While many of us here in New England associate corned beef and cabbage with Ireland, I was interested to learn that this popular St. Patrick’s Day meal actually has its roots in America.
Traditionally prepared from a beef brisket, corned beef refers to the preservation process whereby beef was packed and stored in barrels with coarse grains, or “corns” of salt.
The brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal. One of the nine primary cuts of beef, the brisket muscle contains the superficial and deep pectorals. As cattle do not have collarbones, these muscles support about 60% of the animal’s standing weight. With a significant amount of connective tissue, a brisket requires long and slow cooking to tenderize the meat.
Despite being a major producer of beef, most people of early Ireland were unable to afford to eat much meat and a majority of it was exported. During the wave of Irish immigration to the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, consumption of beef increased, as did traditional preparations. Corned beef served in Ireland today is geared primarily toward the tourist trade.
Industrial produced corned beef is usually packed with nitrites, nitrates and sodium. This recipe for Corned Beef uses cider mixed with salt, brown sugar and spices to marinate the meat. A long, slow cooking process allows the connective tissues to break down, producing a melt-in-your mouth, tender and flavorful, delicious meal.
- 2 quarts apple cider
- 1 cup sea salt or kosher salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick broken into pieces
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
- 8 whole cloves
- 8 whole allspice berries
- 12 juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves crumble
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 4 - 5 pound beef brisket pot roast or shoulder roast work also
- In large, non-reactive stockpot, combine the cider, salt, brown sugar and spices. Cook over medium heat and simmer until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
- Place the beef in a large container. Pour the brine over the top so that it covers the meat. Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 10 days. Remove the meat from the brine. Rinse and place in a large stew pot. Add carrots, onions and celery.
- Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer until the meat is tender, at least 3 hours. Remove the meat from the pot and slice thinly across the grain.
- Serve with traditional cooked root vegetables, including carrots, onions, potatoes, parsnips and cabbage.