1.6kg flat piece of pickled beef brisket
2 bay leaves
4 large carrots, peeled but left whole
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 juniper berries
1-2 tsp sugar (optional)
If you can, allow the pickled beef to come up to room temperature before you start by leaving it on the kitchen counter for an hour. It will speed up the cooking time. Put the beef in a large pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming away any foamy scum that rises to the surface. Once the foam has been mostly removed, add all the other ingredients. Adding them now means they don’t get in the way of the skimming.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 2 hrs 30 mins-3 hrs 30 mins or until a fork pushed into the meat slides in easily – it should be really soft. Start checking after 2 hours – there should be no resistance when you pull the fork out of the meat. You could also use a skewer to do the testing – make sure to push it into the thickest part of the meat.
Once the beef is tender, turn off the heat. Either leave it sitting in the cooking liquor if you’re not ready to eat (it can sit like this for up to an hour), or use two forks to lift the meat out, allow the water to drain off, then put it on a board. Keep the liquor if you plan to reheat or freeze the salt beef. Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10-15 mins. To serve, slice thickly against the grain of the meat or it will crumble. Serve hot or cold.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for three days and in the freezer for up to six weeks. Before freezing, it’s best to slice it and wrap first in baking parchment, then foil. Make sure you also freeze the pot of cooking liquor. When you want to eat it, defrost and then put it (with slices arranged back into a whole brisket shape) in an ovenproof dish with the thawed liquor. Cover with foil and reheat at 180C/160C fan/gas 4 for 20 mins.