Old Virginia Corned Beef

Preparation info

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Cold-Smoking & Salt-Curing Meat, Fish, & Game

Cold-Smoking & Salt-Curing Meat, Fish, & Game

By A D Livingston

Published 2010

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Here’s an old beef cure that I have adapted from Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife. Although the recipe is primarily of historical interest, the method can be used for corning large batches of beef or large game such as elk or moose.

Prepare your brine in the middle of October, the book says. First, get a 30-gallon cask, take out 1 head, drive in the bung, and put some pitch on it to prevent leaking. See that the cask is tight and clean. Put into it 1 pound of powdered saltpeter, 15 quarts of salt, and 15 gallons of cold water, stirring as you go. Stir until the salt is dissolved. Put a thick cloth over the cask to keep out the dust. (these proportions have been accurately ascertained—15 gallons of cold water will exactly hold, in solution, 15 quarts of good, clean Liverpool salt and 1 pound of saltpeter; this brine will be strong enough to float an egg.) The brine will cure all the beef that a private family can use in the course of the winter, and requires nothing more to be done except occasionally skimming the dross that rises. It must be kept in a cool, dry place. For salting your beef, get a molasses hogshead and saw it in half, so that the beef may have space to line on; bore some holes in the bottom of these tubs and raise them on one side about 1 inch, so that the bloody brine may run off.