Corned Beef and Cabbage

By Beacon Staff

Saint Patrick’s Day is a day of celebration. Every March 17, people line the streets to enjoy parades, green beer is served in pubs throughout the world, the city of Chicago dyes its river green, and corned beef and cabbage is served as a staple dish in many homes and restaurants.

My curiosity led me to learn more about this legend to whom we pay tribute each year. In my findings, I discovered that Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Britain around 400 AD. Surprisingly, he wasn’t Irish and preferred lobster over corned beef. At 16, Saint Patrick was kidnapped by Irish slave traders and brought to Ireland. During his captivity, he worked as a shepherd, possibly in Mount Slemish in County Antrim. After six years, he escaped to Britain where he became a priest and later a bishop. He proceeded to convert thousands of pantheistic Celts to Christianity, founded numerous churches and established links with the Holy Sea in Rome. Most significantly, Saint Patrick set Ireland well on its way to becoming a Catholic nation, which it remained for thousands of years. He died from natural causes on March 17 around 460 AD. Saint Patrick’s Day has been observed since at least 900 AD, but it wasn’t until 1737 when Irish immigrants in Boston held the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade.

According to my Irish friends and chefs, the secret to genuine “Irish-style” corned beef is in the curing. Corn the beef in stainless steel containers, and use kosher salt and water. Place a potato in the water to ensure there is enough salt in the brine. If it floats, you’ve got enough salt; if it doesn’t, add more. The result is a mild, flavorful meat which is the centerpiece of this traditional boiled feast.

Corned Beef and Cabbage:

1 pound kosher salt
1 gallon water
1 fresh beef brisket, about 7 to 8 pounds
6 whole bay leaves
8 to 10 black peppercorns
1 large head cabbage, cored and quartered
1 bunch carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large turnip, cut into 2-inch cubes
8 large boiling potatoes, peeled and halved

In a large stainless steel container or bowl, combine salt and water. Add brisket and cover. Let brisket soak at room temperature for a minimum of 48 hours. Hint: The beef must be completely submerged, so double the brine recipe if necessary.

Lift the beef out of the brine and place into a pot. Cover with fresh water. Add bay leaves and peppercorns, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until tender for approximately 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

During the last 45 minutes of cooking, add cabbage, turnips, potatoes and carrots. Let beef cool for about 15 to 20 minutes prior to carving.

Once cooled, carve the beef and lay it on a serving platter. Surround it with cabbage, carrots, potatoes and turnips. Serve with a nice, creamy horseradish sauce.

I welcome you to try this easy, flavorful recipe if you will be entertaining your family, friends or colleagues this Saint Patrick’s Day. Please share your comments with me at chefhmk@gmail.com. Bon Appétit!

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