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National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day  

March 17 may be St. Patrick’s Day, but what we really like celebrating is National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day! National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day is solely an American tradition. March 17th celebrates the best of blending Irish and American cultures. Whether you’re one of the 34.5 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry or not, this provincial meal of nostalgic protein and simple vegetables has always been a “traditional” Irish dish for America’s Irish newcomers. There isn’t a better day to make it, try it, or buy it!   

National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day will be celebrated on March 17, 2023

National Corned Beef And Cabbage Day

What Is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is simply cured beef. It is a brisket that has been brined and has been around for centuries. It is common fare in the Middle East and in Europe. Before electricity made refrigeration possible, meat was preserved in salt. The “corns” references the large grains of rock salt used to cure the meat much like brisket is. Salt brines are a more economical and widely used option today. In the 17th century British landowners brought cattle into Ireland and Ireland became known for exporting corned beef. Ironically, those who prepared this delicacy were not able to afford to eat it. It was a pork and potatoes diet for the greater population. Today’s corned beef and cabbage combination is enjoyed with sour bread and wine or beer.

Why Is Cabbage Served with Corned Beef?

The corned beef and cabbage combo was created in the 18th century when Irish immigrants arrived in the United States. Nutrient dense and cheap cabbage just fell into the affordable cooking pot. Cabbage was readily available and quickly replaced the potatoes used back home. This dish soon became ubiquitous in the ghettos of the newly arrived poor Irish immigrants. Adding cabbage into the pot was a simple solution to cook an entire meal all together. The beef component was used to substitute for pork while the cabbage was served as the vegetable substitute.

The idea of eating beef was a total luxury for most people in Ireland. So, imagine their shock at the affordability and plentitude of it in the United States. Pork, being cheap, was the preferred meat in Ireland. In America, however, they discovered that rather than beef being more costly than pork, the opposite was true. Every diner in Ireland offers Irish bacon on the menu board.

Jewish delicatessens and corner lunch carts offered corned beef and soon the Irish discovered this new style of beef and fell in love with its similarities to the bacon back home. The traditional “Irish bacon” was soon replaced with beef brisket’s little brother, corned beef. It was cheap and in a short time before, unimaginable to be able to dine on beef weekly. Back home in Ireland, beef was reserved for religious occasions, special celebrations and the rich only.

How Is Corned Beef And Cabbage Prepared?

There are three traditional ways to cook corned beef that are quick, easy and delicious. The raw cuts of meat can be boiled, slow cooked or baked. Of course, the possibilities are endless. The key to cooking raw corned beef is slowly and with patience. There are several online quick recipes that use a slow cooker or crock pot.  Within a few hours of low and slow cooking, you’ll be able to savor the most tender, flavorful dish. Adding vegetables, while the meat cooks, will create this iconic Irish American one-dish dinner.

Cooking cabbage can be fun, and news flash; cabbage isn’t just for coleslaw. Cabbage is one of those vegetables that gets overlooked, the wall flower of the brassica vegetables. Kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli are the popular choices in this fickle group. Cabbage can be king if you take the time to explore its versatility beyond adding it to crunch up your salads. You’ll be amazed at its deep flavor. Did you know there are several types of cabbages? You’re probably familiar with the traditional tart and slightly spicy green and red but look for the sweeter notes and frilly leaves like the savoy or napa cabbages. 

Celebrating National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day is easy, and you don’t have to eat it just on this day or on St. Patrick’s Day. This wonderful comfort food can be enjoyed all year round. Try local eateries that serve the dish and we bet that there will be new and weird varieties to taste. You absolutely do not have to be Irish to enjoy this once considered peasant dish. You just must love meat in a tasty cabbage stew.

Try this Perfect Corned Beef and Cabbage With Guinness!

See our Big List of National Food Holidays!

Monique McArthur
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