Why do Irish Americans love corned beef and cabbage so much? Here’s the story behind the traditional recipe.
Growing up Irish in America meant two things. Attending mass was done on both St. Patrick’s Day itself and the Sunday before the holiday. When St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated on a Monday, you still went to mass on Sunday.
The other was eating a traditional meal with family.
Visit Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day just 10 years ago and you’d see few places or families eating corned beef. Traditional meals for the holiday are usually a dish of bacon or ham with potatoes or Irish Stew with vegetables and homemade soda bread.
Corned Beef Meets St. Patrick’s Day
How did corned beef and cabbage become the meal associated with St. Patrick’s Day?
Answering that require a trip back in time to early 1900’s New York City.
During the time of the Irish immigration to the U.S., the first generation of Irish-Americans were in search of the comforting tastes of their homeland. Irish immigrants were too poor to afford the high price of pork and bacon products.
Instead, they turned to the cheapest cut of meat available: beef brisket. Given that New York City was a melting pot for immigrants from around the world, rather than boil the beef, the Irish adopted cooking methods from other cultures.
Brining was a technique of the Eastern Europeans, which is a way of salt-curing meat. And the corn? Well, “corned” has nothing to do with corn but instead refers to the corn-sized salt crystals used during the brining process.
Corned beef is sometimes referred to as “pickled beef,” as you are quite literally pickling brisket with this particular brining process. The corned beef was paired with cabbage, as it was one of the cheapest vegetables available to the Irish immigrants.
A recipe for ‘Corned Beef and Cabbage’ from IrishCentral.com
New York City corned beef and cabbage recipe
One 3-pound corned beef brisket (uncooked), in brine
16 cups cold water
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 whole allspice berries
2 whole cloves
½ large head green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cut into 8 thick wedges
8 small new potatoes (about 1¼ pounds), halved
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Place the corned beef in a colander in the sink and rinse well under cold running water.
Place the corned beef in a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid; add the water, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice, and cloves. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Cover and transfer pan to the oven, and braise until very tender, about 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Transfer the corned beef to a cutting board and cover tightly with foil to keep warm. Add the cabbage and potatoes to the cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender about 20 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cabbage to a large platter. Slice the corned beef across the grain of the meat into thin slices. Lay the slices over the cabbage and surround it with the potatoes. Ladle some of the hot cooking liquid over the corned beef and season with pepper. Serve immediately with mustard or horseradish sauce.
An Irish Blessing:
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