Corned beef and cabbage is a festive dish that is often associated with Saint Patrick’s Day. According to Colman Andrews, Editorial Director at The Daily Meal, there is some confusion about the origins of the relationship between the Irish and corned beef.
“[It’s said] that corned beef and cabbage isn’t really a traditional Irish dish at all, but was developed by immigrants to the eastern United States in the 19th century as a substitute for their beloved bacon,” Andrews explained. “Not bacon in our sense, but rather cured pork loin and cabbage, because supposedly bacon wasn’t available in America. That never made sense to me because East Coast cities were full of German and Polish butchers selling cured pork loin and corned beef has been popular in Ireland since at least the 1600s, and was even exported in from Cork to continental Europe and the West Indies.”
Irish historian and folklorist Bríd Mahon explained further in her book The Land of Milk and Honey:
“While Irish beef has always been noted for its flavour, corned beef was equally relished. Boiled and served with green cabbage and floury potatoes, it was considered an epicurean dish to be eaten at Halloween, at Christmas, on St. Patrick’s Day, and at weddings and wakes, a tradition that was carried to the New World by the emigrants of the 18th and 19th centuries.”
So, when you make corned beef and cabbage this holiday, remember that it did originate in Ireland and is a traditional Irish feast. Check out this ultimate recipe for corned beef and cabbage to make a festive Saint Patrick’s Day dinner (or a hearty meal any day of the year). Make a little extra and use the leftovers for Reuben sandwiches or corned beef and hash.
Emily Jacobs is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyRecipes.