Cherry Spiced Cured Beef Brisket: Methods, Recipe & Q-view Maximus

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Smoking Guru
Original poster
OTBS Member
Aug 27, 2008
Hi all! I had another inspirational moment to create what is sure to be a unique and interesting brisket project.
Where this will be unique lies in the favors I have chosen to focus on. I'm using a 12-3/4lb packer brisket to
create a cured/smoked beef product which I cannot really call corned beef pastrami due to the flavor profile being
so far away from a traditional recipe, hence the name Cherry Spiced & Cured Beef. I'll cover several aspects of
my methods for meat preparation, curing, and smoking for the novice (for the experienced, please, bear with me,

as it will be worth the ride for you as well). So, I embark on yet another adventure, and I'm inviting you to join the fun!

I chose the brisket flat for this project instead of the point because of it's leaner inter-muscular structure, as
I want the final product to have a firmer texture for slicing, and a slightly chewier texture. I want to be able to
chew my way through all the flavors this meat will have infused into it from the brine cure. Also, the flat cut of
the brisket has a more uniform thickness and will cure, smoke and cook more evenly than the point cut. My past
experience with cured flats for corned beef pastrami have all been great, so it just seems like a win-win situation!

The dry rub I have formulated contains most of the same base ingredients as the brine/cure to bring on the initial
flavor profile to the senses before you actually take a bite and start chewing the meat. As you start eating, this
dry rub combination should prepare you for the interior flavors, but fade away as the deeper and more complex flavors
inside the meat begin to take over the senses. My previous non-traditional corned beef pastrami recipes were very
good in that aspect as well, giving a flavor which just seemed to get more intense with each chew from a bite of the
meat, making it nearly irresistible to walk away from. So, in keeping with that, I wanted to really focus on bringing
that trait out in the open on this new flavor of cured beef as well, which is why I am using a very highly concentrated
brine/cure solution. This brine is literally saturated with spices, so as the osmosis begins with curing, the flavors
will be drawn into the meat in that much higher concentration. I expect a total flavor explosion as a result.

I did the paper-work on these recipes last night over about a 45 minute period of answering questions about what I really

wanted this cured beef experience to be like. A unique flavor with some background heat were among the top priorities,

and cherry has been a great base for dry rubs, so I wanted to give it a try with curing just for the experience.


***measures are for approx. 4 pounds of beef***


2 Tbls dried, minced, ground tart cherries (prep method found in the Wiki for my "Cherry Rub")

1 Tbls red bell pepper powder

2 tsp green bell pepper powder

2 tsp ground black peppercorn

2 tsp thyme

1 tsp oregano

4 bay leaf, whole

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp cumin

1 Tbls jalapeno powder

1 Tbls ancho chili powder

1 Tbsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup Tender Quick Cure

3.5 cups water

Mix all dry ingredients except tender quick cure into water in a saucepan, heat slowly
while stirring every few minutes until simmering.

Remove pan from heat, stir-in tender quick cure, cover and chill well.

When the brine/cure solution is chilled, it is the time to grab the fully thawed meat from the fridge
and get started preparing it for the cure bag while brine/cure solution is cooling. This keeps the
meat tucked away safe and sound so it can be kept chilled as much as possible. Once you begin handling
the meat, the clock is ticking, so don't dilly-dally.

Place prepared meat into a gallon size plastic ziploc storage bag and add chilled brine/cure solution.
Slowly work out air bubbles and free air from solution with bag nearly zipped all the way closed, then
close tightly. Massage meat bag gently for a minute to begin working brine/cure into the meat.

Refrigerate and turn bag over twice daily after a slow, gentle massage and texture check. Make a mental
note of the feel of the meat each day when you massage it.

I like to cure for 3-4 days per inch of thickness, or until meat becomes firm and the texture remains
unchanged for at least 1 day. If the firmness is unchanged, the cure reaction has stopped and the meat
should be fully cured at that point. Certain pieces of meat may take more or less time. Just like when
smoking, each piece of meat can take on it's own personality, so exercise patience and you will be
rewarded. Also, the concentration of spices and curing agent will effect during time...with less liquid
and more solids, it can slow the cure process somewhat, but the massaging and turning over the meat
curing bag will help.

You should notice a slow color change in the brine/cure solution and on the surface of the meat usually
within 3 days. Taking pics for comparison can help to determine color tone. This particular brine/cure
solution is heavily laden with spices, to the point of nearly being a paste, so color change may not be
as noticeable. Many folks strain their brine solution to remove the spice particles, but I like to leave
them in the. This gives the spices that much more time to impart their flavors, which may increase the
intensity in the finished product much more than you might notice with straining the solution.

