When I was in Cornwall a week ago, we had a few dinners in a local hotel, and one of them had a starter which was home cured corned beef. It was bloody fantastic - forget Fray Bentos tinned stuff, this corned beef is nothing like it. It is lean, pink and - above all - one of the most sympathetic things you can do with the carcass of a bovine, if you are going to be bothered with killing it in the first place. It has to be tasted to be appreciated, so I am hoping that the process that I have started tonight will - in 3 weeks time - produce a product which is similar to that wot I scoffed in Cornwall.
Since the chef at the Garrack Hotel refused to come out of his lair to speak to me, I had to do a little research about proper corned beef, and the first thing I discovered was to do with the name. The 'Corned' part of has nothing to do with cereal, it is an old English term for small granules, which is the form they used the salt in when curing. So that's that cleared up.
I won't go into the entire recipe tonight, but I will mention that it includes the ingredient Salt Petre, otherwise known as Potassium Nitrate. It just so happens that I have a lot of potassium nitrate, as it is used in the manufacture of gunpowder. (I made my own gunpowder once - or tried to). Salt Petre has been used for years in the curing of bacon, but has recently got a bad press for causing cancer and impotence, neither of which particularly bother me at present, on the grounds that I have been eating the stuff for years, and I have had more erections than I have had bouts of cancer, but time will tell if I am suffering from overconfidence, or something more serious. The S.P. stops the meat from turning a dead grey colour, and keeps it nice and pink, like undertakers try do with us humans when the time comes. It's only a pinch anyway, and will get washed out as much as possible, then boiled far ages.
To cut a long story short (for the time being) The above picture is of my bits of brisket, quietly soaking up the carcinogens, and waiting to be turned into one of the best forms of cured beef that Britain produces.
I will let you know in about 3 weeks time, when I pull the jar out of the cupboard, boil the contents for about 3 hours, then drain and cool.