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NEWFOUNDLAND BOILED DINNER - JIGG'S DINNER

Updated on May 17, 2014

HISTORY'S PART IN THE EVOLVING OF NEWFOUNDLAND BOILED DINNER

To understand why it is called"Newfoundland Boiled Dinner" and or Jigg's Dinner you need to know a bit of history.

Starting as early as the first people to land on Newfoundland and Labrador, they found the sea teaming with fishes. This was the seafood breadbasket for the British Isles and Europe. Britain had a problem with what to do with criminals and the like, so she often sent the rowdy ones off on a ship to exile in this new land. Some others came for the adventure as well, and still others came to make a fortune in the seafood, and supplying the coastal fishermen with needed supplies. Of course, there was no electricity along the coastal villages from St. John's all the way up to Labrador. It had not been invented yet. This meant there was no refrigeration of any kind, and all perishable foods were packed in salt. This included, barrels full of salt pork, barrels full of salt beef (the poorest cuts of beef in salt brine), barrels full of salt fish. Fresh fish caught by the sailing ships were salted down into the hold. Fresh fish caught by the shore fishery were salted and dried in the sun on wooden racks called "flakes"held several feet above ground to keep the insects out.The children waved a long handled wand over the flakes of drying fishes to keep flies off the cod until it dried enough so flies would go elsewhere. Everyone who was able had work to do during cod fishing season.In other words, every bit of meat was salted down to keep it from spoiling. The supplies ships from St. Johns would pick up the dried cod in exchange for supplies and leave more salt and food supplies. Enough supplies for everyone until the next trip was left at each coastal fishing village. Everyone traded supplies until they had some of each as required for the winter, or until next supply ship arrived.

The shore fishermen went out daily in their dore boats and fished with line and sinker for the cod. A bit of bait on the hook lowered overboard to the bottom would have a cod on it just as fast as it got there. The line was tied off so that it left the bait just off the bottom and was held in the hand and raised up and down until it felt heavy. The line was then pulled over the edge of the dore and you could tell by the weight of the pull if a cod was on or not, and continue to pull until the cod was on board. Holding tightly onto the sinker hook and a quick downward flick and the cod was in the holding box, checked for bait,(usually still some on) and over the edge it goes to the bottom again. another line is grabbed, pulled to see if a cod is on and up he comes just as fast.Many times the dore boats were filled to capacity when the cod fishermen returned to shore. This method of fishing is called Cod Jigging. and many of those who fished got the nickname jiggs. This is the most obvious reason that the dinner is called Jigg's Dinner and could, indeed, be the very source of this name.

Boiled dinner using the salt beef was a way of life from the first settlement on Newfoundland, and still is today. In each village along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador you will find that the cooks all used basically the same recipe but with small differences in the meal. Some added a cheesecloth bag of dried green split peas. This makes Peas Porridge from the juices in the boiling pot. This is where the English song Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold, Peas Porridge in a pot nine days old, comes into the picture. Other cooks add a 'Figgy Duff' which is like a Christmas pudding and used as a desert for the meal. Still others have variations of the dumplings. Some with pieces of apple added, some with raisins added and on goes the variations. Some do not make dumplings, but ad dough balls of about the size of a golf ball or less at the same time as pot is put on to boil. Dough balls become, 'gooy' , 'chewy' , ' juicy' morsels and are quite good. Each cook has her favorite meal that she prepares. So experiment and try all of these, you will not be sorry when it comes to the eating.

Cookbooks of Newfoundland Recipes available from Amazon

SALT, SALT, AND MORE SALT.

One of the main supplies delivered by the supply ships at coastal villages was many many barrels of salt. They needed this for the drying of salt cod. If they had any animals to kill for meat, they needed the salt to pack the meat in to keep it from rotting. They also canned this meat when they had jars to do so.

Where there was any garden soil, these coastal fishermen, grew onions, turnips, carrots, potatoes and cabbage. If they did not have enough, they had to buy barrels full of potatoes, salt beef, salt pork, turnips, carrots, Cabbages, onions and occasionally apples or wooden cases of celery from Jamaica and Florida. They paid for all of this with dried salt cod. If the fishing was not so good, they had to run a tab for supplies.

The merchants in St John's got rich, and the coastal fishermen barely survived at the controlling hand of these supply ships owned by those merchants. The salt meant they could preserve the cod, goat meat, beef, or pork and merchants could control this salt supply to the coastal fishermen, thus limiting their ability to improve their economic status.

Veggies Ready for Jigg's Dinner Tonight- Pail of Cured salt beef on right

The boiling pot, the vegetables to make ready, pail of salt beef.Celery, Turnip, carrots, cabbage, onions, garlic, peppers, 2 small kale leaves, parsley, sprig of rosemary, Maggie (Loveage)and potatoes.
The boiling pot, the vegetables to make ready, pail of salt beef.Celery, Turnip, carrots, cabbage, onions, garlic, peppers, 2 small kale leaves, parsley, sprig of rosemary, Maggie (Loveage)and potatoes.

