Over the next week or so our store will sell more corned beef than we will over the next fifty weeks combined. St. Patrick’s Day brings out the Irish in all of us and nothing is more synonymous with the feast day than a meal of corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes and carrots. This week and next, our store will, as always, be selling the finest quality USDA Choice grade corned beef available in several different cuts, but we want to be certain that you enjoy the full effect so we are going to throw in a free head of cabbage, a 5 lb. bag of red potatoes, a 3 lb. bag of yellow onions, and a 1 lb. bag of baby carrots ABSOLUTELY FREE with any $35 purchase. Since corned beef will be on the menu at nearly everyone’s home at some point over the next two weeks, we thought it would help to give you a bit more information, as well as cooking instructions for preparing your corned beef dinner.
Setting the record straight
We Americans have the misconceived notion that the eating of corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day is a tradition brought over from Ireland generations ago. Not so! No one in Ireland will be eating corned beef next week, though plenty of cabbage and potatoes will be consumed. Dubliners and Belfasters are more likely to mix cured ham like bacon (called a rasher) with their cabbage.
As it turns out, it was necessity that was the inventor of this American tradition. When the Irish emmigrated to the U.S. following the great potato famine between 1845 and 1852, they dearly missed the old sod and the great traditions that they had to leave behind. Irish immigrants who landed along the East Coast hankered for the bacon and cabbage they were accustomed to, but their Jewish neighbors had perfected an equally tasty, less expensive, and much more accessible dish called corned beef. Being resourceful and frugal, our Irish American forefathers made the switch to corned beef and started what has become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition, American-style.
Corned beef is traditionally made using brisket, which is taken from the cow’s front breast section. Since the cow usually exercises these parts, the precooked cuts are relatively lean. To select a good cut, first make sure the meat has a deep red color. You should also look for a nice layer of fat over the meat. Note that the meat will shrink as you cook, so pick up generous portions. Be assured that the only corned beef or beef briskets (if you are corning it yourself) sold at Prisco’s Family Market is USDA Choice grade.
Don’t lets the different cuts confuse you
When shoppers ask what cut to select, I often recommend the brisket which comes in point cuts or flat cuts. Point cuts are rounder and have more marbling, which means you can get more flavor and juiciness from the fat. The flat cuts are easier to slice uniformly and often folks buy a larger roast so that they have leftovers for cold cuts. Think Reuben sandwiches, yum! Choose the cut that best fits your needs. While point cuts may be tastier, well-cooked flat cuts offer a great deal of flavor. Leftover flat cuts are usually better for making sandwiches, since the lean meat slices and dices so cleanly.
Corned beef should not be rushed
Because the brisket or corned round both come from muscles that get a great deal of exercise, they tend to be leaner, which means that if not properly cooked they can be very tough and chewy. The less tender cuts of meat require slow, moist cooking to achieve their full potential. Excessively high heat will only make your meat tough, so make sure to simmer slowly. Your cooking time will depend on the amount of meat you are preparing. A good time gauge is approximately 50 minutes for every pound of beef, but you should keep an eye on it and simply stop when the meat is nice and tender. Cooking too long can cause the meat to fall apart, which is worse for sandwiches. To be on the safe side, U.S. Food and Safety Inspection recommends cooking raw corned beef to a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. In short, give yourself a lot of time, since the simmering process can take as long as 5 hours.
Don’t be shy about spice
Corned beef often comes with a packet of spices, but you may want to start from scratch. You can pick up a pickling spice blend from the spice section in our store or get creative and make your own. Spices that work well with corned beef include peppercorn, bay leaves, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, and mustard seed. You can also throw in some fresh garlic for added flavor. One more idea that you might consider: Adding a bottle of beer to the pot of water. The beer will soak in and infuse your meat with flavor while adding moisture. Since its St. Pat’s Day, why not select an Irish stout beer? But be aware that stronger varieties can be bitter.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day
Chris Tope – Meat Manager