Corned Beef and Cabbage Is Too a Traditional Irish Dish!

I’ve been reading Traditional Irish Cooking by Darina Allen. (It’s on sale at Half-Price Books right now, in their St. Patrick’s Day display, and it includes tons of really useful information, both historical and modern, as well as scrumptious recipes and pictures.) She’s a famous Irish chef and runs a cooking school.

She says, on page 111:

“Corned Beef with Cabbage.

“Although this dish is eaten less frequently nowadays in Ireland, for Irish expatriates it conjures up powerful nostalgic images of a rural Irish past. Originally it was a traditional Easter Sunday dinner. The beef, killed before the winter, would have been salted and could now be eaten after the long Lenten fast, with fresh green cabbage and floury potatoes. Our local butcher corns beef in the slow old-fashioned way that, alas, is nowadays more the exception than the norm.”

Elsewhere on the page, she gives the procedure for corning beef. She also mentions the (delicious) existence of corned mutton on one of the mutton recipe pages.

So the next time some Irish guy on the Internet says that the Irish didn’t eat corned beef and cabbage, you can know that he’s just being ignorant about his ancestors (or other people’s rural ancestors).

Allen also says, elsewhere in the book, that other popular traditional Easter Sunday dinners included roast lamb and roast kid (especially in the Burren, where there were free feral goats to catch and eat). It probably depended on what was being raised and grown in what area of Ireland, and what a family could therefore afford.

Allen also gives a recipe for a dish more commonly eaten in modern times: Bacon and Cabbage. You boil a big old shoulder or loin of bacon (20 minutes for every pound), quarter some cabbage, and then add the cabbage to the boiling bacon about 30 minutes before the bacon should be done. She also includes a 19th century recipe for curing bacon the Irish way. (I told you that it’s a very thorough book. There’s a huge section on how to cook bits of animal organs and make sausages, including how to make goose blood sausage in the neck left over from a goose – might work with turkey.)

Oh, and if you make soda bread and don’t use it all up, you can fry any stale bread for breakfast, to go along with your bacon and eggs.

The weirdest bit is finding out that the Irish scorn soft potatoes as “waxy”, and want dry potatoes that split their skins when they’re done cooking. To me, a potato is a potato, so this strikes me as weird.



Filed under Church, Cooking

3 responses to “Corned Beef and Cabbage Is Too a Traditional Irish Dish!

  1. Soda bread is great fried up with eggs. You don’t even have to wait long for it to go stale–about a day is all in my experience, especially with the really simple (more authentic?) recipes.

  2. I’d guess it’s less ignorance than different ancestors– or maybe specific ancestors, rather than a general “calls to mind” type tradition.

    My mom’s story was that beef was something only the very well off ate– that’s why the Irish in America were so mad for it, meant that you’d “made” it, even if it was the cheapest possible form of beef.
    (And she knew that because her mom refused to serve it, because that was “poor people” food. Most of her home town was Irish, as in “either were born there or a living ancestor was.”)

    Smithsonian Mag says that they did eat corned beef in Ireland…but you probably weren’t the “native” population, and we’d probably identify their corned beef as “salt beef.”
    Article here, and I’ll follow with my favorite quote:
    Yet, the corned beef the Irish immigrants ate was much different than that produced in Ireland 200 years prior. The Irish immigrants almost solely bought their meat from kosher butchers. And what we think of today as Irish corned beef is actually Jewish corned beef thrown into a pot with cabbage and potatoes. The Jewish population in New York City at the time were relatively new immigrants from Eastern and Central Europe. The corned beef they made was from brisket, a kosher cut of meat from the front of the cow. Since brisket is a tougher cut, the salting and cooking processes transformed the meat into the extremely tender, flavorful corned beef we know of today.

  3. I forgot to share my favorite “celebration” food that’s clearly related!

    Hillshire Farm’s beef kielbasa, sliced into chunks about as big as three or four quarters on top of each other and tossed in a frying pan. Dump potatoes on top of that (sliced, diced, shredded–whatteva you got) and when they’re about half done, slice off a bunch of cabbage (no more than half as much as the potatoes) and add it to the mix.

    Stir it up to keep from burning, season with garlic salt and pepper to taste, serve when the potatoes are ready.

    Mom usually used just a little of the purple cabbage, I prefer a lot of the green, but it’s good!

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