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Corned Beef and Cabbage—Irish Comfort Food!


Ever wonder why we eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day? In Ireland this dish is not a big deal. Corned beef and cabbage is an Irish-American tradition.


From the Middle Ages through the 19th century, Ireland was a major producer of salted meats. While the Irish produced large quantities, they shipped most of their salted meats out of the country. This “salted” version of corned beef was considered a luxury and too expensive for the average Irishman to purchase. They ate a less expensive product—salt pork—which is similar to bacon, and they cooked it with cabbage.


“Corned beef” got its name during the 17th century when the English coined the term “corn”, which referred to the corn-sized salt crystals used during the brining process. So, initially, corned beef was a salted meat.


When the Irish immigrated to the US in the 19th century, they longed for Irish comfort food. You guessed it—salt pork and cabbage. At that time, pork and bacon products were expensive, so they turned to beef brisket, the cheapest cut of meat available at the time. A good number of Irish immigrants moved to New York City, where they found themselves in a melting pot. They adopted cooking methods from other cultures and began curing meat using the Eastern European technique of brining. So, that’s how a beef brisket became a “corned beef” brisket.


The version of corned beef we buy in our supermarket today is made from a beef brisket or round that has been cured in a seasoned brine. Cook up some Irish comfort food on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a delicious and inexpensive meal!


INGREDIENTS

Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Sauerkraut

  • 2 quarts water

  • 1 (4-pound) corned beef brisket

  • 4 bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns

  • 1 jar (32-ounces) sauerkraut

  • 12 new potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half

  • 8 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch slices

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into eighths

  • 1 head cabbage, cut into eighths


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. At breakfast, in a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil over a high heat. In a large heavy kettle, place brisket over a low heat and add enough boiling water to cover brisket. Simmer for about 4 hours.

  2. At lunchtime, strain out the water and discard. In the same kettle, add bay leaves, peppercorns, and sauerkraut. Add more boiling water to just cover brisket. Simmer for an additional 4 hours, or until brisket is tender. Remove brisket and transfer to a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm and set aside.

  3. To the same kettle, add new potatoes, carrots, onion, and cabbage. Simmer vegetables for 30 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender. Slice brisket across the grain and place in the middle of a large serving platter. Arrange vegetables around the slices of corned beef.


Shopping for corned beef:

  1. Your supermarket may sell two types of corned beef briskets—the point cut and the flat cut. The point cut is rounder than the flat cut and has a pointy end. It is the thicker part of the brisket and will generally have more marbling. If is often more flavorful and tender and juicier than the flat cut.

  2. You are more likely to find the flat cut in your supermarket. The flat cut, or sometimes known as the round cut, is a leaner cut of meat and has a thin layer of fat on top. If you purchase this cut, trim as much of the layer of fat off as you can. When slow cooked, the flat cut will also have good flavor.

  3. In checking prices today at King Soopers, I found the flat cut sells for $3.99 per pound, and the point cut is $2.99 per pound, pretty reasonably priced in today’s market.

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