Pomegranate – Apple Cider Braised Brisket


Although here in the South people normally identify brisket as a barbecue food, being raised by Jewish Yankees reversed my experience. Growing up I always had that sweet, juicy braised brisket at the holidays. I once stayed at a friend’s house and was told we’d be eating brisket, I assumed that’s what was meant, and boy was I excited! And then rather puzzled when I saw it cooked in a charcoal smoker! But I soon learned, whatever the method, done right, brisket is delicious in all its forms!

I’m not sure of the particulars of how it made its way into southern barbecue cuisine, but the bit of history I do know is that Jewish immigrants to the US originally popularized braised brisket up north, since in the “old country” (Eastern Europe and Russia) it was a cheaper cut of meat, a kind of peasant protein at the time of mass immigration to the US in the early 20th century.

That said, nowadays brisket is a sought after cut and, like most cuts of beef, isn’t really what we would call “cheap.” A Costco Choice Flatcut Brisket, for example, can run $11.99/lb. or more, which means $60 for a 5 lb. brisket. At my local specialty butcher, it’s more like $80! On the other hand, if you’re on a budget, there are cheaper brands you can look out for (e.g. Wal-Mart, Lidl), and you can find them on special sometimes too, to where it can be worth freezing until you need it for a special occasion.

Well, today I’m going to give a recipe for the most delicious braised brisket I’ve made, and whether you get a cheaper or more expensive cut, I know it’s going to turn out tender and delicious! The apple and pomegranate aspects give this a real Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) kind of vibe, but if you can still find pomegranates in April, this also works well as a Passover brisket (and you can also sub sweet red wine in place of the apple cider, which I’ve also done with great results). Whether or not you celebrate these holidays though, this brisket is worth making any time of year!

There’s so many family traditions of how to sweeten the brisket, whether it’s with sweet wine, a sweetened tomato-based sauce (such as ketchup or barbecue sauce), and even Coca-Cola and other options. I have to give credit where credit is due; I was first introduced to the use of hard apple cider and pomegranate on a Chabad recipe page several years ago. I’ve worked with and tweaked that recipe over several years, so of course I have to recommend mine first, but the original is great and can be found here.

This brisket will be sweet but also savory, tangy, and with a little kick. It truly has it all.

And now, let’s do this! (Beware, the full recipe takes 3 days from start to finish.)



For the spice rub:

  • 1x 3 – 3.5 lb., preferably 2nd cut brisket (fat on)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed (45g)
  • 1 TBSP salt (~18g)
  • 1 TBSP sumac (25g)
  • 1 TBSP ground mustard powder
  • 1 TBSP paprika (6g)
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder (9g)
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder (or sub Cayenne pepper)
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper (or sub ground)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

For braising the meat:

  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 2 cups beef stock (try the beef bone stock recipe in the first Insane in the Brine cookbook!)
  • 2 medium onions, halved & sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 large apple, diced (can sub or add cubed potato or several whole baby potatoes)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper & 1/2 tsp white pepper (or sub with black)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bottle (11-12 oz. / 330 ml) hard apple cider
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (plain, not marinara)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1 TBSP brandy (optional)

Optional garnish (suggested):

  • 1/4 cup (or more) pomegranate seeds


1.) Combine all the spice-rub ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Rinse the brisket and pat it dry well with paper towels. Apply the spice rub all over all sides of the brisket (not just the top and bottom). Place the brisket into the ziptop bag or vacuum seal it (preferred method). Either way, if there’s excess rub, it can just be added to the ziptop or vacuum bag, or it can be used for another time. Store the meat in the refrigerator overnight. Keeping it in the bag, massage the meat and flip it at least once.

2.) The next day, allow the brisket to come to room temperature. As it gets close, preheat the oven to 350F.

3.) Heat the Dutch oven or large frying pan over a burner on high heat. Add the oil and let it get hot. Add the brisket (it should hit the pan sizzling) and sear for around 4-5 minutes per side. If possible, also place the other 4 edges of the meat (sides, front and back) on the hot pan for 30-60 seconds per side. (Use the longer end of the times indicated for larger cuts of meat or to ensure a nice sear has been made on all sides.) Transfer the meat to a plate to prepare the next step.

4.) Using the same pot (Dutch oven or frying pan used in last step, do not clean it first), add the chopped onions, carrots, apples (and/or potatoes), salt and pepper. Cook for around 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft. Then add the garlic and stir for around another minute. Then add the apple cider, making sure to scrape the bottom with the spatula to release any sear or brown bits into the sauce.

5.) Add the remaining ingredients (beef stock, tomato sauce, pomegranate molasses, and (optional) brandy. Bring to a boil. If the Dutch oven has been in use for these steps, just gently add the brisket to it, apply the lid, and place it in the oven. If a large frying pan has been used, then place the brisket in the Dutch oven and transfer all the sauce in the pan to the Dutch oven. Then cover and place into the oven. Bake for about 1.5 hours.

6.) After the allotted time, uncover the Dutch oven and flip over the meat. Cover and cook for another hour. At that point, check that the meat is fork tender. If not, check again every 30 minutes. When ready, remove the Dutch oven from the oven but leave the cover on and don’t disturb the meat in any way. Allow it to come to room temperature naturally.

(Note once cooled to room temp, the brisket can be taken out of the sauce, slice against the grain, return to the sauce and mix in, cover, and re-warm for about 30 minutes at 275F then serve. However, my recommendation for the best possible result is to leave the uncut brisket in the Dutch oven, covered, and take the additional steps below, whereby the brisket will be ready the next day.)

7.) Once room temperature, keep the Dutch oven covered and place it in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 8 hours). About 1.5 hours before serving the brisket, preheat the oven to 275F. Remove the Dutch oven lid and remove the layer of hardened fat that has formed on the surface of the sauce. Then remove the brisket from the sauce. It will feel very tough from being refrigerated but don’t worry.

8.) Slice the brisket against the grain into 1/4 “- 1/3” slices. Place the sliced brisket back into the Dutch oven and mix into the sauce. You can spoon some of the sauce to cover the brisket well. Then place the lid back on the Dutch oven and place it in the oven for about an hour. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven when ready to serve. Remove the cover.

For convenience, you may keep the brisket in the Dutch oven (recommend placing on a trivet) using tongs for the meat and a large spoon for the sauce, carrots, onion, and apple (and/or potato). Garnish with pomegranate seeds (optional). Or you can plate the brisket more formally, described below.

Alternately, the meat can be transferred to a large plate or platter, surrounded by the onions, carrot and apple, and covered with some sauce. Also garnish with pomegranate seeds and place the remaining sauce in a gravy boat for those who would like additional sauce.

Leftover brisket keeps well for several days or can be frozen. Whether warmed back up in the oven (covered) or in the microwave, at this point it does a good job of staying tender.

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