How to make your own homemade, naturally-cured Corned Beef from scratch, without nitrates.  It is easier and healthier than you may think! Allow one-week curing time. 

How to make your own naturally-cured Corned Beef without nitrates.  It is easier and healthier than you may think! Allow one-week curing time. 

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. ~ Norman Cousins

I think we need to take advantage of any ritual and celebration these days and create our own when inspiration strikes.  Fin, my 11-year-old, said recently, “Mom ritual gives me certainty.”  It really struck me.

He named something for me that I definitely experience and want to foster, especially in these times where things feel unknown and security is elusive.  I am often floored by the wisdom that flows from my kids.

I am inspired to create more ritual in our family rhythms.  These acknowledged occasions give us a place and time to come together and memories to share.  So, with a nod to my husband’s Irish heritage, we will have a St. Patricks Day celebration!  We will be creating a meal that will include Naturally-Cured Corned Beef!

grass fed brisket

What is Corned Beef?

Corned Beef is made from beef brisket, which is cured in a salt and spice brine ( much like a pickle brine) for a week before being slow-cooked in a slow cooker, until tender and falling apart.

Why make Corned Beef from Scratch?

Commercially processed corned beef most often contains nitrates. The main purpose of nitrates is to inhibit harmful bacterial growth, enhance flavor, and keep the meat from turning an unappetizing brownish-gray color.  However, there is a lot of controversy on the impact of nitrates on our health.  Some say it is really bad, some say it’s no big deal.

Delicious as they are, it seems clear that consuming a lot of processed meat is not great for our health and may increase the risk of cancer as well as a bunch of other scary-sounding risks.  The good news is that it is really easy and delicious to cure your own corned beef, keeping potential harmful additives at bay.

What to use instead of Nitrates?

A natural way to cure your own corned beef is to use celery juice, (which contains natural nitrates in addition to a whole other host of benefits), sauerkraut brine (full of active probiotics and natural preservatives), and mineral salt. (You can read more about celery’s nutrition and a detailed explanation of how to juice it here.)

You can juice your own celery at home, or if you don’t have a juicer, use a blender and strain, or find celery juice at gourmet grocery stores or at a juice bar.

How to make Corned Beef

Corned Beef is basically salt-cured meat, usually brisket.  This process preserves and seasons the meat while enhancing tenderness and adding flavor with spices.

pickling spices in a bowl

Pickling spices are essential in creating the traditional flavor of corned beef. Today we’re using grass-fed, pasture-raised beef.

beef rubbed with pickling spices and salt

Massage both sides of the meat with salt and spices.

beef rolled up with twine

Roll up with spices inside and tie to make a nice little bundle keeping the spices right close to the meat for ensured flavor.

celery being chopped for the blender to make celery juice

Celery juice contains natural nitrates.  One bunch of celery makes about 2 cups.  I used a vita-mix and blended it up smooth and then strained through a cheesecloth.

I did the same for the beet juice ( which adds beautiful color!)  Beet powder is also an option if it is available to you.

place the rolled meat in a large jar with garlic cloves

Place the rolled meat and any remaining salt, spices, and garlic in a glass or ceramic vessel that has a lid, lodging it in the bottom where it will stay fully submerged under the brine. (You can also place a weight, a small plate or a small bowl directly on top of the meat if needed).

pour in the celery. juice, beet juice and kraut brine

Pour in the celery juice, sauerkraut brine, and beet juice (for color).  Now it is ready to cure.

Cover and place in the fridge for 5-10 days.

Both sauerkraut brine and whey are starter cultures, already active giving your curing a boost.  Either work in this recipe.

let the meat cure int he brine 5-10 days. Unwrap.

Rinse thoroughly after removing from brine.  Your beef is now corned!

Rinse the meat and cook in the slow cooker until tender

Time to Cook!

Place the Corned Beef in a slow cooker for a few hours, cooking until tender.

From here your corned beef is ready to use in sandwiches, soups, stews, and other inspired creations!

It is easily shreddable and full of flavor.

How to make your own naturally-cured Corned Beef without nitrates.  It is easier and healthier than you may think! Allow one-week curing time. #cornbeef #stpatricksday #irishfood

I really love thinking about how back in the day this was just what one did to preserve food – not so much focus on ” good for you” or “bad for you”.  It was all about survival.  Food was pure and the methods simple.

Our ancestors were clever in creating both sustenance and flavor.  There is something very gratifying about learning these ancient ways that are wholesome, full of natural nutrients and delicious in their simplicity.

Hope you enjoy this naturally-cured Corn Beef Recipe!

Tonia

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How to make your own naturally-cured Corned Beef without nitrates.  It is easier and healthier than you may think! Allow one-week curing time. #cornbeef #stpatricksday #irishfood

Natural Homemade Corned Beef (Nitrate-free)

  • Author: Tonia Schemmel | Feasting at Home
  • Prep Time: 60
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: preserved, beef recipe,
  • Method: cured
  • Cuisine: Irish
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

How to make your own naturally-cured Corned Beef without nitrates.  It is easier and healthier than you may think!  Allow one-week curing time.