Salt beef washed 2 pieces, and 3 chicken leg and thigh skinned and fat removed ready to be browned

Boiled dinner meat ready for browning, chicken skin and excess fat removed on left
Boiled dinner meat ready for browning, chicken skin and excess fat removed on left

How salt beef became the base for Jig's Dinner

Out of all of this hard living, came a complete range of food recipes that used the salted meats. The only time they might have fresh was when the fishermen first came home, or when an animal was killed for meat. The rest had to be salted down so it would keep without spoiling. When it was time to eat the salt meats, they had to be soaked to get most of the salt out of it. In picture with small 4 lb pail with picture of Newfoundland on the side, they call it "Cured Naval Beef". This meat in salt brine is the worst cuts with bone and fat rib portions etc included. No steaks or roast meat included here,(all extremely salty until washed).

Newfoundland Boiled Dinner is one of these traditional recipes using just what they had from the garden and beef packed away in salt brine. Cabbage. turniip, carrots, onions and potatoes were main garden grown vegetables or had to be bought from the merchant supply ships. One of the biggest reasons that the people of Newfoundland are so generous and friendly is because of food items they needed. If you had two barrels of turnips and Jiggy Dan has none but lots of cabbage, they exchanged this or just gave it to their neighbour. Everyone helped look after his neighbour and was helped in return when the need arose. God Bless these people. This is the way we all should live, for others and not for self.

Vegetables in chunks and herbs cut up ready for boiling pot

Looks like too much for the pot doesn't it?
Looks like too much for the pot doesn't it?

Meat and Vegetables packed in pot ready to add hot water to cover all

All has fit nicely into the boiling pot
All has fit nicely into the boiling pot

Dinner is Ready, Come and get It.

Dumplings, Veggies, and meat, with boiling juices poured over top. Fabulous food!
Dumplings, Veggies, and meat, with boiling juices poured over top. Fabulous food!

So You have been patient so here it is - The recipe for Newfoundland Boiled Dinner

NEWFOUNDLAND BOILED DINNER

Authentic recipe used by Lloyd's family from Clarenville and extended family at Botwood and anywhere in between on the east shores of Newfoundland and passed on to me by Lloyd's wife Dot. Lloyd was also a very good cook as is his wife.

Also known as " JIGG'S DINNER"

The following are traditional "Jigg's dinner" ingredients.

1 to 3 pieces of Navel Beef (you can buy a pail of 1-2 Kg in salt brine)

(wash this well under the tap to get the salt out of it or your dinner will be too salty) CAUTION: Newfies don't like you to call it stew. In their wonderful brogue

"It's not stew, it's biled dinner".

JIG'S DINNER- NEWFOUNDLAND RECIPE

  • Naval Salt Beef pieces - 2 or three salt washed off.
  • Several potatoes 6-12
  • Onions 4 or 5 cleaned and cut in half
  • Turnip half a small one, ¼ of a large one.
  • Carrots 3 large
  • Cabbage ½ small, or ¼ of a large
  • Celery 3 stalks (when they had it) All items cut in large chunks.
  • Pepper To taste, no salt as salt beef will salt the pot.
  • Hot water to just cover all ingredients

`These are all of the traditional items in `Jig's Dinner``

Harold's Dinner - what I add to traditional Jigg`s Dinner

  • 1 whole cluster of garlic. - each clove cleaned and left whole
  • Handful of Pot barley
  • Three finger pinch of Summer Savory, Easy to grow in the garden.
  • One large fresh sweet pepper green or red. cut in large pieces
  • Parsnip, Leek, Red Cabbage (colors) use only when you have no green cabbage, fresh parsley chopped, fresh Loveage `Maggie`` chopped, Fresh Basil leaves chopped, kale leaf chopped, water to cover all ingredients. If you have it, put it in your ``boiled dinner``. One item missing ! Never mind, just make it without, or substitute.
  • Under meat add Three chicken legs and thighs (Skinned and fat removed), also cut leg away from thigh. (Chicken breast would also work). You need to watch for bones when eating (not a big problem).
  • Brown, 5-10 minutes, the chicken and navel beef in bottom of largest stewing pot (canning pot), you have and will be boiling dinner in. Take all of browned meat out with tongs and set in a dish aside. Place layer of turnip, potatoes, carrots, cover with 2-3 pieces of meat, cover this with some of all vegetables ingredients that you have. Make another layer of meat and etc. until you have pot 1 inch from top. You will get used to preparing the right amount of vegetables by adding or not of potatoes to fill the pot. Now cover all ingredients with hot water and bring to boil (with lid on, but watch it). Turn heat down to medium or low and boil for 2-3 hours with lid tilted on top.
  • You can add baking powder dumplings the last 15 minutes before eating, lid on to hot steam cook the dumplings.

