It’s almost Saint Patrick’s Day and time to get your Irish on, and what is more Irish than Corned Beef? Well… As it turns out, A LOT of things.
Although Corned Beef has been produced in Ireland since the 17th century, it has never been a staple ingredient in the Irish diet! In fact, in Gaelic times Beef was rarely eaten. Cows were strong field animals that were used for work and providing milk, only being slaughtered when they had aged to the point of no longer being useful. Eating beef was left mostly to the wealthy.
Corned Beef Basics
Those not familiar with Corned Beef may ask… what’s so ‘corny’ about it? Nothing really. The term comes from the large kernels of salt that were used to preserve early versions of Corned Beef. Although these days we mostly think of brining and salt curing meats as a way of altering the flavor and texture of a cut of meat, it originated as a way of keeping meats safe to eat for longer. Modern Corned Beef is made with brisket, brined, and then braised, and commonly served with cabbage and potatoes, or on a sandwich.
The Irish/Corned Beef Association
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Ireland was famed through Europe for making the best corned beef! This was due to the quality of their cows and low salt taxes, leading to them being able to import higher quality salt. However, due to the cost of the beef and high demand, it was mostly exported to other countries.
In the 1845 Ireland was hit with the famous and tragic Potato Famine. The potatoes (a mainstay in the Irish diet at the time) were struck with a blight. Within 2 years 2/3rds of the potato crops in the country had died. This led to many deaths and over 2 million people leaving the country for fear of starvation. Many of those people emigrated right here to the US, especially in New York!
Beef was affordable and easily accessible in the states. At the time, another large group of immigrants was also arriving, Eastern European Jews. The two groups often ended up living in the same tight city neighborhoods. Kosher butchers made brisket the popular choice among the newly developing Irish American culture, and Corned Beef as we know it today got it’s real start. From that point on, Corned Beef has been THE food of choice when celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day here for Irish Americans and those that are only Irish for the day (green beer doesn’t count as food).
So, what IS Irish then?
This amazing starchy side is similar to a potato pancake. This dish is made by taking grated raw potato and mixing it with mashed potatoes and a few other ingredients. Cakes are formed from the mixture then pan fried. HERE’s a great recipe!
No, not bacon like you eat with your eggs, that’s made with the belly. Irish Back Bacon is much more similar to Canadian Bacon. Often served braised with cabbage (sound familiar?) this is truly a staple item in traditional Irish cuisine.
This rather simple ‘quick bread’ is made with baking soda. Just for the holiday Nino’s carries a wonderful soda bread by Irish Baker. It’s only available for a limited time… but we highly recommend grabbing some while it’s here!
Here at Nino’s we believe that you can celebrate Saint Patrick’s day whatever way puts you in the holiday spirit. Whether it’s with a braised corned beef dinner or a sandwich, soda bread, beer or good ole Irish Whiskey we have everything you need. Have fun with it and be responsible.