Saturday, September 26, 2015

Beef Navel Corned-Beef

To say that I have been wanting to do this for a while is a huge understatement. I live in the Northwest and sourcing Beef Belly has been quite challenging. To give you an analogy consider this. I contend that acquiring White Truffles would be less problematic than Beef Naval. If this doesn't paint a picture I don't know what else will. 

Back in the day when I first attempted to make what I thought would be Meat Nirvana I purchased what I believed was Beef Navel and to my dismay received full on plate. At the time of course I didn't know any different. I am no butcher so of course I left this to the professionals. I even went to an old fashion Butcher where they break down primal parts right in front of you. If anyone knew what I was talking about it had to be these guys right? I asked for Beef Navel and he said oh... you mean the plate. So I brought home what he gave me and made beef bacon from it. Not the best bacon I ever made nor even a close took 6th in my bacon contest; 6 th being the worse. The plate was hard and was hard to cook. 

"Anyhow I guess all Navels come from the plate but not all plates are Navels." LC

When you walk up to the counter and ask if they could special order Beef Navel/Belly (called plate too) you either get this blank stare or they say "Do you mean Brisket" After the third or fourth time you want to say Hell No I don't mean Brisket. I went to QFC, Safeway, Albertsons, several Butcher chops, and had some contact with local butchers online and to my disappointment everyone came up short. The only place that was able to help me was Haggens. About 6 months ago Haggens took over the safeway store thank goodness. Not a fan of safeway. The Haggens employees in the meat department were extremely friendly and helpful.

I have been dreaming of using this meat meat for over three years and now that I have five of them I am going to town. There are several things I will be doing with this cut of meat. And alas this opening paragraph will accompany several posts. I plan on making Sous-Vide BBQ Beef, Pastrami, Corned-Beef and Bacon. 

Before Brisket there was the Navel. Would it surprise you to know that Navel dominated all forms of BBQ and Cured meats such as Pastrami and Corned Beef. Pastrami is Jewish BBQ with Chutzpah!! Corned-Beef of course is just cured beef without going through the transformation that makes it Pastrami. You cannot have Pastrami without Corned-beef. I have a passion for cured meats such as Pastrami, Corned-Beef and of course Bacon. I have posts dedicated to them. But none of them were ever made with Beef Navel until now. Anyhow you get my point Navel was King and it was cheaper than Brisket. In fact where I live Brisket sell for $7.99lb and the Navel cost $2.49lb. I might want to keep this a secret because if it becomes popular it might drive the cost up a bit. 

Childhood memories brings me back to my first real deli food which was none other than Katz Deli in New York City EST 1888. I won't go into a long story but suffice it to say they served Navel everything. You know that famous movie When Harry Met Sally?  The famous scene was filmed at Katz's enough said!!

Oy Gevalt enough with the prologue let's get to the Corned-Beef. Yea yea I know I have an obsession with Beef Navel so just be patient while I rant just a tad more. When you cure anything with Beef Navel you end up with something that is Heavenly. That's right Heavenly sent from G-d Himself. 

Yes; you read the previous sentence correctly I equated G-d with Beef Navel and cured meats. 

Here are a couple of pictures of the Beef Navel being laid out for the next step.

One technique that is unique to my process is the way I apply the dry-rub and cure. Some people combine the salt/cure, herbs and spices together first then apply to meat. I like to first combine the Salt, cure then apply to meat making sure I get it into every nook and cranny. When you apply everything at once some of the rub is going to run off the meat and you never know how much cure actually got on the meat. It's imperative that the right amount of salt and cure makes its way on to the meat. 

As always I took the whole spices and herbs,(Bay leaf, Grains of Paradise, Coriander,Juniper berries, Whole cloves and mustard seeds) and placed them in a dry pan and applied a little heat to them to bring out their oils.I then grounded them up in a spice grinder. NOTE: Picture is not from this recipe. But has all essential ingredients are there.

Click here for recipe and Click here for Dry-Cure-Notes.

Now the simple part. Combine the rest of the ingredients and pack them on to the meat. There will excess rub that will fall to the side but don't worry about this. Make sure to coat every inch of the piece of meat. No rub will go to waste because the excess rub will be tossed in bag.

Carefully place your meat into a vacuum seal bag making sure not to scrape off too much rub. Make sure all salt and rub gets into that bag. Refrigerate and flip every day for 21 days. If this was a smaller piece of meat it would only need about 14 days. I am using a precise equilibrium cure so I am not worried about over curing. 

These Navel Cuts are so big I had to use my FoodSaver Gamesaver Titanium beast to seal these babies up. I used 15 inch bags to accommodate the Navels girth. 

All cured and rinsed. It's ready for the thermal bath.

Double vacuumed sealed. Bath set at 145˚ƒ... for a minimum of 48 hours.

All Sous-Vide... 145˚ƒ for 52 hours. A while back I SV a BBQ Navel at 135˚ƒ for 48 hours and although good the fat was a little jiggly. I was concerned that 145˚ƒ at 48 might not be adequate so I decided to go a little higher and add 4 more hour hoping the fat would render a just a tad more fat. 

All Done!!! Fat on top nearly melted off. So far so good.

Color is great and fat is soft. If you don't like fat you will like this so stick with brisket.
Again color is great and fat is moist. The fat almost melts by touch.

Slices very easily. Extremely tender!!!

Slicing it thin while it's still very warm makes the perfect Corned-Beef Sandwich.

Here is my however!!! Beef Navel Corned-Beef refrigerated is challenging to the palate. A plethora of cold beef fat is not the best. So I trimmed off the excess fat. 

Slicing it very thick with the intention of frying it slightly to render some of the fat produces what could only be called as magical. 

Magical Fried Corned-Beef makes a glorious sandwich.

All sliced up and ready for the vacuum seal. 

Review- It came out great and I won't change a thing. A word of caution to those of you that don't like a lot of fat. This cut is not for you. One more thing to consider. If you think you can just Sous-vide the Corned-beef, slice and serve it you have another thing coming. There is so much fat that frying it first is a necessity. Frying the beef will render the plethora of fat. After it's fried it will make the world's best Corned-Beef sandwich but not before.

update-10/18/2015 - talking with a friend of mine he has had great success with 158˚ƒ for 24 hours. I have to try this this new time and temp. Doing this will negate the need to fry. 

Update- 2/18/2016..... 158˚ƒ at 24 works very well. It renders the fat beautifully.