Now that I've found some good local sources for elk and buffalo meat, I've started thinking about all the things I could do with it. One of the areas of cooking that I've been experimenting with is making our own deli-type sandwich meats. Corned Beef is one of the deli meats I've been making for years. It's very, very easy, and much tastier than the corned beef in the store. So, I wonder - how would it work with Elk or buffalo meat? Would it be as good? Better? Well, I plan to give it a try!
In the meantime, here's the basic corned beef recipe we always use:
* Morton's TenderQuick salt - navy blue bag in the spice section, usually on the bottom shelf.
* Lean uncooked beef roast - that's the beauty of making your own - you can use *good* beef
* water - plain cold tap water is fine
* "Pickling spice" (or if you can't find that, mix peppercorns, red pepper flakes, crushed bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon chunks, whole coriander and mustard seed in a combination that pleases you.)
Find a large, non metallic container with a lid. A gallon glass jar or a couple of half gallon canning jars with lids work well. Or you can use a small, clean, plastic food grade bucket, or even a large, deep ceramic or plastic bowl with a makeshift cover. Just remember that whatever you use, it has to be deep enough for the meat to stay submerged in brine, and the whole thing needs to be able to fit into your refrigerator.
Cut the meat into chunks, or leave it whole. Chunks 4 inches on a side or thereabouts cure faster than a whole roast, but it's up to you whether to cut the roast smaller or not. Rinse the meat in clean, cool water and put it into your clean non-metallic container. Mix enough brine in a 1:8 ratio of Morton's salt to water to fully cover the meat, and pour it in. Throw in a handful of spices, put the lid on, and set it in the fridge to cure. Chunks will be ready to eat in about 4 days, but larger pieces might take up to 10. Fish out what you want, cook it however you like, and leave the rest in the brine for later. Up to a point, it just keeps getting more flavorful.
That's it! Corned beef at home is so simple and fast there's no reason to pay exorbitant prices for fatty, low quality corned brisket packed in brine at the store. Making your own means you control how much fat is in the final product, and also how spicy it is. You don't even have to add spices if you don't like them, it's your choice and won't affect the curing at all. You can also use plain kosher or canning salt instead of the Morton's, but it won't look like, and may not taste like, the corned beef you've had in the past. But if you have a thing about nitrates, give it a try on a small scale and see how you like it.