Irish corned beef. Contrary to its name, corned beef has nothing to do with corn, and isn’t really an Irish dish. This meat also has a deliciously middle class, “beat the man” flavor to its history. 

corned beef, grass fed, beef

Interestingly enough, beef was not the most common meat in Ireland. Cows were only eaten on special occasions, and then only if the cow was no longer good for milk or plowing. Pork and lamb were the main source of meat in Ireland in the 1600s-1900s. Pigs were a lot cheaper to raise than cows. Which was a big deal for Ireland in a time when people were starving to death regularly.  However, the Irish found the elite Brits loved their beef and export of cattle was a nice little niche. Until England outlawed the import of Irish cows to their Island in 1667 in a move to hurt the Irish economy and solidify various political powers. That only stopped the industrious Irish for a moment.  They realized they had cheaper salt than the English, thanks to lower taxes, and could ship salted beef to their neighbor perfectly legally. The large pieces of salt used for this preservation were called “corns.” Thus the English name for this product, “corned beef,” was associated with the Irish and stuck.

That’s not quite the end of the story, though. 

Because of the poverty in Ireland, people began immigrating to the new world. The Irish faced very similar prejudices as the Jewish emigrants. The two groups settled in the same areas of New York. Irish immigrants did more business with kosher butchers, that meant no more pork of Irish bacon, a sort of ham, or the salt pork they were accustomed to. However , in America the beef trade was bustling and the food of the wealthy, beef, was plentiful. Jewish Americans boiled their less expensive cuts of beef with salt and spices to make it succulent and juicy. The poor Irish thought this was a marvelous adaptation of the product they’d previously shipped to their English lords. Thus was born the corned beef we know today, a Jewish-Irish-American dish created in a truly Irish and American spirit.


Corned Beef

This is a tasty way to preserve tougher cuts of beef. Brisket is the classic cut to use, but other cuts will serve the purpose as well.

Adapted from Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie

Course: Main Course
Keyword: beef
Author: Mark & Jill Baker
The Brine
  • 1 gallon water 4 liters
  • 2 cups salt 450 gm
  • 1/2 cup sugar 100 gm
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp pickling spice 20 gm
  • 1 oz pink salt (curing salt) (very optional) 25 gm
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped (optional, alternative to the pink salt)
Meat and cooking ingredients
  • one 5 pound/2.25 kg beef brisket
  • 2 Tbsp pickling spice 20 gm
To Brine
  1. Combine all brine ingredients in a pot large enough to hold the brisket comfortably. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove the pot from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate the brine until it's completely chilled. You can speed the cooling process by dissolving the salt and sugar in 1/2 the water, then adding the remaining half as cold water after the boiling.

  2. Place the brisket in the brine. Weight it down with a plate to keep it submerged. Refrigerate for 5 days.

To Cook
  1. Remove the brisket from the brine. Rinse thoroughly under cool water.

  2. Place the brisket in a pot just large enough to hold it and add enough water to cover the meat. Add the remaining pickling spice and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 3 hours, or until the brisket is fork tender. Be sure the water is always covering the meat, adding more if necessary.

  3. Remove the corned beef from the cooking liquid. Slice and serve warm, or cool and slice for lunchmeat. Wrap and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Recipe Notes

Serve your warm, cooked corned beef with cabbage and potatoes for a traditional dish.  You can add carrots or other vegetables to the pot for the last 20 minutes or so and serve all warm, using the cooking juice to moisten the meat and veggies to serve.

Cool, slice, and freeze in usable size packages for future sandwich meals.  This is a great batch task project to create easy freezer meals.