The first time I ever tasted a corned beef brisket was in Elmira, New York at a St. Patrick’s Day party in 1988.
Many people asked if it tasted just like my mom’s corned beef. They were astonished to learn we don’t eat corned beef and cabbage in Ireland.
In Ireland we tend to pair cabbage and potatoes with bacon. Our version of corned beef is an inexpensive canned deli meat. I am not sure if it is a step above or below Spam.
So where did the association of corned beef with St. Patrick’s Day come from in America. When Irish emigrants arrived in America they found that beef and salt were relatively cheap, so they started to cure beef just like they treated a “bacon joint” back home in Ireland. Hence corned beef and cabbage replaced Ireland’s traditional bacon and cabbage dinner.
Bacon and cabbage was a weekly staple in our house. I always remember my grandmother sending me to the creamery to buy a piece of meat. “The man behind the counter saves the piece of bacon I like,” she advised. He never failed her. I would arrive back with a lovely pink piece of meat wrapped up in brown paper and tied with rough twine.
She cooked it in an ever-boiling pot of water, bubbling on the range, tossing in shredded cabbage leaves about a half an hour before the meat was done. My West Cork grandmother was no fancy cook, but she made the best bacon and cabbage I have ever tasted.
Since coming to live in America it is hard, if not impossible, to find traditional Irish bacon. Just like emigrants from years gone by, I have learned to substitute corned beef, but unlike my grandmother, I don’t just boil it. I make a sweet glaze with apricot preserves then finish cooking it in the oven, to add an extra layer of flavor.
Here is my recipe:
- 1 corned beef brisket (about 3 pound)
- 1 onion (quartered)
- 2 celery stalks (chopped in 1 inch pieces)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 4oz butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2/3 cups apricot preserves
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Place the brisket in a large Dutch oven, and add the chopped celery and quartered onions. Cover the meat with water and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours. A 3 pound brisket takes 2 hours and a 4 pound brisket needs 2 and 1/2 hours.
Just before the meat finishes boiling pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F and make the glaze. Melt the butter in the bottom of a small saucepan and add the brown sugar.
Pour in the apricot preserves or jam as we say in Ireland. Next comes a tablespoon of worcestershire sauce. Then add two tablespoons of dijon mustard. Pour a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar into the glaze.
And finally, powdered ginger adds extra depth of flavor to this sweet glaze.
Whisk the glaze ingredients together over medium heat until the sugar and preserves dissolve.
Remove the brisket from the Dutch oven and discard the cooking liquid and vegetables. Place the joint in a greased roasting pan.
Pour the glaze over the meat. Use a spoon to make sure the surface of the corned beef is well glazed. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Spoon the glaze from the bottom of the pan over the joint every 10 minutes during the baking process.
Remove from the oven and let the meat stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. This resting time allows the meat juices redistribute and remain in the meat when you slice it open.
Serve sliced corned beef with boiled cabbage and potatoes.
Here is the printable recipe:
Wishing you all successful St. Patrick’s Day planning and cooking.
Slán agus beannacht!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom