Ask any American what a quintessential Irish dish is and they’re bound to say “Corned beef and cabbage!”
But it turns out that corned beef and cabbage is a just as American as apple pie.
Since St. Patrick’s Day itself is more of an American tradition than an Irish one – the first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York City in 1762 -- it makes sense that the dish associated with the holiday has its roots in America.
First, let’s clarify that the term corned beef has nothing to do with corn itself. Instead, the term corned beef comes from “corns,” or grains, of salt that are added to the beef while it’s slow cooked in a brine.
Corned beef does have an Irish connection. From the mid-1600s to the mid-1800s, the British relied heavily on corned beef to feed the sailors in the British navy and members of the British army because it wouldn’t go bad. British landowners began using Irish farmland to raise cattle, and the coastal cities of Dublin, Belfast and Cork developed a robust industry of beef packing plants, exporting corned beef to all corners of the world.
However, although the Irish produced tons of corned beef, it was often too expensive for them to eat it. Instead, the Irish ate a lot of pork, and in the spring often ate bacon and cabbage, an early spring vegetable.
When Irish immigrants began moving to the United States, they found that here, pork was expensive while beef was relatively cheap, turning their annual pork and cabbage dishes into the well-known corned beef and cabbage alternative.
Cooking Corned Beef
If you’re planning to cook the traditional corned beef and cabbage meal for St. Patrick’s Day this year, the first step is getting the right cut of meat.
Most corned beef is made from brisket, a cut of beef from the lower chest of the cow, near the animal’s front. Since there’s a lot of connective tissue there, you have to cook it for a long time in moisture to make sure it’s tender enough to eat. Brisket can come either in a point cut, which has an extra fat, or a flat cut, which has the fat removed. Some people love the extra fat, saying it makes the dish more flavorful, while others complain that too much fat means they can’t eat a clean piece of meat.
This St. Patrick’s Day, Potash Markets is offering fresh corned beef from Bea’s Best, a meat company that’s been based in Chicago since 1939. Pick up either a point cut corned beef for $3.29 per pound or a flat cut corned beef for $3.69 per pound.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
How to Cook It