It is time to celebrate Irish heritage, something everyone can enjoy, even if they have absolutely no connection to Ireland.
It is time to wear green, listen to some lilting Celtic music and eat corned beef and cabbage.
Now, with a name like mine, you know I have to have a good dose of Irish in my genetic map -- Plus my mother's maiden name was O'Dell and my grandmother's maiden name was Malone.
Still, I have never been sure what exactly makes beef corned. So, I looked it up. Someone else had the same question and asked Yahoo.
What is corned beef, exactly?
Thank you for your inquiry. We've always wondered that ourselves. The real question here is, "How do you corn something?" We have a pretty good grasp of the beef concept, but the "corning" process is certainly mysterious.
Dictionary.com defines corned beef as "beef cured or pickled in brine." Brine is salt water. Corned beef is traditionally served on Easter Sunday in Ireland -- the beef was salted through the winter to preserve it over Lent. It's also served on St. Patrick's Day.
Where does the word "corned" come from? According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of our very own Department of Agriculture, "The name comes from Anglo-Saxon times before refrigeration. In those days, the meat was dry-cured in coarse "corns" of salt. Pellets of salt, some the size of kernels of corn, were rubbed into the beef to keep it from spoiling and to preserve it." So there you have it.
At saltandpepper.com, an excellent archive of recipes culled from usenet groups, we stumbled upon the holy grail of corned beef enthusiasts -- a recipe for making it from scratch.
The brine is fairly straightforward: water, kosher salt, prague powder, and powdered dextrose. Next, soak the brisket (i.e. the ribs and meat from the chest of the cow) in the brine for about four days. Voila, corned beef.
Now, add cabbage and potatoes, and have a Happy Paddy's Day.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
1 corned beef brisket
1 large head cabbage (preferably Savoy)
6 cloves garlic, whole peeled
4 to 5 parsnips
1 to 2 turnips
2 bay leaves
1 pound carrots, peeled
6 large potatoes
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
3 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
Wash brisket. Make small "X" slits in the meat and insert garlic and cloves pieces.
Place the meat into a stockpot (at least 8 quarts). Cover the meat with water. Add bay leaves, peppercorns, Old Bay, 2 carrots and sliced celery. Bring to a boil, skim off foam and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 2 to 3 hours, or until meat is nearly tender.
Meanwhile, prepare vegetables. Quarter the cabbage; peel potatoes, carrots, turnips and parsnips. Slice vegetables into 2-inch chunks.
During last half hour, add remaining vegetables and cook until tender.
Drain and serve with yellow mustard.
Smoked Shoulder Boiled Dinner
1, 5 to 7 pounds smoked shoulder
1 large head Savoy (or plain) cabbage
12 white boiling onions
1 pound carrots
3 pounds potatoes
5 to 6 cloves garlic
2 to 3 bay leaves or 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon whole black or green peppercorns
Rinse the smoked shoulder under cold running water and place in a stockpot tall enough to cover with completely with cold water.
To the water, add the Old Bay seasoning (or whole bay leaves). Peel and smash the garlic cloves with the side of a knife or cleaver and add to water along with the peppercorns.
Bring the water to a rolling boil but do not allow to boil for any length of time; reduce the heat immediately and simmer over low heat for an hour-and-a-half, or until the shoulder is almost cooked, but not quite.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables.
Peel the outermost layer of the boiling onions and discard. Cut an X in both ends of the onion to prevent from splitting. Add peeled whole peeled onions to water during the final hour of cooking.
Either baby or large carrots may be used. If using baby carrots, there is no need to peel; add the baby carrots during the last 30 minutes of cooking. If using large carrots, slice into 3/8-inch coin slices and add during the final 40 minutes of cooking.
Wedge the cabbage into quarters. Break apart to separate leaves and add during the final 40 minutes of cooking.
Peel and quarter the potatoes. Add during the last 30 minutes of cooking (do not allow to overcook).
Serve when all of the vegetables and meat are tender, but vegetables should not be soft. Discard bay leaves.
Remove the shoulder and carve. Remove the vegetables, using a slotted spoon, to a colander or dish to allow to drain briefly.
Serve smoked shoulder in the center of each plate, surrounded by all the vegetables and with ample yellow mustard (French's Yellow). Traditionally, the mustard is used as a topping for each of the vegetables, as well as the meat. Some people also like a pat of butter, too.
Irish Soda Bread
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
2-1/3 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon butter
Thoroughly combine baking soda, sugar, flour, salt and cream of tartar. Make a well in the center. Add buttermilk and mix lightly and quickly with a fork.
Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for one minute. Shape into a circle, about 1-1/2 inch thick. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Slash a large cross in the top.
Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack. Brush top with butter while still warm. Cool before slicing to serve.
Variations: 1 cup raisins, craisins, citron or dried fruits and a few tablespoons caraway seeds may be added. A cup of yogurt or sour cream and a cup of milk may be substituted for buttermilk.
County Cork Irish Stew
8 small lamb chops
1 tablespoon olive oil, butter, or lard
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon each whole peppercorns, rosemary, thyme
3 to 4 medium potatoes
2 cups cabbage, shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large leek, white, thinly sliced
10 small white onions
1-1/2 cups celery stalks, diced
1-1/2 cups peas
Salt and pepper to taste
Season lamb with salt and pepper. In large saucepan, layer the chops side by side.
Turn once to brown both sides. Spoon off any melted fat and add enough water to cover chops. Bring to a boil and add parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary tied up in cheesecloth for easy removal, or simply add to stew. Reduce heat and simmer on low heat. Peel potatoes and shape into bite-sized rounds. Add potatoes, cabbage, onion, leek, white onions and celery to stew.
Simmer 20 minutes and add peas. Add a little more water if required during cooking.
Simmer an additional 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Correct seasoning.
Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.