On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone has a bit of the Irish in them….and wears a bit of green so as not to get pinched! Apparently, this is an American (NOT an Irish) tradition, the origins lost in history. Some say it is because of the Shamrock; some say it has to do with Ireland being the “Emerald Isle”, some say it to make oneself invisible to the faeries and the other “little people” of myth with their cauldrons of gold!
But whatever the history, from a foodie’s standpoint, there are 2 or 3 mainstays to St. Patrick’s Day: Corned Beef & Cabbage, soda bread and Irish Coffee (forget green bagels and green beer … that’s food coloring, NOT food!).
Now since Corned Beef & Cabbage is something just about everyone loves, here is my version. Your home will smell a bit like a Kosher Deli … but really, how bad is that!
Be sure to have some good, spicy mustard, fresh horseradish (buy it in a jar, don’t bother grating it yourself!), fresh rye bread and the soda bread I will tell you about in a couple of days, and you can almost picture yourself beside an Irish stream with shamrocks around and that famous rainbow and pot of gold at your feet! Ahhhhhh……heaven!
Figure about 1/2 pound per person raw weight (if you want some leftovers for sandwiches or hash), or 1/3 per person if you don’t. The “flat” cut cooks more quickly and evenly; the “point cut” also knows as the “deckle” has more fat and is more stringy but has more flavor (because it has more fat!). Corned beef is made by pickling beef brisket.
- 1 large carrot per person plus 1 for the pot (or 4 baby carrots per person & 4 for the pot)
- 1 medium white or 2 red potatoes per person plus 1 medium white or 2 red potatoes for the pot
- 1 head cabbage (8-10 wedges) If you are serving more people, get 2 heads.
In a large, deep soup pot, put in the corned beef, right out of the bag. Pour in all the juices and sprinkle with the bag of pickling spice that came with it. Add a little water to the bag and swish around to be sure to get all the juices that came with it.
Cover the meat with enough water so that there is about 2” of water above the top of the meat. Then add:
- 1 Tbsp. of each of the following: salt, freshly ground pepper, ground ginger
- 2 Tbsp. pickling spice (be sure it has crumbled bay leaf and some of the red peppers in the mix).
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 2-3 bay leaves
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook uncovered, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the meat is just barely fork tender. (It might take longer if you have a really large corned beef.) Start checking it at about 1 hour. The ‘flat’ cooks much faster than the thick, fatty deckle (which you might have if you bought a whole one). Remove from the heat, cover and let cool a little, and refrigerate (unless you are getting ready to serve within an hour or so. Leave the meat in the broth (it will continue to cook a little from the hot broth). If you have made one, remove from the pot to a carving board and cover with foil so it stays warm. If you made 2 , take 1 pot off the stove, put 1 corned beef into the second pot.** You can do it this far the day before if you want.
While the meat is cooking, scrub the potatoes and cut into 3- 4-5 pieces each, depending on the size of the potatoes. If using regular carrots, scrub (or scrape) and cut into 3-4 chunks. If using the baby carrots, no cutting necessary. Clean and trim the cabbage and cut into wedges. Set all vegetables aside. (You should put the potatoes & carrots in water so the potatoes don’t turn brown and the carrots don’t dry out.) Wrap the cabbage in plastic. ** If you are serving immediately after cooking and making 2, put one piece of meat in the second pot reserving the liquid. Place potatoes and carrots in the pot that had the corned beef. Bring broth back to a boil, and simmer 15 minutes until vegetables are almost done; add cabbage and cook about 3-5 minutes longer until cabbage is wilted and translucent and the carrots and potatoes are done.
If you have made the meat just before serving it, remove from the pot. Meanwhile, remove meat and slice it across the grain. and place down the middle of a large serving platter. Put the cooked vegetables around the meat and serve with a selection of mustards. If you prefer, you can put each vegetable in a separate bowl.
If you are doing 2 or more pieces of meat, use 2 pots and use the same amount (in other words, double) of spices in each pot. If you use one pot for 2 pieces, they won’t cook evenly because they will be crowded and it won’t work correctly.