Ah, St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a day celebrated by wearing green and pinching those who aren’t. It’s also known as the celebration of Irish culture and St. Patrick himself. Of course, a celebration brings great food. Nothing screams St. Patrick’s Day quite like corned beef! But before we move on to meats that are dear to heart like corned beef, let’s learn a little about the man himself and why we celebrate.
St. Patrick was actually of Roman heritage and born in England. He was kidnapped and brought to Ireland at the young age of 16. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 because this is reportedly the day he passed away. St. Patrick is celebrated in Ireland and around the world because he is widely believed to have pioneered Christianity in Ireland.
The association of the shamrock and St. Patrick comes from the legend that St. Patrick taught the Holy Trinity using Ireland’s three leaf clover. This legend also turned the shamrock into the national plant of Ireland.
The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration was actually held in America was in St. Augustine, FL in 1601, and was organized by the Irish Vicar at the time. It took nearly 150 years before Irish soldiers serving in the English army started a parade in honor of St. Patrick. Believe it or not, before the late 1970s, the pubs in Ireland were not open for St. Patrick’s Day! Instead, it was observed as an important religious holiday.
The wearing of green comes from three themes. In the Irish flag, green represents nationalism, the aforementioned national plant is green and of course, Leprechauns. The Leprechaun reputation, as mischievous characters, enhance the story of wearing green because it is believed that wearing green makes you invisible to Leprechauns. Which means you can hide from them and avoid being pinched!
But enough of the why we celebrate and on to the good stuff… the corned beef! If you find yourself in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, you likely won’t find any corned beef. In Gaelic times, pig was the main source of meat in Ireland. But being ruled by the British and their insatiable appetite for beef (roast beef, anyone?) made Ireland’s green pastures ripe for raising cattle and exporting beef. The Irish were largely Catholic and oppressive laws against them confiscated their land and ironically, they could not afford the beef they produced. The exported beef they raised was of high quality, as was the salt, in corn-sized kernels, that they used to preserve the meat for shipping overseas to both Britain and the America’s. “Corned” beef from Ireland became the gold standard of the British trade routes. In fact, it was so popular when at war with France, the English still let the French dock in Ireland to pick up corned beef.
The beef that was most affordable was corned beef and thus it became a staple with cabbage and potatoes. But, the corned beef they ate was different than that produced by their grandparents. In America, they bought their beef from almost solely Kosher butchers. The Jewish population made their corned beef from the kosher cut of beef brisket that was salted and cooked into the treat we know today as corned beef. This of course all occurred in the melting pot of New York City and thus the triple association…corned beef, Irish and a well-made kosher brisket. This tradition never made it back to Ireland, where today St. Paddy’s Day (please no “patty”) is celebrated largely with lamb and bacon.
Of course, there are lots of ways to include corned beef in your celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. The easiest is to find a great Irish pub like Muldoon’s in Carmel. Sit yourself down at the bar, enjoy a green beer, listen to the bagpipes wail and eat some delicious, corned beef and cabbage (sourced from Joe’s of course!). For Muldoon’s, we buy the Grobbel’s (see below) 1883 original whole brisket, point and all for that full fat flavor you expect when eating at an Irish pub. Years ago when we first acquired brisket for Muldoon’s celebration, the brisket actually arrived in pickling vats! Today, modern packaging has taken over but the whole briskets still have that same old-world craftsmanship and flavor they did when in the vat.
The second way is to buy a cured raw corned beef brisket from Joe’s and follow the cooking instructions to enjoy it at home. For 16 years, we have stocked only Grobbel’s Raw Corned Beef. Since 1883, Grobbel’s has been making corned beef the same way. The retail cut is a premium portion of the brisket flat, not the fatty point, and is made to be a bit leaner and yields an ample meal for your hungry crew. We have tried them all and we believe Grobbel’s is the highest quality, best tasting and most authentic corned beef brisket around!
The third way is to make a delicious, corned beef brisket of your own. The recipe below is one the best we’ve seen and calls for a five-pound trimmed brisket. You can grab one any day at Joe’s and we are happy to trim it down to size for you. However, get ready to spend a fair bit of money. Whole briskets used for smoking weigh about 13-15 pounds and include the fatty end of the muscle. As you trim away the fatty part, you are left with a brisket flat that weighs 8-9 pounds. Leaner but large, this cut is still best used for smoking. Getting the brisket down to five pounds, as in this recipe, trims the brisket of even more external fat and while the cut it still very well internally marbled, the cost metrics of multiple trimmings push the price of the fully trimmed brisket to near steak proportions. As of this writing, Joe’s top third of choice to bottom third of USDA Prime Whole Briskets cost consumers $8.99lb, nose off briskets (flats) cost $13.99lb and fully trimmed briskets will set you back $17.99lb.
We hope this blog post has been informative and fun at the same time. No matter how you cut it, eating corned beef brisket on St. Patrick’s Day is a tradition worth celebrating! And drinking a green beer too, of course.