When curing is complete, rinse in cold water, apply dry rub and smoke to 160*, then foil and steam to 190*.

Now, on to the dry rub, which is the start-up phase of the flavor profile. I want to get the senses ready
for what is coming next, so I don't want the rub to be the main focus. To accomplish this, the volumes of
the spices will not be as liberal as what is contained in the brine/cure, and I'm not so much looking for
a bark as I am a deep smoke penetration, so nothing contained in the rub is used solely for bark formation.
Also, I don't want these flavors to be as complex as the interior of the meat. I want it to be more of a
teaser of sorts, which will make the initial bite and chew carry forward into a much more intense and
enjoyable flavor experience.


1 Tbls dried, minced and ground tart cherries

2 tsp red bell pepper powder

2 tsp cracked or course ground black peppercorn

1/2 tsp ground thyme

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp cinnamon

If you've been following my previous recipes, you may be wondering why I included the red bell pepper,
jalapeno and certain other ingredients into the brine/cure and dry rub. It's all about the overall flavor
profile. Red bell pepper has that natural spicy-sweetness that lends such a nice flavor as a main focal
point, but when used as a background ingredient, it also aids in smoothing over the heat of cayenne,
along with cinnamon. It's just a play on the senses of taste and smell to overcome the possible undesirable
bitter aftertaste of the cayenne. Also, you may have noticed I'm not using salt in the brine or dry rub...
this is due to the salt content in the curing agent.

I will take the thinnest section of the flat which was cut off, and the point from this packer, dry rub and
wrap in poly to rest overnight in the fridge for smoking. I'll likely slice the small section of flat,
and cube the point into burnt ends for tomorrow's smoke. Burnt ends are in high demand around here...we love
'em, but that's another story to be told HERE.

My packer in waiting:




Brine/Cure ready to chill:



Brisket, let me I introduce you to Blade...Blade, meet your latest work:



Separation and trimming...I trimmed off the bulk of the, the flat is on the board, and the point is being carved away to the left:







The edges and remaining fat are trimmed off, and the flat is ready to size-up for a bag...the small, thin piece will hit the smoke in the morning:





Into the bath of goodness:



Let the cure begin...if this is cured in the next 6 to 6.5 days, then I can smoke it on the Wed the 19th, but if it takes any longer than 6.5 days, I'll have to wait until the 24th for my next available smokin' day. The anticipation will try to drive me nuts until then, but it's not my first long cure before the smoke...I'll live to see the end of this.

Point for burnt ends (top), and the remaining small section of flat...both get smoked tomorrow:


So, in about a week (with a little luck) the smoke is on, but I'd be leaning more towards the later date. It's been my past experience that brine cures are done when they're done...nothing you can do about it except the massage, bag turning, and wait for signs of no more cure reaction.


Thanks for stopping by and checking out the start of my latest!

See ya with updates on the cure later, and of course the smoke.

Man, serious internet/comp issues...took about 5 hours to load these pics, but I'm dedicated to sharing with members and guests here at SMF, so I wasn't about to throw in the towel! BOOM! I finally get to hit the submit button! Ha-ha-ha!!!!!!!!

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Great post eric! very informative on how to cure and brine. looks like its going to be a winner for sure,can't wait for more very interesting!
I'm pretty sure that's going to be some good eating!  Now the wait begins.
Thanks for all the information. What a great tutorial on curing brisket. Really looking forward to seeing the finished product.
Sounds like a winner to me... The waiting is going to be the hard part...
Have you ever thought about putting out some type of book or instruction manual?  Wait a minute, what am I saying????? Almost shot myself in the foot......That would put an end to all these great tutorials.    Forget my question.    Mighty fine tutorial. 
Looking real good Eric!

And Very Interesting, to say the least!

You got MY attention!


Great tutorial! I cant wait to see the finished brisket. I love dried tart cherries and I bet that this brisket is gonna be amazing. Thanks for posting!
Thanks everyone, and you're welcome for the tutorial. Dave, I about had to call 991 to get help so I could get off the floor!!! LMAO!!!!!!!!

I was about to upload pics along with replies to everyone's quotes, when lo & behold, my browser dumped me and I lost the page and text....grrr.

Anyway, 24 hours into the cure now, and all is well!

I noticed lastnight when I did my ritual massage and bag turn that the pasty consistency of the brine.cure solution had taken on a bit lighter tint, and the fluid resistence when I worked th ebag was reduced somewhat. This is caused by the osmosis process drawing natural juices from the meat, so the meat juices had already begun to dilute the solution, which is a good sign, I just hadn't expected to find this within the first 8 hours. I also noticed the brisket flat had started to firm up  just a bit already, so the start of this cure project has progressed very well and somewhat quicker than I expected. I just may be smoking some cured beef on my next days off work afterall...we'll see in about more 5 days.

The natural juices being drawn out of the meat during the start of the cure is normal, and is the same basic process as when you use a salted dry rub on meats, then wrap and rest in the fridge overnight...that's what causes the dry rub to become pasty and moist...just a tid-bit for the novice smokers.

So, I remebered the digi-cam this afternoon when I did the 24-hr massage @ 2:00 pm, and was pleased to note that the color tint of the solution had darkened again, and the meat is slowly getting firmer when I squeeze it, and has less droop of the ends when I support the middle of the bag on my wrist. I don't know why, but it fascinates me how you can find these subtle changes as the cure is transorming the meat into what is always such a delightful treat when the reward time comes after it's smoked up and ready to eat. Sorry, I don't mean to get anyone sliding off their chair trying to imagine what the experience is like, but yeah, it's the most rewarding part of home curing and smoking when you can see, touch and taste your creation. OK, gotta shut my pie-hole and get these couple of pics up so you can see what I've been lookin' at!

24 hours @ 34-36* fridge temp...I have a $12.00 Springfield tattle-tale digi-therm/hrgrometer with peak/low readouts in my Q-fridge just for this very purpose...and it's q-view time again...

I took shots from several overhead angles, trying to get away from flash glare (cam hates no-flash shots, bad color tints) on the poly bag...these were the best I could find:


You can see a few small air bubbles (can't get 'em all out, I guess) and a bit of froth from handling the bag to work it all in:


Chunks of un-powdered red bell pepper, black pepeprcorn, chilies and spices from the slightly shorter grind I ran on the brine blend are showing nicely, just like in the spoon shots of the sauce pan...mmm-mmm-mmm: 



Day one is over for the cure, so I don't think anything will change from here on out, other than the texture getting increasingly firmer. So, that said, see ya in about 5 days, when I'll have determined if the cure is finished (and how I made this determination) and if I can get the smoker fired up to finish this bad boy.

You probably can tell, but I love doing meat curing projects, and playing with new recipe ideas! Ha-ha!!!

Patience all, patience...

Thanks again, everyone!

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Master Eric, you're killing us (well me anyway).  Two tutorials running simulanteously.......  Is it your intention that these be treated as separates, point/burnt ends and curing or as one feature, split into two parts?

Hey, you're the guy who's got me drying out fresh sweet cherries to work into your cherry rub.  I have some dried tart ones as well.   Thinking of running these thru a blender to turn into a paste then drying it, kinda in a fruit roll concept.  It was tough enough pitting the cherries, let alone sit at a cutting board, chopping the dried cherries up into itsy bitsy pieces.   I'll keep you advised.
Master Eric, you're killing us (well me anyway).  Two tutorials running simulanteously.......  Is it your intention that these be treated as separates, point/burnt ends and curing or as one feature, split into two parts?

Hey, you're the guy who's got me drying out fresh sweet cherries to work into your cherry rub.  I have some dried tart ones as well.   Thinking of running these thru a blender to turn into a paste then drying it, kinda in a fruit roll concept.  It was tough enough pitting the cherries, let alone sit at a cutting board, chopping the dried cherries up into itsy bitsy pieces.   I'll keep you advised.
Dang, I hooked ya bad!!! Sorry 'bout that!!! Ah heck, what is there to be sorry about, anyway? You're about to expand your smoking horizon!

I guess I'm just rolling with what's happening at this point in my fast-paced smoking world, as it has been just that at times, lately.

I hadn't thought of the two as being connected, at least not in the sense of an idea for what to do with a brisket other than just smoke it and chow-down, meaning, you can cure some of the flat (or point), and then do a straight smoke for the remaining portion(s). That said, I could edit to provide links for the two posts for connecting the two in respect to that reasoning. Very good point, Dave!

