How did the Tradition of Corned Beef Get Started?

The History and Irish Tradition of Corned Beef

According to the US department of Agriculture Originally "Corned Beef and Cabbage" was a traditional dish served for Easter Sunday dinner in rural Ireland. The beef, because there was no refrigeration at that time was salted or brined during the winter to preserve it, It was then eaten after the long, meatless Lenten fast.

However other Irish people feel that Corned Beef and cabbage is about as Irish as Spaghetti and meatballs. That beef was a real delicacy usually served only to the kings. According to Bridgett Haggerty of the website Irish Cultres and Customs she says that their research shows that most likely a "bacon joint" or a piece of salted pork boiled with cabbage and potatoes would more likely have shown up for an Easter Sunday feast in the rural parts of Ireland.

Since the advent of refrigeration, the trend in Ireland is to eat fresh meats. Today this peasant dish is more popular in the United States than in Ireland. Irish-Americans and lots of other people eat it on St. Patrick's Day, Ireland's principal feast day, as a nostalgic reminder of their Irish heritage.

Corning is a form of curing; it has nothing to do with corn. 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.

Today brining -- the use of salt water -- has replaced the dry salt cure, but the name "corned beef" is still used, rather than "brined" or "pickled" beef. Commonly used spices that give corned beef its distinctive flavor are peppercorns and bay leaf. Of course, these spices may vary regionally.

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Package Dating and Storage Times

Uncooked corned beef in a pouch with pickling juices which has a "sell-by" date or no date may be stored 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator, unopened. Products with a "use-by" date can be stored unopened in the refrigerator until that date.

Drained and well wrapped, an uncooked corned beef brisket may be frozen for one month for best quality. The flavor and texture will diminish with prolonged freezing but the product is still safe. After cooking, corned beef may be refrigerated for about 3 to 4 days and frozen for about 2 to 3 months.

Courtesy of the USDA website

Irish Culture and Customs


Different ways of preperation

Dublin Corned Beef

Old Fashioned Corned Beef

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Corned beef is made from one of several less-tender cuts of beef like the brisket, rump or round. Therefore, it requires long, moist cooking. Keep food safety in mind when preparing the corned beef. It can be cooked on top of the stove or in the oven, microwave or slow cooker (see information below).

"Fork-tender" is a good indication of doneness, but use a meat thermometer to be sure. Cook until the internal temperature has reached at least 160 degrees F.

Corned beef may still be pink in color after cooking. This does not mean it is not done. Nitrite is used in the curing process. This fixes pigment in the meat and affects the color.

Allow the brisket to stand for about ten minutes after removing from the heat. This will make it easier to slice, and it is best sliced diagonally across the grain of the meat.

Cooking Times

The USDA does not recommend one particular cooking method as best. Following are methods from various sources. The cooking times are based on corned beef that is not frozen at the time of cooking. Whichever method you choose, be sure the beef reaches an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees F to ensure it is safely cooked.

OVEN: Set the oven for 350 degrees F or no lower than 325 degrees F. Place brisket fat-side up. Barely cover the meat with water -- about one inch -- and keep the container covered throughout the cooking time. Allow about one hour per pound.

STOVE TOP: Place brisket fat-side up in a large pot and cover it with water. Bring the water to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer, allowing about one hour per pound. Vegetables may be added during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking. Cook to desired tenderness.

SLOW COOKER: If using root vegetables, put them in the bottom of slow cooker. Cut brisket into pieces of like size to ensure thorough cooking. Place brisket on top of vegetables (if using) or in bottom of cooker. Add about 1-1/2 cups of water or enough to cover meat. Cover and cook on high setting for the first hour of cooking. Then cook for 10 to 12 hours on the low setting or 5 to 6 hours on high. Cabbage wedges may be added on top of the brisket during the last three hours of cooking.

MICROWAVE: Calculate cooking time at 20 to 30 minutes per pound. Place brisket in a large casserole dish and add 1-1/2 cups of water. Cover with lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on medium-low (30 percent power) for half the estimated time. Turn meat over and rotate dish. Microwave on high for remainder of time or until fork tender. Vegetables may be added during the final 30 minutes of cooking.

Cooking Ahead
Some consumers prefer to cook corned beef ahead of time. It is easier to cut uniform slices when corned beef is cold. Cooking ahead also makes it easier to reheat and serve later.

