Before I post this recipe, I think we need to clear up a myth...and then pay respect to the Irish, for although corned beef and cabbage ISN'T truly native of Ireland, it IS an Irish dish beginning in America when the Irish were able to have access to more beef, instead of fatty bacon. The Irish DID make this dish, just not exactly the same as the immigrants were able to, and not the same as our American made tradition dictates...
Corned Beef & Cabbage - The Feeding of A Myth
by Bridget Haggerty
What's the national dish of Ireland? Corned Beef and Cabbage, you say? Let's first explore the truth behind yet another Irish myth.
Corned Beef first turns up in the Vision of MacConglinne, a 12th-century poem which describes Irish food as it was eaten at the time.
The poet tell us that Corned Beef is a delicacy given to a king, in an attempt to conjure "the demon of gluttony" out of his belly. This delicacy status makes little sense until one understands that beef was not a major part of the Irish diet until the last century or so.
True, cattle were kept from very early times, but it was for their milk - not their meat. Said one bemused sixteenth-century traveller and historian,"They make seventy-several kinds of food out of milk, both sweet and sour, and they love them the best when they’re sourest."
So, what meat did the Irish eat? History tells us that pork was always the favorite. In ancient times, cattle were prized as a common medium for barter. The size of one’s herd was an indication of status, wealth and power -- hence all the stories of tribal chieftains and petty kings endlessly rustling one another’s cattle.
Long after the cattle raids were a distant memory, the majority of Irish people still didn’t eat very much beef because it was much too expensive and those who could afford it, consumed it fresh.
Corned Beef again surfaces in writings from the late 1600's as a specialty, a costly delicacy - expensive because of the salt - and made to be eaten at Easter, and sometimes at Hallowe'en. Surprising to this writer, was learning what the term "corn" really means. The name comes from Anglo-Saxon times when meat was dry-cured in coarse "corns" of salt. Pellets of salt, some the size of kernels of corn, were rubbed into the beef to keep it from spoiling and to preserve it. Today, brining -- the use of salt water -- has replaced the dry salt cure, but the name "corned beef" is still used, rather than "brined" or "pickled" beef.
But back to the myth: It was in the late 19th century that it began to take root. When the Irish emigrated to America and Canada, where both salt and meat were cheaper, they treated beef the same way they would have treated a "bacon joint" at home in Ireland: they soaked it to draw off the excess salt, then braised or boiled it with cabbage, and served it in its own juices with only minimal spicing - may be a bay leaf or so, and some pepper.
This dish, which still turns up on some Irish tables at Easter, has become familiar to people of Irish descent as the traditional favorite to serve on Saint Patrick’s Day. Certainly, there will be many restaurants in Ireland that will be serving Corned Beef and Cabbage on March 17th , but most of them will be doing so just to please the tourists.
The truth is, that for many Irish people, Corned Beef is too "poor" or plain to eat on a holiday: they'd sooner make something more festive. So, what then, is the Irish national dish - if indeed, there is one?
When I was growing up, my dad's favorite on St. Patrick's Day was boiled bacon and cabbage and it would appear that is still true in Ireland today. The "bacon joint"- various cuts of salted or smoked and salted pork - is sometimes cooked alone, or it might be braised with a small chicken keeping it company in the pot; it might also be served with vegetables, or with potatoes boiled in their jackets. For holiday eating, the winner would probably be spiced beef, served cold and sliced thin, with soda bread and a pint of Guinness on the side.
That being said...
*3-5 lb. corned beef brisket with seasoning packet OR
*4 tsp. Caraway seeds
*1 orange stuck with 20 whole cloves
*2 lb. red potatoes with skin on, cut in chunks
*2 lb. carrots in chunks
*8-12 cabbage wedges
* 14 0z. can or a bottle of Guinness Draught
Place the brisket in a large pot, along with the orange stuck with cloves. Empty the prepackaged seasoning packet into the pot, and 2 tsp. caraway seeds. Add the Guinness and add water to cover the brisket to about 1 1/2" above the beef. Bring to a boil, then simmer 3 hours.
Add the cabbage, potatoes and carrots, and 2 more tsp. Caraway seeds...stir around, bring to a boil once again, then reduce heat and simmer another hour and a half to 2 hours.
Enjoy Enjoy...I serve with Colcannon traditionally...also fresh buttered bread, and of course a pint of Guinness ;-)
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