Ingredients

Scale

Curing the Beef (Allow 5 – 10 days) 

  • 23 pound thawed beef brisket (grass-fed preferred)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/21 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorn
  • 1 tablespoon whole cardamom pods
  • 2/3 cup sea or mineral salt
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 2 cups celery juice (1 bunch celery, see notes)
  • 2 cups sauerkraut brine or whey (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup beet juice or 1 tablespoon beetroot powder, optional (for color)
  • 5 cloves of garlic

Cook the Corned Beef

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 onion,
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 celery
  • 1 carrot

Instructions

Brining the meat

  1. Rinse brisket and pat dry.
  2. Break up cinnamon stick and bay leaves, lightly smash cardamom.  Mix together with mustard seeds, coriander, cloves, red pepper flakes, salt, and sugar.
  3. Rinse and dry brisket.  Throughly massage spice/salt mixture into meat.  Roll up tying with string to secure. Place rolled up brisket in jar or glass container.
  4. Pour sauerkraut brine (or whey-see notes), celery juice, and beet juice (if using) over the meat.  Make sure meat is fully submerged.  Though in the garlic cloves.  Seal with lid.
  5. Place jar in the refrigerator for 5-10 days.
  6. Unwrap, rinse and cook.

Cooking the Corned Beef

  1. Prepare onion, celery, carrot and garlic cutting in large chunks.  Put in the bottom of a crockpot (or dutch oven)
  2. Place meat on top of the vegetables along with the water.
  3. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, until the meat, is tender and easily forks apart.

Notes

You can use sauerkraut brine that you make from your own batch of cultured cabbage or strain store-bought sauerkraut.  1-quart yields about 1 1/2 cups.  This amount will vary depending on the brands.

Celery juice can be made with a juicer, or blended in a blender with 2 cups water (then strained) or feel free to use store-bought celery juice.

If you choose to use whey- you can strain full-fat yogurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl left out at room temperature for about an hour.  1 quart usually yields a bit more then 1 cup of whey.

Adding vegetables to the crockpot when cooking the meat is totally optional, it just adds more savory flavor.  Alternatively cooking in just water will work just fine.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4 ounces
  • Calories: 235
  • Sugar: 6.3 g
  • Sodium: 966.5 mg
  • Fat: 9.3 g
  • Saturated Fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 12.9 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 25.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 70.3 mg

Keywords: corned beef recipe, How to cure corned beef, natural corn beef, corn beef without nitrates, homemade corned beef, naturally cured corn beef recipe

 

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  1. FYI Whether nitrites are added from a pure salt or created in situ by bacteria acting on the natural nitrates in celery juice makes little difference. Nitrites are nitrites and they work by inhibiting dangerous disease-causing bacteria, but in high concentrations will react with amines (in meat) to produce reactive nitrosamines (and these are nasty chemicals you do not want to eat).

    The nitrates from celery juice don’t actually cure the meat–it’s the nitrites produced by the action of good bacteria (from the sauekraut brine) on the nitrates that supports meat curing and inhibiting Botulinum clostridium. The trick tho is that unlike when you specifically add nitrites (salt peter) from a pure source in a safe and pre-determined quantity, it is hard to quantitate what you produce through bacterial action on the nitrates in celery juice. So this is in fact less controlled and potentially riskier since the bacterial activity of the sauerkraut will vary from batch to batch depending on its age and composition. No judgement here, just a heads up.

    An informative and lay person friendly commentary on nitrites and their risks (from the office of science integrity at McGill University)

    https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/food/celery-juice-viable-alternative-nitrites-cured-meats

  2. Hi Sylvia,
    I have enjoyed making quite a few of your recipes, but this is the first time commenting. The flavor of the brisket was wonderful. Loved the spice
    mixture. Never liked corned beef that much until now. I had some Just Beet juice from Whole Foods that I used and it gave it a nice color and sweetness, too. Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipes!

  3. Hi Sylvia
    I have so much whey from making yogurt. Do I have to use celery juice/water or can I rely on whey to do the curing.
    Thanks for the wonderful recipes.
    Regards
    Laura

    1. Hi Laura, I have always used celery, my understanding is that it is important for the natural nitrates it contains. But you can use the whey instead of sauerkraut brine.🙂

  4. Could this also be cooked in my instant pot after it’s brined? if so, how long? 1 hour? (3.5lb brisket)

  5. When cooking the beef is it still tied up, or untied?
    Is chicken stock ok to use with the water – perhaps half of each?

    1. Untie the meat and rinse really well with running water. I suggest cooking in water as it mellows the salt that the meat was cured in and the meat is so flavorful that it doesn’t need much more.

  6. I have a 7 pound brisket and I don’t have a large enough glass or ceramic container, would a stainless steel pot be okay to use?

  7. Awesome, thanks! Nitrate is one of my Crohn’s triggers, well man-made nitrates that is. I tolerate celery nitrates fine 😋

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