BeerQuest ABV: Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Stout Corned Beef

St. Patrick’s Day might have come and gone but there’s no reason why you can’t keep the fun going with two Irish favorites – corned beef and stout.

The items used are readily available, and there's only a small amount of knife work required to start it. The best part is the cooking all happens while the day goes on.

This recipe requires about 15 minutes of actual work, not including any sides that might get added.

Most corned beef is "corned," that is, picked, in a mixture of salt, spices and saltpeter for several days before it's rinsed and boiled in water for about 3 to 4 hours.

While this usually produces a fantastic product on its own, a few easy things can always be done to up the flavor quotient -- the easiest of which is replacing the water with another liquid. In our case, we're going to use beer.

Not just any beer, though. Only stout will do.

stout corned beef

The ingredients are as follows:

Flat-cut vacuum-packed corned beef brisket, 2-4 pounds. (These are everywhere at the grocery store around mid-March. Just pick any one. If you wanted to brine your own, or get one from a high-quality meat market in the area, that would make the finished product even better.)

1/2 onion.
5-7 smashed garlic cloves, paper removed.
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed (light or dark are both fine).
2 -- 12-oz bottles of your favorite stout (I'd stay away from anything barrel-aged).
A slow cooker (You can always cook this on the stove top, although you'll need to babysit the liquid level).

One note: If you are using brisket brined at home, or purchased pre-brined from a store, you'll need pickling spice. Each vacuum-packed brisket comes with a spice pack, as is clear from the photo above.

It's about an once worth of several different items, including coriander, peppercorns, mustard seeds and more. Make sure not to buy the stuff with salt in it. We don't want to put salt in the cooking liquid and cook a salty piece of brined brisket in salty beer.

This is as easy as it gets, folks:

1. Cut the onion in half. We only need one half, so save the other half for some other endeavor. I won't go into specifics as to how to cut the onion; suffice it to say we don't want the root and the stem and all the paper included here. Throw the onion half in the slow cooker.

2. Smash 5-7 garlic cloves. Going over here won't hurt; I'd say half a whole bulb of garlic is a safe bet. Toss them in.

3. Put the 1/4 cup of brown sugar in. Make sure it's packed tight in the measuring cup to an even 1/4 cup. Or don't -- it doesn't really matter.

stout corned beef

4. Pour in the two bottles of beer, and stir things around to dissolve the sugar. I won't think less of a person who potentially leaves a bit in each bottle to drink. I'm using Schlafly's Irish-style Extra Stout, which is honestly a lot sweeter than I would have expected from an Irish stout. It is definitely delicious. The sky's the limit here -- try a Russian Imperial, or a nice oatmeal stout. I would recommend staying away from spiced/flavored stouts (Cinnamon, coffee or chocolate would interfere with the pickling spice) and barrel-aged stouts (You probably paid more for the pack of the beer than you did for this corned beef. Drink it instead).

5. Take the brisket out of its package, and rinse it well. Get all the liquid off of the meat – we don't want that. It's salty and unnecessary -- the only reason it was in the package was to keep the brisket in suspended animation.

6. Dump the spices into the liquid in the slow cooker, and nestle the brisket down underneath the liquid. The onion can be moved around to fit things the best. If the brisket isn't completely submerged, just add a bit of water to cover. Use the empty beer bottles to fill up with cold water, that way every drop is used.

stout corned beef

That's it. No, seriously, that's it. You can do this in the morning before work, or the night before. When it's ready to cook, turn on the slow cooker on low for eight hours. After that, it's done.

Take the beef out (be gentle), let it rest for a few minutes, then slice it, and serve it warm with a dollop of colcannon and some braised carrots (Braise them in the corned beef's cooking liquid).

Folks with a little inner chef could try reducing the cooking liquid in a saucepan with a little grainy mustard and finishing with butter, which would make a tasty sauce (I may or may have not experienced this before).

Alternatively, let the corned beef cool down, and refrigerate it. Once cold, slice it thin and put it on some rye bread with Swiss cheese and mustard. There's really no wrong way to eat corned beef.

St. Patrick's Day is a day that always lives in infamy for the green beer and debauchery that many people consume and perpetrate, but it's honestly one of my favorite holidays. The Irishman in me always looks forward to it. This will sound "corny," but happy St. Patrick's Day, and sláinte!

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