Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Just in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

2016 UPDATE: Since this post was written, I can no longer recommend the Pocino's ready-to-eat Natural Corned Beef Brisket available at Trader Joe's. The sodium content listed on the package from 2011 is no longer correct. It is now listed as 780 mg of sodium per 2 ounce serving.

But having a traditional corned beef dinner is still possible. I've had pretty good luck soaking a regular corned beef in water for 1-2 days with frequent changes of water. The soaking removes a considerable amount of salt. If you add a tablespoon or two of salt-free pickling spice during the cooking, you still get a really good flavor.

You can read about the soaking technique in the 3rd paragraph of this post or in this earlier post from 2008.


My husband & I headed “down the hill” yesterday to run some errands. Of course, we had to go to Trader Joe’s. We were running low on dried fruit, and I wanted to pick up some breakfast things for later this week when our son & his family visit. This is going to be a busy week for me, and I figured I wouldn’t have a chance to do any baking before they arrived.
I headed for the deli section to pick up some Columbus reduced sodium sliced turkey. It tastes good and makes great sandwiches & wraps. Right next to the packages of sliced deli meats & cheese was a big display of corned beef with some whole heads of cabbage. It hit me that St. Patrick’s Day was just around the corner.
Read this paragraph for info on soaking regular corned beef:I’m not Irish, but I do like corned beef. Now that we’re following a low sodium regimen, I still fix it once a year for St. Patrick’s Day. Sometimes I’ll even buy an extra package in March to freeze and serve later in the year. Preparing it is usually a 2-3 day affair. I soak the corned beef in clean, fresh water for at least two days, sometimes three days. I change the water at least once or twice a day too. And then I cook the meat in a fresh change of water using my slow cooker. By the time I’m done with the soaking and changes of water, the corned beef has lost a lot of its saltiness. (It’s also lost most of its pink color, but that doesn’t bother me. Years ago I made my own corned pork following a Julia Child recipe. I didn’t use saltpeter, so the meat was not bright pink but tasted great.)
Well, that was my plan for this year to, until… I spied a new (to me) product at Trader Joe’s. Pocino Naturals Uncured Corned Beef Brisket. The package states that it is fully cooked, heat & serve, no nitrates, no nitrites, and no MSG. But here’s the interesting part for those following a low sodium diet – it has only 100 mgs. sodium per 2 oz. serving. Now compare that to some regular corned beef with 1,680 mgs. per 4 oz. serving. That’s quite a difference! The listed ingredients include beef, water, vinegar, sea salt, cherry powder, sodium carbonates, celery powder, turbinado sugar, and natural flavorings & spices.

I grabbed a smallish package and decided to fix it for lunch today. I didn’t think there would be enough for the entire family crowd on St. Patrick’s Day, plus I was eager to test the product. We just got finished with lunch, and I’m happy to report that the corned beef was a huge success. It retained its pink color and had a wonderful, true corned beef flavor. 

I’m pretty excited about finding this product, and I encourage you to look for either this brand or other brands that might have a similar sodium content. Check out your local grocery stores, health food stores, and specialty food markets. You never know what you might find.

It was an experiment, that’s for sure. This one turned out well, but it could have easily been a complete bust. That’s part of the adventure of cooking low sodium. You never know what will be a hit or a miss. The important thing is to not be afraid to experiment. Keep trying new products, new recipes, and new techniques because when you experience success, you’ve made your low sodium diet much more effective. The better your low sodium food tastes, looks, & smells, the less likely it will be for you to stray. If you can find one winning product, recipe, or technique, all your trash-worthy failures will have been worth it. Never give up!


Voce said...

Lucinda Scala Quinn's TV show/blog has an "Uncorned Beef" & Cabbage recipe today, where since you make it from scratch, you control the amount of sodium. No brining, nitrites/nitrates, either!

shambo said...

Voce, thanks for the information. I printed the recipe and intend to give it a try.

thedailydish said...

WOW!! Shambo, what an amazing find! I was just at Trader Joe's yesterday - but a quick breeze in and out. Next time I will look for this! Thanks so much for the heads-up.

And Voce, thanks also for that link. Will definitely check it out!

shambo said...

Today I'm going to try to find brisket at either my local grocery stores or a butcher shop near by. I'm anxious to try the recipe Voce linked to.

Githound said...

Very disappointed to find today when I went to Trader Joe's the label listed this Pocino's brisket at 780 mg of sodium per 2 ounce serving. I was looking forward to some corned beef this year. :(

shambo said...

Githound, I discovered that too. It truly is a disappointment. The label changed. Perhaps the one I reported on was a packaging error. But that's the game when dealing with low sodium products. The formulas change, and not always for the better. Often times, the manufacturer decides to discontinue a really good low sodium product. That's why constant vigilance is required. But it certainly is frustrating.

I've had pretty good luck soaking a regular corned beef in water for 1-2 days with frequent changes of water. The soaking removes a considerable amount of salt. If you add a tablespoon or two of salt-free pickling spice during the cooking, you still get a really good flavor.

Thanks for commenting.