Corned Beef - It's Not Just for St. Patrick's Day

I wanted to make corned beef for St Patrick's day, but I didn't want to spend the money on enough corned beef for a large party and leftovers. I wanted to make it myself, but pre-brined corned beef was cheaper than a regular brisket. It's funny how that works. Additionally, all the briskets I found were half fat and would yield very little of the lean meat when I finished trimming it.

But at the asian market, I found a great, very lean brisket ideal for pho at a sale price. So what if it was May. I still wanted to make corned beef and try my hand at brining it myself.

There are a variety of recipes for pickling spice. For the most part, they always involve peppercorns, bay leaves, hot pepper flakes, coriander, mustard, allspice and cinnamon. I added a few more things that I know I enjoy based on how I've had them before. First, I'll give you my recipe for pickling spice. 

Pickling Spice

  • 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp juniper berries
  • 1 Tbsp allspice beries
  • 12 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken
  • 1 Tbsp cloves
  • ½ Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp celery seeds
  • ½ Tbsp thyme
  • 2 star anise pods


  1. Toast peppercorns, mustard, coriander, juniper, allspice and star anise in a skillet until aromatic
  2. Mix together with remaining ingredients and crush with mortar/pestle. Store in airtight jar.

I thought this was a great recipe but I would make a few changes next time. I'd all a little more cinnamon and more juniper. I would also NOT replace the hot pepper flakes with 2 szechwan chilis (the only thing I had in the house). It gave the beef a great flavor but it made my cabbage way too spicy. I've never had a spicy cabbage that was not kim chi, so this was surprising.

When you have your spice, you can finally start making your corned beef.

Corned Beef

  • 1 4lb brisket
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 onion
  • 10 oz kosher salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 Tbsp pickling spice


  1. Combine 2 or 3 Tbsp pickling spice with 1 gallon of water, salt and sugar. Bring ingredients to boil until sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool completely
  2. When mix is cool, add brisket, making sure it’s submerged in liquid. Leave brisket in refrigerator for 5 days
  3. When ready to cook brisket, remove from brine and rinse thoroughly. Cover brisket with water and add 2-3 Tbsp pickling spice, onion, carrot and celery. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 hours or until brisket is fork tender.
  4. Just before brisket is finished cooking, add potatoes, cabbage and extra carrots to cooking liquid and cook until done.
  5. Store leftovers in a little cooking liquid and refrigerate.

We only had a two and a half pound brisket but that didn't matter. The extra salt comes out in the cooking liquid and it still tasted fantastic. We even had leftovers for reuben sandwiches the next day, which is always worth it.