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My grandmother on my father’s side was from the Irish “Kirkbride” clan. I had many aunts, uncles and cousins from this side of the family. With this background, I remember eating many traditional Irish dishes, especially corned beef and cabbage, which we always had on St. Patrick’s Day. But we liked it so much we ate it quite often throughout the year.
I remember having it at home, at my aunt and uncle’s houses, and even in restaurants. I remember the smell of the cabbage and the corned beef permeating every corner of the house. I wish I still had those old, original recipes, but I’ve been quite pleased with my crockpot version we’ve had over the years. It’s a really easy recipe and the aroma is still as I remember from years past.
What is corned beef?
Corned beef is also called corned beef brisket. Back in the days without refrigeration, butchers would routinely pack the beef in large kernels, or corns, of salt to prevent the formation of bacteria and mold (a beef brisket could also be pickled in a spicy, salty brine). Since the coarse salt granules packed around the brisket were referred to as “corns” of salt, the meat was traditionally called “corned” beef.
Corned Beef Brisket
Make your own corned beef using an easy brine and a few spices. Start with a fresh brisket about 7 days before you plan to make your dinner. Adjust the amount of spices depending on the size of your brisket.
10 cups water
1-1/2 cups kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsps. dry mustard
3 Tbsps. pickling spices
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh beef brisket, 7-8 pounds
Combine above ingredients (except brisket) in a large stockpot (non-reactive) and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Trim the beef brisket of excess fat and add to the liquid. If necessary, add more cold water to cover the beef.
Using a heavy weight, such as a heavy pottery bowl, weigh the corned beef down to keep it submerged in the water. Cover the pan and refrigerate for 5-7 days. Stir lightly once a day and turn the beef as needed.
Corned Beef and Cabbage with Beer
The addition of beer adds flavor and it also acts as a tenderizer.
6 carrots, cut into chunks
2 onions, chopped
2-3 lb. corned beef brisket
12 oz. can beer
2 Tbsps. yellow mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
1 head cabbage, cut into 8 wedges
6-8 medium red potatoes, halved
In 4-6 quart crockpot, combine carrots and onions. Rinse corned beef under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place in crockpot. If using a store-bought brisket, add the contents of seasoning mix. Pour beer over brisket and spread mustard on brisket. In small bowl, mix brown sugar with water and pour over brisket. Cover crockpot and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours. Add the cabbage to the slow cooker about 2 hours before serving. Serve with boiled potatoes.
Cut beef across grain into thin slices; remove vegetables from slow cooker with slotted spoon and serve with beef. Pour cooking juices into serving bowl with spoon. Serve additional mustard on the side. Makes 8 servings
Irish Soda Bread
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3 cups raisins
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with solid shortening and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour (reserving 1 tablespoon), sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, raisins and caraway seeds.
In a small bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk and sour cream and beat until smooth. Stir the liquid mixture into flour mixture just until flour is moistened. Knead dough in bowl about 10-12 times. The dough will be sticky.
Place the dough in the prepared pan and pat down. Cut a 4x3/4-inch deep slash in the top of the bread and dust with reserved flour. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 60-75 minutes; remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool.
Irish Stew with Guinness
Traditional Irish stew is made from mutton, lamb or beef and includes potatoes, carrots, onions and parsley. In recent years, a good hearty stout has been added for extra flavor.
1 lb beef stew meat
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsps. minced garlic
Ground black pepper
2 Tbsps. tomato paste
1 can of Guinness
5 cups beef stock
1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, roughly cut
5 Yukon yellow potatoes with skins, quartered
Minced fresh parsley for garnish
In a large pan, melt butter in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the beef. Add garlic, salt and pepper; cook a few more minutes to blend the ingredients. Add tomato paste, stout and stock; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low simmer and cook for 5-6 hours. Remove from heat, let cool and refrigerate over night.
Skim the fat off the top and gently reheat. In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook the onion for 5 minutes; add the carrots and potatoes and cook until the onion is soft. Add veggies to the meat mixture and cook on low heat for 1-2 hours. For a thicker consistency, add a little mixture of cornstarch and water. Add minced parsley before serving. Makes 4 healthy servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.