One Sunday afternoon at our local farmer’s market, we came across a vendor selling grassfed bison meat. We were intrigued. For one, bison meat is stellar! It’s leaner than beef, pork, turkey—even chicken. We like that it doesn’t have that “gamey” taste like many proteins not found in chain grocery stores (i.e. goat, venison, moose, etc). Plus, most suspecting people wouldn’t be able to distinguish it between beef. Bison = okay with us! What got us even more fired up for bison was all the cool things we could do with it. The farmer suggested we try corning it for corned beef or pastrami. Apparently it’s pretty easy, super-rewardingly delicious, and “it’ll be ready just in time for St. Paddy’s Day,”–his exact words. Hmm? Yes! We took one brisket and went merrily on our way with his recipe.
First things first: during this whole process we learned “corning” meat has nothing to do with actual corn. It’s a pickling process. The “corned” refers to the course salts that are used to pickle the meat. Years ago, the large salt chunks were once the size of corn kernels, hence the meats using this salt being called “corned.” The name stuck. Now you know. Secondly, we didn’t want to use pickling spices like the given recipe called for, so we improvised using pieces of whole garam masala (whole cardamom, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, whole allspice, etc.) and dried chilies that we had chillin’ in the cabinet. You can flavor the brine with whatever you want, even go simple with nothing more than pepper corns and a bay leaf. The most important ingredient is just time, so feel free to play. At the end of this long process, after the bison laid submerged in our spiced-pool of salt water, the finished product was pretty gnarly.
Since we were corning the bison with St. Patrick’s Day in mind, we threw in the raw carrots and cabbage with the meat during its last minutes of cooking as spoken by Irish tradition. The carrots and meat themselves were juicy and rich in flavor. For some unknown reason, though, the cabbage absorbed all the salt from the broth created from cooking the meat. It was salt city. Next time, we’ll make sure to taste the broth before adding the veggies. They may need to be cooked separate if the salt is too strong. All in all, we’re so glad we tried out this food experiment, which is good anytime of the year. Happy St. Paddys!
Corned Bison – Serves 6 (Adapted from Lindner Bison)
2-3 pounds whole bison brisket (beef works too)
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, smashed with skin on or minced
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon whole garam masala (cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cardamom, fennel seeds, etc).
1 tablespoon rainbow pepper corns
2 whole dried chilies
3/4 cup coarse salt
2 quarts hot water
1. Place meat in a large, deep non-reactive container: ceramic, plastic, glass are all fine, but metal is not okay.
2. Dissolve salt, sugar, in the hot water. Add spices and garlic.
3. Pour mixture over meat, making sure it is fully covered. May need to use a small glass bowl or plate to help weigh meat down, insuring it is completely beneath the liquid surface.
4. Cover with container’s lid, or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 7 days, up to 3 weeks. Make sure and turn the meat every 3-4 days.
5. When ready to cook the meat, rinse under cool water to remove any surface brine.
6. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Cook over medium-low heat for 90-120 minutes, or until “fork tender,” where a fork will penetrate to the center of the meat. Can also be cooked “pot roast style” in a crock pot, or slow cooked in the oven.
7. Add cabbage and/or carrots during the last 15-20 minutes of cooking if desired. Can also be served cold, sliced thinly across the grain.
Click HERE for the printable recipe.