Corned beef is a cut of beef, usually a brisket, that has been cured or pickled slowly in a brine mixture of salt, sugar and spices, before being cooked. Once the meat has been cured, it may be cooked with vegetables and served with traditional side dishes such as cabbage.
The Food Network's Alton Brown has created a popular recipe for making corned beef from scratch. To make his corned beef, fill a large 6-quart or 8-quart stock pot with 2 quarts of water. Add 1 cup of kosher salt, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of saltpeter, 1 cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces, 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds and 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns, as well as 8 whole cloves, 8 whole allspice berries, 12 whole juniper berries, 2 crumbled bay leaves and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and brown sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat, add 2 pounds of ice to the pot, and stir until the ice has melted completely and the brine has reached 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place one 4 to 5 pound brisket in a 2-gallon zip top bag, and fill with the brine mixture. Lay the bag flat in a larger container, and refrigerate the brisket for 10 days. Check the brisket each day to make sure the meat is covered completely by the brine.
Remove the brisket from the brine, and rinse well under cool water. Place brisket into a pot just large enough to contain it. Add 1 onion, cut into quarters, 1 coarsely chopped carrot and 1 coarsely chopped rib of celery to the pot. Cover the brisket with water by 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer for two and a half to three hours.