All week, I kept an eye on the beef as it sat in brine. Rather, I kept my nose on it. I would open the fridge and sniff deeply. Other than the faintest hint of salt and pickling spice, I smelled nothing. Very good sign, I thought.
This morning, I took out the beef, rinsed it thoroughly in running water and set about to cook it. As instructed, I place it in “the largest pot [I] had that holds the corned beef”. Check. I added the same spices to the water that I had put in the brine. Check. I brought it to a boil and then allowed to simmer for 3 hours, or until tender. Um, check, check and not-so-check.
Bringing the beef to a boil was quite satisfying. It plumped up like an engorged — um, I can only come up with nasty or naughty analogies here. I’ll just say it plumped up quite nicely. Other than being grey instead of pink (due to the lack of saltpetre) it looked and smelled like corned beef I’d bought and cooked before. So far, so good.
I checked on the meat periodically, and every time it still seemed quite tight, and not what I would call tender. I recalled later — too late — that when I have cooked corned beef in the past, it was a simple matter to look up the recommended cooking time based on the weight. I had forgotten that I used a smaller cut than was called for in the recipe, and I should have stopped the cooking sooner.
In the end, the beef was much smaller than it was when it started cooking, having lost all the plump it gained at the start, and then some. I found it bland, and dry. My fellow picnickers tried to assure me it was good, but in my opinion it wasn’t. Edible, but barely. Luckily, they brought lovely salads and fruits to fill the gap.
I may try again, only with brisket and hopefully with the saltpetre. And I think I will do it in secret a few times, until I get it right.