My main focus of this thread was to provide the new recipe for the brine/cure along with another visit into my prep/curing methods, mainly to entice a few who may be on the fence to give curing a try. The burnt ends and flat smoke thread was focused mostly towards methods for no fat cap point/flat smokes, another look at creating burnt ends, and the low temp start-up for a great smoke penetration, without any real connection between the two threads. Your mention of it does make sense in that aspect, though.

I also hadn't considered doing dried cherries from scratch for the dry rubs (and now brine/cure), but I still have a plentiful supply in the freezer to work with for several months (maybe a year or more). What you're talking about doing to get a dry rub blended up would be a great addition to the Wiki I started on the cherry preperation methods. I'm sure others (as well as myself) would be interested in knowing how you put this together, especially if they have no source for dried cherries, but can get fresh to do a truely "from scratch" cherry powder for spice blends. It would be something to look back on with pride for sure...knowing what it takes to make it all come togetehr, just like drying and powdering your own chilies or peppers. And I just got my first dehydrator selected for purchase in a few more weeks...can't wait to put it to work on stuff like this!

And yes, please, do inform us how your cherry drying project is working out...sounds like it could be a monster, but, I think you're on the right track with pasting it before drying...good creative thinking!

Links are coming, brother Dave!

Thanks for your thoughts, too!

Hooked?  Heck, you snagged me back when you were developing your red bell pepper rub.  Fortunately, I have two dehydrators that were kept busy on that project.  The dehydrator is busy right now, working on the cherries.

About the step towards the wet cure:  I basically didn't know it was that easy.  Then there was that posting about Bacon on a Stick.  So many projects, so little time.......
More cure process tips, and a progress update:

Hooked?  Heck, you snagged me back when you were developing your red bell pepper rub.  Fortunately, I have two dehydrators that were kept busy on that project.  The dehydrator is busy right now, working on the cherries.

About the step towards the wet cure:  I basically didn't know it was that easy.  Then there was that posting about Bacon on a Stick.  So many projects, so little time.......
Ha-ha! Yeah, if you like the RBP, you'll fall to pieces when you start using the cherries in a, I can't get enough, and everyone here thinks it's the best thing around...well, my wife likes the cherry, but I think she's addicted to the RBP! LOL!

The wet cure? Oh yeah, it's a piece a cake! And much faster than a dry cure, because you have the higher salt in a solution exchanging with the low salt fluids in the meat. Having the water makes everything move so much faster. I'm just the opposite, and haven't tried a dry cure yet, as it just seems to me there's more room for error if the cure isn't applied evenly, as it could botch-up the cure inside the meat. Granted, there are certain items you probably would never want to wet cure, like bacon, hams, etc...but then, they do pump pickle into hams, and then apply dry cure on the surface. I guess there's a few variations in curing for just about anything you could want to cure.

I hear ya about the time issues, and tons of curing/smoking/drying project ideas to try for something new and challenging. But as you already have realized, this brine cure really is pretty easy to do (other than the cherry prep in this case) and get great results.

The challenge for me on this project mainly was to develop a new recipe with cherries as the base ingredient, put it on paper and keep revising it until it looked right. I wanted to feel very confident in the recipe before I put it to the meat, and be able to trust that I would be satisafied with the finished product...on the first run...failure was not an option for me this time around.

Talk to ya soon, Dave!

Progress update, curing tips, and a few options I'll consider over the next few days due to differences in my previous brine/cures:

Oh, since I'm here, I may as well let everyone in on the lastest with this cherry spiced cure project...

I forgot to massage the meat cure bag this morning when I headed out the door for work (realixed it about 15 minutes after I left town), but tonight, with not having touched it for nearly 20 hours, I really noticed that the texture has become much more firm. I do have a bit stronger TQ concentration in the solution than I've used on previous corned beef pastrami cures, so it may very well be getting smoked up on the 18th or 19th (my next days off work. I know the recommended amounts on the package instructions were far more than I had used in the past, but I allowed extra time for curing, and monitored things just as I've described thus far for this project.

One thing that I couldn't calculate accurately before I formulated the brine/cure recipe was the amount of water the spices would absorbe before the TQ was added to the brine, so I backed off from the full dosage of TQ again, as I've done in the past. Since I did change my recipe from the the past amounts of spices, and types of spices, this threw quite a few variables into the equation which caused changes from my previous cures. I do still have a higher TQ concentration than I've used before, so faster curing will result, but I may want to do a fry-pan test on a slice before smoking just to be sure it doesn't have too high of salt content. This has happened a few times in the past as well, and I'm not a big salty-flavored meat eater (except for jerky that is). If the salt is too high, a fresh ice-water bath for 30-60 minutes (depending on fry-pan taste-test for salt) immediately prior to smoking will draw salt back out of the cured meat, so it's a safe and easy fix.

