Gray corned beef - much lighter in color and not pickled, just brined
I was not aware until just recently that what we call gray corned beef is not available much outside of New England and New York! I also wasn't sure what the difference was between the gray and the red corned beef, other than I like the gray better. Turns out that the Worcester Telegram and Gazette had the answer for me! For the record, I like the gray better, but it's harder to find, even in New England except around St Patrick's Day!
Since you never know how long a newspaper will keep its articles on file, I'll reprint the important paragraphs here, with special thanks to Linda Bock of the Telegram staff.
Red or gray?
At Tatnuck Meat Market, 1100 Pleasant St., Worcester, Harvey Slarskey sells hundreds and hundreds of pounds of both red corned beef and gray corned beef throughout the year, but he sells even more in March for traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinners.
Most people outside of New England have never tasted, much less heard of, gray corned beef. But here in New England, butchers have been working nonstop for weeks to keep up with the demand for the beef for St. Patrick’s Day.
“I sell equal amounts of red and gray corned beef throughout the year,” Mr. Slarskey said. He has owned and operated his meat market for 35 years. “Throughout the year, red is prevalent, but during this time of year — it’s gray.”
Old-fashioned corned beef is brined in salt and water in barrels for up to a week, and is salty and grayish-pink. For red corned beef, potassium nitrate is added to a brine with pickling spices. The meat is less salty and is rosy red.