water and bringing to the boil – adjust your cure level based on the exact weight of your meat and water as per the instructions above
- Once the brine is cold, fine a tupperware container big enough to contain the beef completely submerged in the brine. You may need to weigh down the beef if it wants to float
- Leave in the fridge for 10-14 days, turning daily.
- Once the beef is cured, wash it under cold water, it is then ready to be turned into salt beef or pastrami
- Roughly chop the veg, and add to a stockpot of cold water
- Add the cured beef and bring to the boil
- Simmer gently for 2-3 hours
- Eat warm, and wrap well so it stays moist and it will keep for a week in the fridge
- To reheat just cut a couple of slices and warm gently in a pan with a bit of melted butter
- Take the cured beef and submerge in cold water for at least 8 hours in order to desalinate it a bit. Change the water at least once during the process.
- Crush the coriander seeds and peppercorns, mix with the other spices and press the rub into the cured beef. I recommend putting it back in the fridge for another day at this point to help the rub adhere to the meat.
- Set up your smoker to 110C and smoke the beef low and slow with your favourite wood until it hits 70C
- Once smoked, you have to steam it, you can do this straight away or whenever you’re ready to eat it.
- Transfer the beef to a racked roasting tin ad add a couple cm of water under the rack
- Make a foil tent for the lid, leaving as much space as possible inside, and then put into the oven at 120C for around 3 hours, unwrap and drain the pan for the last half hour to help harden up the crust slightly.