by Stef Jantz, Food Columnist
St. Patrick’s Day is coming up with a quickness and what’s the one thing we think of?
Corned beef and cabbage. We always raise a glass, or two, or three, and set that crock pot up full of corned beef and cabbage.
What you may not know, is that it’s not really a popular Irish dish. They prefer pork so if you were to visit an Irish diner, you’re more likely to find Irish bacon.
Corned beef is a cut of beef similar to brisket that has been cured with large grained rock salt, or “corns” they call them, hence giving its name, corned beef.
This process is said to have started in England. Much more history behind that but I’m keeping it short for you.
Now, since cattle was expensive in Ireland, they were used for their milk and dairy production. They were only slaughtered if they were too old or injured, unlike in the states, cattle were cheap.
Once the Irish started immigrating to the states, particularly to New York, they had similar beliefs as the Jewish community and started working alongside each other in the new land.
The Irish first had their taste of corned beef from Jewish delis and lunch carts and realized how similar it was to their beloved Irish bacon.
So, the corned beef we know of today is more Jewish corned beef than Irish corned beef. Over time, Irish Americans started to celebrate their homeland and culture. To honor their heritage, they made a celebratory meal of corned beef as their ancestors had.
Cabbage and potatoes were added for a more cost efficient, one pot meal. This may be how it came to be in America. I know this may be a little confusing, because it started to become confusing to me too, but the salt process was used in Ireland and England.
In Gaelic Ireland, the ancestors used salt to preserve the beef. It was when the British invaded Ireland and The Cattle Act came to be, things tended to meld and change. That’s why I said earlier that there’s a lot more history behind it.
In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is observed as a religious holiday that falls during Lent. Normally, Irish families would attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon.
Since they couldn’t eat meat during lent, the prohibition was waived on this day so they were clear to dance, drink, and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
There’s quite a bit of interesting information to take in about the meal and holiday. I definitely encourage you to check it out, but once the day rolls around, eat, drink, be merry, and have fun!