  • FILL PLATE WITH DUMPLINGS, SOME OF ALL VEGIES, 1 PIECE OF MEAT AND A SCOOP OF JUICE FROM THE BOILING POT POURED OVER ALL OF THIS.

THIS IS FOOD FOR THE GODS.

I had a big dumpling on my dinner plate surrounded with all the vegetables you see above cooked to perfection with one chicken thigh and covered over with the tasty juices from the boiling pot. FABULOUSLY GOOD DINNER !

A large pot makes enough for Karen and I for 4-5 meals, gets better with each warm over. ENJOY !!

Today is five days after the dinner was first boiled that made all these pictures. Karen made a half batch of fresh dumplings and when pot was hot and boiling dropped them in on top with lid on for fifteen minutes. We still have enough for my lunch tomorrow. Total 8 and 1/2 meals with making second batch of dumplings. Just as yummy as the first dinners.

 

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    • profile image

      Sydney 

      9 years ago

      Great info on my history. This helped me with my project thanks:)

    • profile image

      Bill R 

      10 years ago

      Don't forget the peas puddin. :)

    • profile image

      glenn moores 

      10 years ago

      being newfie and just read about jiggs dinner i have asked my mainland wife to prepare it for tomorrow.she has become an epert .we make our own salt beef and i need a fix .now if we had turnip greens .is anyone aware of canned greens sold in nfld as was the practise some years ago

    • profile image

      bruce007 

      10 years ago

      Just saying... the "newfies" were sent or moved over to Newfoundland well before the comic strip.. I think it is more like the comic strip came from the actual "jiggs dinner" that was already being made in NewFoundLand.

    • profile image

      hartonorb 

      10 years ago

      thanks for your hub!! for excellent resource on cod fishing, please visit: http://www.artandfishing.blogspot.com

    • Gardener Harold profile imageAUTHOR

      Gardener Harold 

      11 years ago from Southern Ontario Canada

      Thanks for comments Kevin phillips. You are absolutely correct for corned beef and cabbage alternate to Newfoundland Boiled dinner. I have been informed many times already of the use of the worst briskit meats, fat corned beef tirmmings etc. In all cases the meats are salted and add the flavour to the Boiled dinner. With the salt brine beef with or without fat, you must wash most of salt away or it is too salty. Thanks for update on Jiggs part. I have read that comic strip. I have also jigged for cod. Could we both be partly right on this part?

    • profile image

      Kevin Phillips 

      11 years ago

      Hello Gardener Harold,

      You definitley have some good timbits on the ways of Newfouldland and its people, however, "Jiggs Dinner" came from a comic strip in Britian. Take a read at my story and let me know what you think.....

      Kevin J Phillips

      The History of Salt Junk

      This dish is also known as Jiggs Dinner, Boiled Dinner, Salt Meat Dinner and Corned Beef & Cabbage. The name Jiggs Dinner came from the comic strip created by George McManus “Bringing Up Father, it ran from 12 January 1913 to 28 May 2000. The comic book characters were known as Maggie & Jiggs. Jiggs got his corned beef and cabbage (not salt beef) at his favorite bar, Dinty Moore’s. In my home town, Cape St. George, most people referred to this meal either as “Salt Junk or Salt Meat Dinner”. Salt Junk got its name from the scrappy or pieces of meat that was either too fatty or not much meat on the bone.

      There were two types of salt meat use for this dish; Salt Junk or Short Ribs. Don’t confuse Short Ribs with Spareribs or Riblets, Short Ribs are from beef and Spareribs or Riblets are from pork.

      Before people bought this meat commercially, they preserved their own by heavily salting fresh meat over the fall for their winter season. The fresh meat was usually placed in build-in wooden containers (in their sheds) with a heavy salt concentration (rock salt) for approximately 3 to 4 weeks then transferred to little wooden barrels with added salt and sea water (know as brine or pickle). I have seen this done with mutton, beef, caribou, moose and pork.

      The preparation and cooking of this meal was designed to either feed a lot of people and/or additional meals for throughout the week. Such as Hash, Soups (cabbage or pea) and Liquor (liquid fat from the boil beef) to either soak your bread in or pour this liquor over your vegetables.

    • Gardener Harold profile imageAUTHOR

      Gardener Harold 

      11 years ago from Southern Ontario Canada

      Thanks for comments nancydodds1 - Hope you give it a try. This is dish is fabulous eating. Check my updates too.

    • nancydodds1 profile image

      nancydodds1 

      11 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Great info!

    • Gardener Harold profile imageAUTHOR

      Gardener Harold 

      11 years ago from Southern Ontario Canada

      Thanks for comment Eaglekiwi  -- Food is the way to a man's heart says all the good oldies cooks.  Your pot and my pot could sure do that.

    • Eaglekiwi profile image

      Eaglekiwi 

      11 years ago from -Oceania

      Wonderful hub !! I really enjoyed reading it.

      seems we may have a similar meal in common too.

      I just published a boil up hub ,check it out if you have the time

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