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Catholic Recipe: Corned Beef and Cabbage


  • 4 lb corned beef brisket or boiled Irish bacon (see * in directions)
  • 4 large carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 6-8 small onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dry English mustard
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • bouquet garni of fresh thyme and parsley stalks
  • 1 large or two small cabbages
  • Details

  • Serves: 6-8
  • Prep Time: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: • •
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: 15+
  • Origin: Ireland

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, responsible, we are told, for converting the pagan Irish to Christianity. He used the shamrock to illustrate how three separate leaves united by one stem resembled the Trinity. To this day the shamrock, the emblem of Ireland, is proudly worn on March 17.

Patrick's Day, Ireland's principal feast day, came as a welcome break during Lent in the days of austere fasting. As children we were all expected to 'give up' something for Lent. Our beloved sweets and sticky toffee bars were the most obvious if reluctant choice and any that came our way were carefully hoarded so we could have a mighty feast on St. Patrick's Day.

Children still wear little green badges and the girls sport green ribbons in their hair. In many parts of the country people go to a ceili of traditional Irish dancing in the evening. Men who 'take the pledge' and forswear alcohol for Lent (still a surprisingly common occurence) often celebrate on the feast day by drinking the Pota Padraig. St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by Irish people both at home and abroad. In farflung corners of the world the Irish come together on this day to tuck in corned beef and cabbage or boiled bacon and cabbage, the traditional emigrants' meal.

Although this dish is rarely eaten nowadays in Ireland, for Irish-Americans 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. -Darina Allen


How to Make Corned Beef Order an untrimmed 5 lb beef brisket from your butcher. The first cut (deckle) is think and slices well, but the thicker second cut has interior marbling that provides flavor. A beef round roast, trimmed of surface fat, can also be brined.)

In a large, stainless-steel saucepan, prepare a brine with 6 quarts of water and 3 1/2 cups of salt. Stir the brine to help the salt to dissolve.

It will be easier to cut the beef into perfect slices if you tie it into a neat shape with three pieces of kitchen string (this is optional).

Put the chosen cut of beef in the brine and sprinkle the top with another 1/2 cup salt. Put a cold sterilized plate on top of the beef and a weight on top of the plate so that none of the meat is exposed to the air (we use a Pyrex measure filled with water). Leave the meat in the brine for five days; after that cook an serve as desired (see instructions below).

1. Put the corned beef or boiled bacon into a saucepan with the carrots, onions, mustard powder, peppercorns, and the bouquet garni.

2. Add enough cold water to immerse the meat, bring to the boil and simmer gently, covered, for 2 hours.

3. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, cut in quarters and add to the pot. Cook for a further 1-2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are tender.

4. Serve the corned beef or boiled bacon cut into slices surrounded by the vegetables, with lots of boiled potatoes and mustard as an accompaniment.

Recipe Source: Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen, Kyle Books, 2009
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