The Morton Tender Quick package does state that for smaller cuts, a dry cure time of 4-8 hours is sufficient, but for brine/curing they don't mention a lot about it, other than to use 1 cup TQ to 4 cups water, chill and allow 24 to cure. Than it reads to "follow recipe directions carefully".

Anyway, I don't agree with the 24 hours for a brine cure...too many variables to throw things off, so I learned the touchy feely method for determining if it's cured or not. I haven't had a cured loin for canadian bacon, brisket point or flat for corned beef or the anything else I've cured show signs that it wasn;t cured, so I must be doing something right. I know many times when it comes to cooking, I tend to err in favor of safety, especially with curing, and there's not a thing wrong with that. I figure if I'm not 100% sure it's cured, another day won't hurt a thing.

Anyway, about 3 more days and I should have a pretty good idea if I'm smoking it up on my next days off, so the curing brisket flat will just be gettin' happier by the minute 'til then.


The smoke is set for Tuesday morning!!!

After not seeing any changes in texture and firmness of the brisket flat for the past 2 days, the curing is definitely finished. This was much faster than I had expected, but I did use a higher concentration of TQ than I've used on my previous beef brisket of pork loin brine/cures. I am suspecting a higher salt content due to this, so for the first time in a long time, I'll do a fry pan taste-test after rinsing off the meat in the morning, and then I should be able to determine if an ice water soak is needed, and if so, for how long.

So, after only 5 days, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, so I decided to get my dry rub prep done this afternoon. Then, I focus on just getting the meat ready to smoke in the morning.

This is the smallest batch of cherries I've minced up for a dry rub:



From top left, in clockwise orientation, ground tart cherry, ground red bell pepper, ground black peppercorn, cinnamon and cayenne pepper:


This poly board has tons of knife scoring on it, as evidenced by the powdered spice residue...I would have used my stainless steel spice cups, but taking good pics is a PITA with those things:


I re-ground all the dry rub ingredients together in one batch to further break-down the cherries and help to mix the blend. This will get tumbed a bit in the container, then re-ground again just before application to the meat for the finest particle size I can get:


About 16 more hours and we get to see the naked cured beef...and, I get to find out how much salt I have to deal with before the dry rub and smoke:



I'll try my best to get some sleep tonight before the morning's prep and smoke...might be a tough night, 'cause we're so close to D-day now that I can almost taste it!

See ya sometime tomarrow with more updates on the final prep, and of course, the SMOKE!!!

Geez Eric, your tutorials are amazing. I feel like I'm going to smoking school. Can't wait to see the final product(s). Thanks for sharing all this with us.
 Smoke is on!!!

Just out of the cure bag, no rinse: 





Rinsed off and a small slice taken for a fry pan test...I had a large bowl already ice-down with water ready to soak, and put the brisket flat in while I brased the slice for a taste-test:




Completely submerged in fresh ice-water:



Taste test reveal that the salt content wasn't that bad, a bit higher than I'd like, so I left the flat in for 1-hr, 15-min, before a drip dry and dry rub application:




Into the Brinkmann Gourmet eith a wet pan, charcoal briquettes and hickory chips for the first 2 hours @ 135* to start, then 155* for the next 6 hours. I added cherry smoke wood after 2 hours and continued to wet smoke @ ~155*:



5 hours into the smoke:


The dark spots are evidence of a seriously humid smoke chamber (lid dripping onto meat), but that's OK, as I want to keep this smoke wet all the way to the end. I'll take this 180* internal for a more tender slicing...160* would be fully cooked, but I want to have a softer chew, and the brisket needs the slow heat (and moisture, in this case without a fat cap), to get tender:









At the 6 hour mark, I began building the fire up a bit more and opening my intake draft, and at 6:45 into the smoke we're @ 185* chamber temps. I'm thinkin' it's time to probe the meat for temps here in a bit.

Well, I started my pic upload battle about 9:00 am and it's now 4:00 pm...worst upload session ever..long wait, but, I'm sure it'll be worth it for everyone...dang, the commitment!!! Can't throw in the towel now, 'cause we're bringin' on the sliced smoked cured beef in a couple more hours!!! LOL!!!

More to come!

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