irish

So, I’m apparently way behind on my blog posts, since I’m sharing a corned beef recipe a month after St. Patrick’s Day! Truth be told, I’ve been so busy traveling and working on Paleo Takeout that I didn’t have a chance to make this holiday meal until recently, but it turned out so well that I wanted to share it with you folks immediately. Part of why it worked like a charm is because of my handy Instant Pot electronic pressure cooker, which cut the cooking time of this dish down to just over 90 minutes.

The corned beef I used for this dish was this uncured corned beef brisket from US Wellness Meats. Because it is traditionally preserved (without the use of sodium nitrite), it doesn’t have the pink color that we’re accustomed to when we think of modern corned beef. But fear not – it tastes just as good as what you’d expect.

The term “corned beef”, as you have probably guessed, has nothing to do with corn. A logical conclusion would be that it is seasoned with peppercorns, but that’s not the case, either. The secret is that in medieval times, “corn” was a description of salt when in a large-grain form. So really, it just meant salted beef, which is a process that has been around for thousands of years. The specific term “corned beef” is traced as far back as the 11th century in Ireland (600 years after St. Patrick was around, by the way). The concept of eating corned beef and cabbage (sometimes referred to as New England Boiled Dinner) on St. Patrick’s Day is a mostly American concept; a more appropriate Irish dish to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day would be Colcannon.

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Bangers and mash is a traditional English dish and the quintessential “pub food”; it can be made for large groups of people at once with relative ease. This isn’t your standard bangers and mash dish since it’s typically served with beef or pork sausage and mashed potatoes, and I’m being crazy and using lamb sausage and colcannon. Regardless, this dish still has the same desired effect: it’s a hearty, savory dish that really hits the spot on a rainy day.

A perfect sausage for this dish was Lava Lake Lamb’s Rosemary and Garlic Sausage, which had a rich sausage flavor but was only slightly “lamby” in taste – in the end it was an excellent pairing of this savory sausage and the mild, buttery colcannon.

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NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Although there are variations of potato/kale combos found all over Europe, I’m inclined to believe that the Irish variation, colcannon, is grandaddy of them all. First of all, the Irish basically own the creative rights to cabbage. The Romans introduced cabbage to most of Europe back in the day, except that when they got to Ireland it was already there! By tracing the word for cabbage linguistically, it appears that cabbage has been a part of the Irish (well, Celt at the time) diet since the Iron age. Potatoes weren’t introduced to Europe until the 16th Century, with the Irish and French being the first to really embrace them, and so colcannon came about sometime thereafter.

Although colcannon is treated as a St. Patrick’s Day dish here in the US, it’s traditionally a Halloween dish in Ireland. Some families would put a plate of colcannon outside their front door with a large chunk of butter in the middle to feed ghosts/fairies that were passing by. It also was closely related to marriage divination, in that trinkets (wedding rings, coins) would be hidden in the colcannon and the girl that found the trinket would be the next to marry.

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