This recipe requires that you start seven days ahead of time to brine the brisket, but I promise, it’s worth it. Corned beef is timeless and deserves a spot at the table, not just on St. Paddy’s Day. It is a crowd-pleaser that loves the low-and-slow ethos of the slow cooker, turning it tender without fail. Instacure is a nitrate that is optional to the recipe, but recommended because you are brining the beef for a long time and it will ensure that nothing goes wrong, microbe-wise. It will also make the meat retain its characteristic pinkish color. You can purchase Instacure online.
2 cups apple juice
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon Instacure #1 (optional)
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon Tellicherry black peppercorns
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
4 bay leaves
1 quart ice cubes
4 pounds beef brisket (fatty or lean, up to you)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, halved
2 tablespoons brown miso paste
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 head Savoy cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup Pickled Mustard Seeds, for garnish
6-quart (or larger) slow cooker
Pour 1 1/2 quarts of cold water and the apple juice into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the maple syrup, Instacure, mustard seeds, peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon of the caraway seeds, the allspice berries, bay leaves, and 1/2 cup salt. Cook for 3 minutes at a rapid boil; then remove from the heat. Add the ice and wait for the brine to cool to room temperature.
Place the brisket in a large container and cover it fully with the brine. (If you have an extra-large sealable plastic bag, those work really well, keeping the meat fully immersed in the brine.) Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 1 week.
After that week, remove the brisket from the brine and strain the brine, saving the spices and bay leaves and discarding the liquid. Set the brisket aside on a plate.
Preheat a large slow cooker on the low setting for at least 20 minutes.
In large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and cook for 15 minutes, turning them once in a while, until they are well browned and a touch charred.
Place the brisket in the slow cooker and add the charred onions, miso, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the butter, and the strained spices and bay leaves. Add enough room-temperature water to cover the brisket by 2 inches. Cover with the lid and cook on the low setting for 8 to 10 hours, until the brisket is really tender—a paring knife should plunge into the meat with little resistance. Skim off any fat that has risen to the surface.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. When it begins to bubble and froth, add the cabbage, remaining 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine; then let the cabbage char for 2 minutes to develop some color. Toss the cabbage and cook for another 2 minutes. Then transfer it to a large platter.
Remove the brisket from the slow cooker, taking care to keep it in one piece. Place it on top of the cabbage on the platter, let it rest for 5 minutes, and then slice it into 1/2-inch-thick slabs, against the grain. It will be very tender, and it may fall apart. That’s okay. We want that. Add the potatoes to the platter. Garnish with the fresh dill and the Pickled Mustard Seeds.