Corned Beef and Cabbage

St. Patrick is one of Ireland’s patron saints and many Americans with Irish ancestry remember him on March 17, the saint’s religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. St. Patrick’s Day is fixed on March 17. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years.

To “corn” something is simply to preserve it in a salty brine (the term corn refers to the coarse grains of salt used for curing). In the days before refrigeration, corning was essential for storing meat, especially from large animals like cows. Historically, beef that was slaughtered and “corned” before the winter was served with the first fresh spring cabbage to break the Lenten fast on Easter.

You can do this recipe two ways.  You can buy the corned beef from the store (which is the easiest way), or you can brine your brisket way in advance.  I try to make things the traditional way sometimes just to get the feel of how things were done back in the day.

You can also cook this recipe 3 ways.  You can either cook it over the stove in a heavy stock pot or a Dutch oven,  in a slow cooker, or in a bake it in a Dutch oven.

If you are buying the pre-made corned beef here are some tips.

  • You have to go to the store several days in advance to get the best brisket.  Like any other produce, the best will disappear fast.
  • Choose the slab that has the least fat and gristle.  You have to scrutinize the beef.  Most butchers tuck/fold the fat and gristle where you can’t see them right away.
  • Choose a thick slab.  The thicker the slab the better (lean meat thick not fat thick).
  • Make sure there is a pickling spice pouch in the package.  If not, you would need some whole peppercorns and bay leaves.


  • 1 pack corned beef brisket
  • pickling spice packet (or 1 tsp. whole peppercorns and 2 bay leaves)
  • 1 large head fresh cabbage
  • 1 lb medium red potatoes
  • 1 medium fresh sweet onion
  • enough water to cover
  • bottle of beer (optional)
  • fresh parsley
  • butter (Kerrygold if available)
  • 1 fresh garlic clove
  • yellow mustard


Place the brisket in a large stockpot, Dutch oven or slow cooker.  If you are using the store-bought brisket, add the spice packet (if there is no spice packet included in the package, add 1 tsp. whole peppercorns and 2 bay leaves).    If you cured your own brisket,  remove the brisket from the brine and rinse it thoroughly before putting it in a pot.
Cover with water and beer (if using) and cook (over the stove or in a slow cooker, whichever is most convenient to you.  If you are cooking it in the oven, first bring the pot to a boil over the stove and transfer to a 200-degree pre-heated oven. Simmer for about 3 hours, adding water (if needed) to cover the brisket.
After 3 hours add the potatoes and cook for around 10 minutes.  Add cabbage, onions, and carrots and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.  Check if the cabbage is done.
There is a secret I learned from my research.  Before serving, crush a garlic clove and rub the inside of the serving bowl with it.  Put the potatoes in the bowl while they are still piping hot and add 1/4 cup butter and chopped parsley. Gently stir until the butter is melted and the potatoes are coated.
Slice the brisket across the grain and serve with cabbage and potatoes. Serve Dijon mustard or horseradish on the side.
If you would like to make your own cured corned beef,  here is a recipe by Michael Ruhlman on  “How to Cure your Own Corned Beef”

Home Cured Corned Beef

1 5 lb beef brisket
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1/2 c sugar
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
2 to 4 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger.

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in two
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped.

“Combine peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a small dry pan. Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, being careful not to burn them; keep lid handy incase seeds pop. Crack peppercorns and seeds in mortar and pestle or with the side of a knife on cutting board.

In a pot large enough to hold brisket, combine 1 gallon of water with kosher salt, sugar, garlic and 2 tablespoons pickling spice. Bring to a simmer, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.

Place brisket in brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5 days.

Remove brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it. Cover with water and add remaining pickling spice, carrot, onion and celery. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer gently until brisket is fork-tender, about 3 hours, adding water if needed to cover brisket.

Keep warm until ready to serve. Meat can be refrigerated for several days in cooking liquid. Reheat in the liquid or serve chilled. Slice thinly and serve on a sandwich or with additional vegetables simmered until tender in the cooking liquid.”

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