According to Smithsonian.com, corned beef and cabbage would not have been an Irish staple. Nor would it have been consumed on St. Patrick’s Day. “In Gaelic Ireland, cows were a symbol of wealth and a sacred animal.” This sacred association meant that cows were only killed for meat when they were too old to work or too old to produce milk. For that reason, beef was not a part of the diet for the majority of the Irish population. Wealthy Irish would have been the only people able to eat beef during a celebration or festival. As Stephanie Butler writes in an article for History.com, “Corned Beef and Cabbage: [is] As Irish as Spaghetti and Meatballs”. So how did corned beef and cabbage become associated with St. Patrick’s Day?
It was Irish Americans who embraced corned beef and cabbage during St. Patrick’s Day. They transformed St. Patrick’s Day from a religious feast day to a celebration of their Irish heritage and homeland. The celebration, of course, included a meal. Irish immigrants splurged on corned beef. As the most affordable vegetable, cabbage was a natural choice for the celebratory meal. It was not long before corned beef and cabbage and St. Patrick’s Day became closely associated. However, people of all backgrounds enjoy the dish year round in the United States. The following is a simple corned beef and cabbage recipe.
2 tablespoons of olive oil (or bacon drippings for added flavor)
1 medium sized onion (diced)
2 minced garlic cloves [optional]
1 medium sized cabbage (coarsely chopped and well rinsed)
1 can of corned beef
1/4 cup of water (or as much as desired)
1 tablespoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
2 teaspoons of paprika [optional]
2 teaspoons of salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoons of pepper (or to taste)
1 to 2 whole bay leaves [optional]
1 cup of white rice (cooked according to package directions)
In a preheated skillet or pot, heat the oil (or bacon drippings).
Add the diced onion and minced garlic cloves, saute’ until the onions are translucent.
Add the coarsely chopped cabbage a little at a time, allowing it to wilt and cook down.
Add the corned beef, breaking it apart and mixing it well with the other ingredients.
Add water to achieve the desired consistency.
Season the corned beef and cabbage with onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Add 1 to 2 bay leaves if desired.
Simmer all of the ingredients until the cabbage reaches the desired texture and tenderness.
Serve the corned beef and cabbage over cooked white rice.
To increase the heartiness of the dish add two medium sized (diced) potatoes to the recipe. The diced potatoes would need to be added (along with the water) before adding the cabbage and corned beef. Allow the potatoes to cook to about half done before adding the cabbage and corned beef. Additional spices may be desired to accommodate the addition of the potatoes.