Homemade Corned Beef and Cabbage

Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, we cook corned beef and cabbage. Usually, we will just buy corned beef from the local grocery store and slow cook it with potatoes and cabbage, but a couple of times we have made our own corned beef. The name corned beef comes from the large rock salt, also called corns of salt, that are used to brine the beef. It takes about 10 days to brine the beef brisket and give it that distinctive flavor, but otherwise it is pretty simple to do. Not only is it a great dinner, but using the leftover corned beef to make Rueben sandwiches afterwards is almost even better than the original meal.

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Brining Liquid

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 to 4 lb Beef Brisket
  • 1 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 6 tbsp Pickling Spice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Dried Marjoram
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 8 cups Cold Water for the brine
  • 1/2 lb Potatoes (fingerling if possible)
  • 1/2 head of Green Cabbage
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Slow Cook the Brisket, Potatoes, and Cabbage

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pot, combine the salt, sugar, 4 1/2 tablespoons pickling spice, peppercorns, marjoram, 2 bay leaves, and water. Heat on medium-high heat until the salt and sugar completely dissolves. Remove from the heat and let completely cool to room temperature. In a large brining bag or casserole dish, submerge the beef brisket and refrigerate for 8 to 10 days. We flipped the brisket daily in order to ensure that it brined evenly. When ready to cook, remove the brisket from the brine and rinse completely with cold water. Place the corned beef, fat side up, in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Add the remaining pickling spices, bay leaves, and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium heat on the stove and reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 3 hours. Add the potatoes and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add the cabbage and simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes or until the cabbage is tender.

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Brine for 10 days
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Finished Meal

 

Cabbage Rolls with Tomato Sauce

One of the classic meals that we had while we were in Romania were cabbage rolls. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to recreate them exactly as we had them, so we decided to go with a little different take on our attempt. We found the cabbage rolls in Romania to be a little dry and not particularly flavorful, so we wanted ours to be moist. This recipe is closer to the cabbage rolls that we had as children and we found them to be very tasty. Cabbage rolls may not be the most photogenic of meals to prepare, but it doesn’t always have to look good to taste good.

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Stuffed Cabbage and Grape Leaves with Polenta in Romania
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Cooked Cabbage Rolls

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 lb Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 Small Cabbage Head
  • 1/2 cup Cooked White Rice
  • 1 tbsp Onion – finely chopped
  • 1 Egg – lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 can Tomato Sauce – 8 Oz
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp White Vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese – shredded (Optional)
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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

INSTRUCTIONS

Remove the core of the cabbage and place the cabbage in a large saucepan filled with water. Bring the water to a boil and begin removing the cabbage leaves as they become soft and translucent, approximately 10 – 15 minutes. Separate the leaves and set aside to cool. Add the oil to a medium saucepan and heat to medium-high. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes until soft and then add the ground beef, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Cook until the ground beef is browned and then add the rice and set aside to cool. In a medium sauce pan, combine the tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, remaining salt and pepper, and heat over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir the beaten egg into the cooled meat mixture and then spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mixture into each cabbage leaf. Roll the cabbage leaf like a burrito, tucking in the sides as you roll. Place the cabbage rolls into a baking dish and the spoon the tomato sauce over top of the cabbage rolls. If using cheese, sprinkle over top of sauce and cabbage rolls. Place the baking dish, uncovered, into an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for an hour or until the sauce is bubbly and hot.

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Boil Cabbage
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Stuff Cabbage Leaves
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Cover with Sauce
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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

The Food of Romania

No matter where we visit, one of the important things for us is to taste the traditional foods of the region. Visiting Romania was no exception and we asked all of the locals that we met what foods we should eat while we were there. We were able to try the greatest variety of food while we were in Brasov, but we understand that these were typical meals that could be found throughout the country. What we heard over and over again was that we needed to try the polenta with a spicy pepper as well as the cabbage rolls, so we definitely wanted to give that a try.

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Stuffed Cabbage and Grape Leaves with Polenta
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Mushroom Soup
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Lamb with Polenta

Pork dominated most menus, but there plenty of other choices as well.  We did find that most meals did not utilize a lot of spices, although they were almost all hearty in nature. There are definitely influences from countries throughout the region, so it should be no surprise that we found treats like Baklava on various menus in addition to those unique to Romania. One of the more interesting meals that we ate was a pork loin filled with goat cheese and spinach with a black currant sauce.

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Stuffed Pork Loin
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Baklava
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A Toast to Romania

Our photos will not do the food true justice, but we did enjoy trying some of the various dishes from Romania. At some point, when we have a chance, we will likely try to recreate some of these on our own, but we will likely tweak them a little to include a few more spices.

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Fried Pork and Goose Fat
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Whiskey Sour
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Pickled Sauerkraut