This is one of those great “slow food” recipes that can be done in either a slow cooker, the home oven, or as I did in a wood-burning pizza oven. The time taken allows the otherwise tough meat to render off the fat, soften the tissue, and absorb all the flavours from the spices and vegetables added.
What is Corned Beef? Historically, it used to be a Beef Brisket or though in modern times it is mainly Beef Silverside, these being two of the toughest cuts of meat you could ever want to cook. These would have been packed in barrels of a dry mixture of salt, herbs, spices and salt-nitrates. The latter was in the form of large grains that looked like corn grains, hence the ‘corned’ in the name.
While this dry salting may still be done by some butchers, our desires for a lower sodium diet meant the brining is now done in a bath of water with the aromatics and flavourings, less salt and nitrates all in a cold water bath. This is why corned beef is now usually now sold in a bag with liquid inside. This liquid is red not from blood but the salt nitrates, which also turn the meat that rich pink colour.
The soaking – debrining
Even with the lower salt methods of modern preparation, a store-bought corned beef joint is usually very high in sodium. This can be a problem, not only for those with blood pressure issues or those on low sodium diets, it can also overpower any other flavours we wish to introduce.
To this end, we need to dissolve the salt out of the joint. In the recipe, you will see that the first two steps are specifically about this process. Once removed from the packet, lightly rinse the joint in cold running water to remove the nitrate solution from the surface. Then soaking in a bath of clean cold water for a few hours will allow more of the solution to be removed.
I like to do this de-debrining twice, as the side the meat rests on does not get a chance to release its salt and the water will only take in so much. So changing the water and flipping the meat over after a few hours will really help.
I list the de-brining as a 3-hour process change and repeat. However, if you can allow the second de-brine to be longer, possibly up to a full 24-hour cycle, all the better.
Cooking the beef in the oven
As you are probably aware, I own a small wood-fired pizza oven, which holds its heat quite well once the pizzas are all cooked and finished. I feel it is a waste of fuel to allow it to just continue to burn and cool down over the evening without something else being in there to enjoy that deep radiant and convective heat, plus the added smell of the smoke if I add some hickory chips.
But do not worry if you do not own a pizza oven, as this recipe works equally in a conventional oven.
Can I use my slow cooker?
Absolutely! timings will be longer for the cooking, but you do not need to worry about the falling temperature, just set it to “low” and see you in 8 hours.
Slow Braised Corned beef infused with Cranberries
- 1.5 kg Corned Beef
- 1 each Carrot
- 1 each Leek
- 4 cloves Garlic
- 1 bunch Fresh Thyme
- 2 Tblsp Olive Oil
- 1 Tblsp Sweet Paprika
- 1 Tblsp Ground Cumin
- 1 each Star Anise
- ½ teasp Chilli Flakes
- 50 g Dried Cranberries for cooking pot
- 250 ml Cranberry Juice
- 25 g Dried Cranberries for sauce
Debrining the Beef
- Remove the meat from any packaging, rinse gently with cold water and place in a large container, cover with cold water and place in the refrigerator for 3 hours.1.5 kg Corned Beef
- Discard the water, turn the meat over and cover with fresh cold water. Return to the refrigerator for at least 3 more hours.This step can be done overnight.
Cooking the Beef
- Remove the dark green section of the leek, split lengthways and then slice into small pieces roughly 1 cm square.Rinse well to remove any grit or dirt hidden between the leaves.1 each Leek
- Coarsely chop the carrot, peel the garlic and coarsely chop too. Combine the carrot and leek with the spices, oil and washed leek in an ovenproof cooking pot.1 each Carrot, 1 each Leek, 4 cloves Garlic, 1 bunch Fresh Thyme, 2 Tblsp Olive Oil, 1 Tblsp Sweet Paprika, 1 Tblsp Ground Cumin, 1 each Star Anise, ½ teasp Chilli Flakes
- Remove the beef from the refrigerator and add to the pot, discard the water it was soaking in.1.5 kg Corned Beef
- Scatter the dried cranberries over the meat, pour over the cranberry juice and top the pan up with fresh cold water until the meat is covered.50 g Dried Cranberries, 250 ml Cranberry Juice
- Place a well-fitted lid on the pot and put it into a hot oven 200°C 400°F Gas Mark 6
- This is cooked in a 'falling oven' Every 30 minutes reduce the temperature of the oven by 20-30°C until you are at 120°C (250°F, Gas ½) for 30 minutesNote I cook mine in a wood-fired oven and allow the logs to slowly burn down, topping with a little charcoal midway if needed.
- After 3 hours of cooking the meat should be ready. Remove the pan from the oven and gently lift the beef onto a plate or board for carving. and cover to allow to rest for at least 20 minutes.
- Pour all the liquid through a fine sieve, pushing the contents through into a small pan. Add the dried cranberries and bring it to a low boil to allow to reduce and thicken naturally.25 g Dried Cranberries
- Carve the meat carefully, as it may want to break up, and serve with the sauce.