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Real Irish Don’t Eat Slow Cooked Corned Beef & Cabbage on St Patrick's Day

Updated on March 18, 2011

A new Irish tradition in North America

Despite the numerous corn beef and cabbage recipes available for March 17 St Patrick’s Day, real Irish people don’t celebrate their day with a plate full of corned beef and cabbage. While, famous symbols of Ireland such as the shamrock, leprechauns and Guinness are very much a tradition of the Irish, corned beef and cabbage is occasionally eaten in Ireland, but is defiantly not part of St Patrick’s Day there. It will be served up on that special Irish day, but it will be exclusively made for the tourist, especially those visiting from North America. The closest traditional dish in Ireland is bacon and cabbage.

So, why is corn beef and cabbage so popular in North America on March 17 with the ‘new’ Irish, and not in Ireland itself? The answer dates back to the time when many Irish emigrated to America or Canada, and got a taste for salted ‘corned’ beef there. In fact, for many it was the first meat they ever tasted, as meat in Ireland at the time was a expensive luxury food only affordable by the rich.

Originally, beef salted with grain or corn-sized chunks of salt used to preserve the meat, hence the name. It was cheap to buy, and those first Irish emigrates used to soak the meat in water to remove some of the excess salt, then boil it up with cabbage to make a simple meal.

Of course, this new Irish tradition in North America has grown and grown, and is now is much a part of the St Patrick’s Day tradition as shamrocks and Guinness, and turns up on tables all around the United States, especially those areas that have strong Irish-American population. While corned beef and cabbage is not typical of traditional Irish cuisine, there is nothing wrong with enjoying it on March 17.

There are many recipes out there for corned beef and cabbage, but the most simplest are the best. Slow cooking is a must to get the best out of the meat, and cooking times vary, but anything from six to ten hours is normal with a slow cooker for example. As you might have guessed, corned beef and cabbage is no ‘fast’ food, that can be simply knocked up in half an hour.

- Main Ingredients: Serves 8 -

Three pounds of corned beef brisket (a few cheap cut of beef and will not cost you very much)

Five quite large potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled.

One large head cabbage

Five carrots

One large onion

Four cups of fresh apple juice

One cup of brown sugar

One teaspoon of Dijon or French mustard.

Spice packet that came with the meat

For a slow cooker - Cut the potatoes in one inch chunks, and rough cut the onions, carrots and cabbage into wedges and place in your large slow cooker with the beef. Mix the apple juice, brown sugar, mustard and any spice packet and any other seasoning you like in a bowl, but best to stay away from the salt for the moment as the beef is quite salty already. Pour the mixture over the beef and vegetables, and top up with a bit of water until everything is covered. A slow cooker can take over six hours plus until the meat is tender.

For a pot - place the meat into your pot, add the spice packet and cover with water. Cover the pot and bring to the boil, and then simmer for 50 minutes per pound or when the meat is nicely tender. Add the potatoes in one inch chunks, and the rough cut onions, carrots plus the apple juice, brown sugar, mustard and then cook until tender. Finally, add the cabbage cut into wedges and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Once cooked - remove the meat and allow it to rest for quarter of an hour, then thinly slice the beef across the grain and serve with the vegetables, and of course slices of home made crusty bread - totally delicious !


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    • Photoshark317 profile image

      Leroy Brown 5 years ago from Lafayette Orgon

      They don't even know what it is. Having a Birthday on St Patrick's day has always made life interesting. But I never eat corned beef and cabbage on St Patrick's Day :)

    • lilibees profile image

      lilibees 6 years ago

      A traditional St.Patricks day meal actually consisted of bacon and cabbage. In Ireland corn beef was at one point considered a luxury food!