When waves of Irish immigrants came to the United States in the 1800s they brought with them their own traditions and foods, among them the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
In Ireland it is a traditionally religious and family-based holiday, but here in America it evolved into a celebration of everything Irish.
Corned beef, which the immigrants often purchased from kosher Jewish butchers, was more affordable here. It became a favorite way of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, when just about everyone wants to be at least a wee bit Irish.
A beef brisket is transformed into a holiday meal when cooked with green cabbage, potatoes, and the magic spice packet that comes with corned beef this time of year.
At Haring Brothers Butcher Shop outside Doylestown and in local supermarkets, briskets are sold plain or corned with the spice packet that gives it that special zip. Corned versions often come bagged in brine, although you have the option of brining them at home.
The spices traditionally are a combination of peppercorns, allspice berries, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, coriander, mustard seeds, and bay leaves. If your beef doesn’t come with a spice packet, you can use any combination of these to create the flavor you like.
You also can head out to local restaurants for your celebration; here in Bucks County we have the Irish Horne Bar and Restaurant in Richboro, Dubliner on the Delaware and Michael Kelly’s Irish Pub in New Hope, The Green Parrot in Newtown, Squirrel Murphy’s in Warminster and McStew’s in Levittown. Many other restaurants will have specials of shepherd’s pie, Irish stew and bangers and mash beginning this weekend.
When cooking at home, cooks have the option of making their corned beef in a slow cooker, which means you could set it up Tuesday morning and it would be ready for dinner that night. Or you can make your corned beef this weekend, and, with a little luck, there will still be some left for dinner on Tuesday. This recipe is from delish.com.
Corned Beef & Cabbage
3 pounds corned beef brisket with spice packet
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
½ pound baby potatoes, quartered
4 medium carrots, cut into quarters
1 small head cabbage, cut into wedges
1. Place brisket in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Add spice packet, bay leaves, and thyme and place on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender, checking every 30 minutes and adding water if needed, until beef is tender, about 3 hours.
2. Add potatoes and carrots and bring back up to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes, then add cabbage and boil 5 minutes more.
3. Remove meat and drain vegetables. Let meat rest 10 minutes before slicing.