Every year, for St. Patrick's Day, I make corned beef and cabbage. Or corned beef hash. Or some variation of corned beef. Why? Because it brings back memories for The Mister. Somewhere down the line, my kids are part Irish and to commemorate a little bit of that heritage, my mother-in-law always sends the kids something green they can wear to school on St. Patrick's Day. Ya' know to avoid those pinches from their fellow classmates. And in the process, I learned that The Mister also grew up eating corned beef and cabbage on/around St. Patrick's Day. With what started off as a culinary challenge and effort to recreate a part of my kids' heritage has now become an adapted tradition in our house.
That being said, I have never been a big fan of deli meat. If given a choice between a home roasted meat over a deli purchased one, I will always choose the former. When I first had corned beef, I didn't understand why it was such a big deal. Then I made corned beef, the whole thing, from start to finish IN MY KITCHEN, and my entire world shifted. I strongly believe that homemade corned beef is THE reason I own a slower cooker, or two...or five. No joke guys, I actually do own five slow cookers because gluttony is a real thing.
Corned beef, when made in a slow cooker is fall-apart tender, moist, rich from braising in its own juices, and hearty. Served on a bed of cabbage and carrot noodles, which cook in the meaty broth, is truly the ultimate comfort, one pot meal that's ready for you at the end of the day, without having to scramble. It's also low carb without feeling like you're missing the starch and gluten-free.
And the options with leftover corned beef. OHMYGOD the options! I would make corned beef JUST to use the leftovers. In fact, I have made corned for the leftovers; corned beef hash, ruben sandwiches, omelettes, corned beef and cabbage soup, corned beef pot pie, corned beef by itself... I could seriously keep going all day with the list.
When I first started making corned beef, and one of those times I took it to a potluck, people looked at me in disbelief. I mean corned beef is supposed to be a deli thing (read: impossible to make at home), amIright? A part of me wanted to let them think I labored for days on end to make this piece of deliciousness but I guess the secret's out now.
The thing with corned beef is that, at first thought, it seems intimidating but all it requires is some planning, prep work, and patience. Don't let the list of spices intimidate you; you're not doing anything with them except bruising them a little bit and throwing them in the brine. The brine is what does the hard work.
The brisket, trimmed and lean, is the blank canvas with which to
paint cook this perfection. I didn't take pictures of brisket beforehand because apparently I was in a hurry to get this party started. The brisket soaks in a brine for about a week filled with all sorts of wonderful smelling spices and herbs to help breakdown the muscles and connective tissue so that the meat becomes very tender and flavorful once cooked.
If you've never brined before, you should start. I always brine, especially my thanksgiving turkey and whole chickens when I roast them. And then I eat this yummy mac and cheese. I've also made this grilled mac and cheese sandwich with leftover corned beef. Trust me. Just trust me when I tell you that grilled mac and cheese is the food of superheroes. And me.
If you're still unsure about doing your own brine, that's okay. Ease yourself into it. Lots of stores sell brisket that's been brined and comes with its own packet of pickling spices. If you go this route, simply add the spice packet to the rest of your ingredients in the slow cooker at the beginning. I know Trader Joe's is on that list. A trip to TJ's=winning!
Now, the prague powder or curing salt. It's what gives the corned beef its unmistakable pinkish hue. Some people don't like using it, which is fine; it won't alter the end result. Just remember, if you skip the prague powder, your corned beef will end up looking more brown/greyish than the pink that corned beef is notorious for. I got mine on amazon.
Finally, I used my spiralizer to make cabbage and carrot "noodles". Because for some reason, my kids love veggie noodles more than the actual thing. I'm not complaining and using the spiralizer is so much fun that I jump at every chance to use it. You can also cut the cabbage into wedges and chop the carrots into smaller pieces. Just throw them into the slow cooker at the beginning and serve with the corned beef. Dress with a little bit of mustard and you will have perfection on a fork (or your fingers).
Slow Cooker Corned Beef
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 8 hours
- Total Time: 8 hours 20 mins
- Yield: 8-10 1x
- 1 6 lb lean beef brisket
- 5 cups hot water
- ½ medium head green cabbage, thinly sliced
- 3 medium carrots, cut into thirds
- 4 medium carrots, spiralized (optional)
- 2 ribs celery, cut into thirds
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- for the brine:
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 5-6 bay leaves
- 10-12 pods cardamom, lightly crushed
- 8 whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tbsp juniper berries, lightly crushed
- 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp black peppercorn, lightly crushed
- 2 tbsp allspice berries, lightly crushed
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tsp prague powder
- 1 gallon warm water
- MAKE THE BRINE: In a large bowl or pot, dissolve kosher salt and sugar in water. Add in all remaining spices and stir to mix together. Pour brine into a large pot or a brining bag and submerge brisket completely, adding more water if necessary. Refrigerate and let brine for a minimum of five days and up to ten days, checking on it daily and adding more water if necessary.
- PREPARE BRISKET FOR SLOW COOKER: remove brisket from brine and wash off brine completely. Place in slow cooker, add onions, carrots, and celery. Carefully pour hot water to cover the brisket. Don't worry if the water doesn't cover the entire brisket. Set on low for 8 hours.
- During the last hour of cooking, remove brisket carefully using tongs, and remove cooked carrots and celery. Add in sliced cabbage and spiralized carrots, if using, into the broth. Place brisket back on top and continue cooking for one hour.
- Remove from slow cooker and let rest for five minutes. Carve into slices, going against the grain. Serve with brown mustard and drained cabbage and carrot noodles if desired.