Corned beef

So it’s a basic thing that almost doesn’t deserve a recipe. After all, most of the work’s already done when you buy the beef already corned (salted) for you. So why bother?

I bother because corned beef is a family comfort food. We didn’t have it often when we were growing up, but it was special when we did. We always had it with a white sauce, of course. It wouldn’t have been the same family meal without it.

I bother also because I had to phone mum a few years ago to ask her for the recipe. Not the bit that says stick it in a pot of water and boil for ages. That bit I could work out. It was what else went in the pot to create the flavours that I remembered from my childhood. That bit’s been scribbled on a scrap of paper ever since.Not even copied into my notebook. It’s a miracle it didn’t get lost somewhere along the way.

In case you’re wondering, the word ‘corning’ comes from an old English word for grain (very old), and later the process of salting (late 1500’s). Think rocksalt, the larger-grained pickling salt, rather than our finely crystalised, free-flowing table salt.

Mrs Beeton, of course, has two recipes for corned (or salted) beef:

Mrs Beetons corned beef recipes

Mrs Beetons corned beef recipes

I did once look at corning my own beef, just for the fun of it. But it’s more work than I want to go to. If you’re interested, the guru is supposedly Michael Ruhlman.

Corned beef

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • corned beef
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar (use apple cider vinegar if you can)
  • 1 onion
  • 10 cloves
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 teaspoons of brown sugar
  • 10 black pepper corns
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 carrot


  1. Put everything in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover the meat. Bring it to the boil.
  2. Simmer with the lid on until the meat’s cooked: allow half an hour for each pound of meat (about 30 minutes per 500 grams).
  3. Let the meat rest for up to half an hour while you make the white sauce.


You might notice the very small amount of brown sugar in the ingredients list. It’s not a mistake. We really have cut down on sugar lately. It tastes better, too.

Corned silverside: you'll notice a mixture of thin and thick slices. That's to cater for the different meat-slicing preferences around here.

Corned silverside: you’ll notice a mixture of thin and thick slices. That’s to cater for the different meat-slicing preferences around here.

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