After cooking a whole corned beef, cut it into several pieces for faster cooling -- or slice it, if you like. Place the beef in small, shallow containers and cool it in the refrigerator quickly.

Any corned beef left over from a meal should be refrigerated promptly -- within two hours of cooking or reheating. Use cooked-ahead or leftover corned beef within 3 to 4 days or freeze up to 2 months.

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Courtesy of The USDA website

Using a clove studded orange

I have read some recipes that use a orange and roll it to release the juices inside. Then they stud with cloves and then cut in half. Then they squeeze the juice into the pot and drop the studded orange halves in the pot and then add your water and boil the beef.

For additional food safety information about meat, poultry, or eggs, call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1 (800) 535-4555; Washington, DC area, (202) 720-3333; TTY: 1 (800) 256-7072. It is staffed by home economists, registered dietitians, and food technologists weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4-p.m. Eastern Time, year round. An extensive selection of food safety recordings can be heard 24 hours a day using a touch-tone phone.

The media may call Bessie Berry, Manager, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, at (202) 720-5604.

Information is also available from the FSIS Web site: www.fsis.usda.gov

"The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer."

For Further Information Contact:
FSIS Food Safety Education Staff
Meat and Poultry Hotline:

1-800-535-4555 (Toll-free Nationwide)
(202) 720-3333 (Washington, DC area)
1-800-256-7072 (TDD/TTY)

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Making your Own Corned Beef

This recipe has been around a long time. I don't even remember where it came from. Over the years
we've passed out hundreds of copies of it through The Restaurant Show.

1 beef brisket
1/4 tsp salt peter
1/4 C warm water
2 T sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp paprika
1 T mixed pickling spices
3/4 C salt
2 quarts water

Place the meat in a large crock. Dissolve the salt peter in the warm water. Add the next
four ingredients. Dissolve the salt in the 2 quarts of water. Mix everything together and pour over the meat. Be sure the meat is beneath the surface of the liquid. Refrigerate for three
weeks, turning the meat once or twice per week. Prepare according to any standard
recipe for corned beef.

Salt peter is commonly used in veterinary medicine. Some drugstores carry it. King Soopers
pharmacy will special order it on request.
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Yield: 8 servings

----------------------FROM LOIS FLACK----------------------

* * * * *
5 lb Corned beef brisket
1 lg Onion stuck with 6 whole -
6 Carrots, peeled and sliced
8 Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 ts Dried Thyme
1 sm Bunch Parsley
1 Head Cabbage (about 2 lbs)-
-cut in quarters
* * * * * *

---------------------HORSERADISH SAUCE---------------------
1/2 pt Whipping Cream
2 tb -to 3T prepared horseradish

Put beef in a large pot and cover with cold water.
Add all other ingredients except cabbage and bring to
a boil with the lid off the pot. Turn to simmer and
cook for 3 hours. Skim fat from top as it rises.
Remove the thyme, parsley and onion. Add cabbage.
Simmer for 20 minutes until cabbage is cooked. Remove
the meat and cut into pieces. Place on center of a
large platter. Strain the cabbage and season it
heavily with black pepper. Surround the beef with the
cabbage, carrots and potatoes. Serve with horseradish

Horseradish Sauce: Whip cream until it stand in
peaks. Fold in horseradish.

Source: "The Cookin' O'The Green" - February '94
edition - Family magazine

Typed for you by Lois Flack, CYBEREALM BBS, Watertown,

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Old Fashion Corned Beef & Cabbage

Ingredients (8 servings)
5 lb Corned-Beef brisket
1/2 cup pickling spice
8 Medium Potatoes, pared
1 Medium cabbage,cut in wedges
Chopped parsley
1 Clove Garlic
10 Whole black Peppers
8 Medium Carrots, Pared
8 Medium yellow onions, peeled
2 tb Butter

Wipe corned beef with damp paper towels. Place in large kettle, cover with water. Add garlic, cloves, black peppercorns, and bay leaves.

Bring to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Skim surface. Cover kettle; simmer 3 to 4 hours, or untill corned beef is fork-tender.

Add carrots, potatoes, and onions during last 25 minutes. Add cabbage wedges during last 15 minutes.

Cook vegetables just till tender. Slice across the grain. Arrange slices on platter with cabbage. Brush potatoes with butter, sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve along with rest of vegetables and "Mustard Sauce".


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Last updated February 8, 2005

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