Just as the Italians don’t eat Italian wedding soup on their wedding day, you’ll be hard pressed to find an Irishman feasting on perfectly prepared corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.
The corned beef and cabbage recipe we annually embrace became an Irish-American tradition, by way of substitutions, when Irish immigrants used corned beef instead of pork in the usual Irish bacon and cabbage dish reserved for special occasions.
Corned beef, simplified, is nothing more than a brisket cut of beef soaked and seasoned in a brine – a water-based solution consisting of salt, sugar and spices – and then simmered in water with cabbage, potatoes and carrots for up to three hours.
Despite the name, there’s no actual corn in corned beef. The “corn” reference comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for granule or pellet, describing the large grains of salt used in the curing process (before you were born).
Briskets can be purchased already “corned” by the manufacturer, usually for sale in vacuum sealed packages, or you can make your own. Making your own brine is easy. Can’t find a brisket? Any inexpensive cut of beef will work – try a chuck roast or top round roast.
Corned beef and cabbage recipe
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 (4-5 pound) brined beef brisket, trimmed of fat
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted and ground
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, toasted and ground
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons grainy mustard
- 4 large onions, peeled, cut in half
- 1 head green cabbage, cut into 4-6 wedges
- 5 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 5 large potatoes, peeled, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 8 ounces lager
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Garnish with parsley, bay leaves or celery (optional)
- Heat a large Dutch oven or stock pot on medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Sear meat on all sides. Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic, and stir to prevent burning. Immediately deglaze the pan by adding beef broth.
- Heat a small skillet on medium-high heat. Add caraway and peppercorns and toast until aromatic (until you can smell the spices in the air – about 30 seconds), stirring constantly to prevent burning. Remove and grind with a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
- Add the ground spices to the pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the meat half way up the sides. Add honey, mustard and onions and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for two hours.
- Add cabbage, carrots and potatoes and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add lager and continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Garnish and serve.