Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Corned Beef & Cabbage, My Way

They say that on St. Patrick's Day everyone's Irish. Well... I'm the real McCoy. Or maybe it's O'Something! I'm 100% Irish. First generation American. (for the sake of full disclosure) But... I won't be making the same Corned Beef and Cabbage that many people in the US are used to. What it will be, is a traditional "boiled dinner". It will contain cabbage and onions and carrots and of course, potatoes. But the meaty part of our St. Pat's Day dinner will be beef brisket and/or ham.

What? Ham, you say? Yes, Ham. You see, traditionally, the Irish didn't have anything quite like Corned Beef back in the day. They usually cook a traditional boiled dinner, that can be made with Beef, Lamb, Mutton (older lamb/sheep) Ham and/or Bacon. Now, it's not the kind of bacon that we're used to having for breakfast or on a BLT. Irish bacon is a bit closer to Canadian bacon. But not exactly... Ah well, The picture below will give you a better idea.

As you can see, Irish bacon is less fatty than the "streaky bacon" (as the Irish usually call ours) that we here in America are used to. It's getting easier to find here in the US, but generally only from a butcher or specialty meat store. When I can get my hands on it, I throw some in the pot with my other meats.

The recipe that I use is a combination of my Mom's and my own. She used only ham. (Dad just couldn't wrap his brain around corned beef) She also used only water as her cooking liquid, where I use chicken broth and a pint of good Irish Ale. The type of ham that I use is also different. Mom usually got a small butt portion of cured ham, but I use smoked ham hocks. Luckily, I have a great relationship with ye olde neighborhood butcher and he always holds the biggest, meatiest hocks that he has, just for little old me. (must be my rosy Irish cheeks! LOL)

Here's a little primer on the meats that I use:

I use the "point cut" of the brisket (bottom left) when making a boiled dinner and the flat cut when making a boiled dinner. And I don't ever buy the vac-packed type that has been brined (or corned) and that comes with the spice/seasoning package inside it. I prefer to get a fresh point cut from the butcher counter and add my own spices.

I also use Smoked Ham Hocks (usually 2 medium hocks). I know... Not the prettiest pieces of meat you've ever seen, but the flavor they impart is just incredible! The rest of the ingredients are pretty simple and they're basic to any traditional boiled dinner.

This makes a pretty large pot of food and should serve 6 to 8 people. (More if your guests are primarily interested in drinking their St. Pat's Day dinner! LOL)

"Fresh Corned" Beef, Ham and Cabbage
  • 1 5-6 Lb Point Cut of Beef Brisket
  • 2 Meaty Smoked Ham Hocks
  • 8 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1 Bottle Irish Ale (Harp)
  • 8 Whole Peppercorns
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 4 Juniper Berries
  • 6 Whole Cloves
  • 1 Tsp Mustard Seed
  • 3 Large Yellow Onions, peeled and quartered
  • 4 Whole Cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed with the back of your knife
  • 1 - 2 Lbs Carrots, peeled and cut into 3" pieces (I use 2 Lbs)
  • 6-8 Medium Red Potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
  • 1 Large Head Green Cabbage, core removed and cut into good-sized wedges
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
  • 8 x 8 inch piece of Cheese Cloth
  • Kitchen Twine
Rinse the brisket and smoked ham hocks under cold water and dry well with paper towels. Sprinkle only the brisket with salt and pepper. (the ham hocks are already salted) Add them all into the biggest stock pot you have with a couple of tablespoons of light olive or vegetable oil. Brown the meats on all sides over medium to medium-high heat. (Your pot should be large enough to hold at least 12-14 cups of liquid plus the meats and veg - I use a 16-quart pot)

Once the meats are golden brown, cover them with the broth and beer. If the meat is not completely covered, add just enough water or extra chicken broth to do so. Don't add all the vegetables at this point. Tie up the bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns and mustard seed in the cheesecloth with the twine to make a sachet and throw that in the pot with about 1/3 of the onions and your 4 cloves of garlic. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then turn the pot down to a simmer. Cook, uncovered for 3 to 4 hours, or until the brisket is very tender and the ham is falling off the bone. Skim any foam off the top (as needed) while simmering.

Now it's time to add your potatoes, carrots and the remaining onions and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour. 15 minutes before the full cooking time is up, add the cabbage. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes until the cabbage is just tender.

More broth or water can be added throughout the cooking process, in order to keep the liquid level just barely above all of the ingredients. Before serving, taste for seasoning and if you feel like it needs a little more salt and fresh cracked pepper, you can add them at this time.

I serve my meal with some of the broth from the pot, lots of good whole grain mustard and malt vinegar on the side. (of course, a wee bit o' Irish butter (if you can get it) on the taters and veg isn't a bad thing either!) I also serve a good hearty bread from the bakery or if I have enough time I'll make Cheddar and Dill Scones. (courtesy of Ina Garten) My beverage of choice these days is usually just ice water or maybe a glass of white wine, once in a blue moon. The Hubbs loves a nice Guinness Stout or three... after all, it is St. Pat's Day!



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  1. Gosh, I wish I had seen this two hours ago! For the first time ever, I am cooking corned instead of tomorrow. Long story, but there will be leftovers. I put it in the crock pot, with carrots, beer, mustard, onions. My family would prefer to pass on the cabbage...I'll hope for the best when I open the lid at 7:00 tonight.

    Thank you for the Louisa May Alcott quote. It's a keeper.

  2. Liza: You're so welcome. It's one of my favorite quotes. And so true.

    I'm sorry that I posted too late for your St. Paddy's day meal this year, but if you do ever want to try it, an old fashioned boiled dinner works most any time of the year. The cabbage can certainly be omitted.

    Yours sounds yummy too. You have a great combo of ingredients in there. I'm sure your family will love it! I'll be posting some ideas for leftovers on Friday too. I always have plenty of it left every year, so I've learned to be creative! LOL

  3. Oh you have got me drooling. I grew up on Boiled Dinner & now I want some desperately!

    Love the new site & I'll be following!

    Hugs & love,

  4. I love boiled dinner. In fact, I always requested boiled dinner for my Birthday dinner when I was growing up.
    Happy St. Patty's to my favorite Irish lass!

  5. Oh man! My mouth is watering and my laptop is in danger of being drooled on: LOL

    You're KILLING ME with the Patty's Day meal and chocolate cake ... but, what a way to die :-)


  6. I was raised with the awful stuff my mother's side of the family made. I like the sound of yours. I have to imagine the Guiness adds a lot of flavor, something the family's recipe lacked.

  7. Shawn: I had a birthday dinner as well, but it was flank steak with baked potates and fresh green beans with garlic. I guess it all comes down to meat and potatoes for both of us!

    Val: Thanks for stopping by! Hope you didn't short out your laptop! Isn't chocolate cake on everyone's "last meal list"? It's on mine!

    George: According to Mr B, Guinness makes everything better! I'm more of a lager or pale ale fan. I like my beer a little more bitter/hoppy and stout and other dark beers are a bit too malty and sweet for me.

  8. Man's character is his fate.


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