I am a newcomer to Corned Beef and Cabbage. I have generally enjoyed my corned beef deli sliced on a sandwich and my cabbage in slaw. My father is a big fan of corned beef and cabbage, but somehow it hadn’t trickled down to me. I had certainly thought about developing a recipe for St. Patrick’s Day, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Then, this winter, I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner, one of those fun nights when everyone contributes an element to the meal. One guest brought the appetizer – thinly sliced corned beef, perfectly cooked, served with dark bread and a variety of mustards. It was gone as quick as it was put out. And of course, I begged her corned beef cooking secrets. She laid out the boiling and steaming method laid out here, and I knew I had to give it a try. Okay, I did veer of her path a little by adding beer and some spices, but this method creates a tender corned beef proclaimed by my dad “a triumph.”
While making my second test round of the dish, I happened to be reading the book 97 Orchard about immigrant families in New York bringing the traditions of their home countries to their adopted home. As the corned beef boiled, I read the section on Irish cooking, and learned that, counter to the popular tale that corned beef and cabbage is a purely American creation, it is in fact an old Irish tradition, and that Irish corned beef was packed for long voyages across the Atlantic in the days of the Pilgrims. I’ve added my own culinary heritage with the bacon-braised cabbage of the South, and the final product is a real treat.
Corned Beef and Cabbage Cooked in Beer
1 3 – pound thin cut corned beef brisket
1 (12-ounce) bottle pale ale or beer
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 medium head green cabbage
3 strips bacon, or 2 Tablespoons bacon grease
Discard any seasoning packet that comes with the corned beef. Rinse the corned beef and place in a large Dutch oven. Pour in the beer and add enough water to cover the meat. Drop in the bay leaves, peppercorns and mustard seeds. Bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming off any scum that rises to the top. Lower the heat to medium low, cover the pot and cook at a low boil for 3 hours, adding more water to cover the meat as needed.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. When the meat has boiled, remove it from the pan to the rack of a roasting tray. I use the one that came with my oven, which has a nice deep tray and a slotted top rack. Reserve all the cooking liquid. Fill the bottom tray with as much of the cooking liquid as will fit without touching the meat. Cover the whole very tightly with foil, sealing well. The meat is meant to steam, so you don’t want the steam to escape. Cook for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, pour the remaining cooking liquid into a bowl or large measuring jug and put in the fridge. Rinse out the Dutch oven.
When the corned beef has steamed for two hours, remove it from the oven and leave it covered until ready to carve.
About 30 minutes before you’re ready to serve, cook the cabbage. Skim any fat off the top of the reserved cooking liquid from them meat. Cook the bacon strips in the Dutch oven until crispy, or simply melt the bacon fat over medium-high heat. When the bacon is cooked, remove it to paper towels to save for another use and discard all but about 2 Tablespoons of fat. Prepare the cabbage by removing the dark, outer leaves from the cabbage. Then cut the head in half and remove the core. Quarter the cabbage and cut each quarter into strips about ¼ inch wide. Drop the cabbage strips into the hot bacon fat, riffling it to separate the leaves. Quickly stir the cabbage to coat it in the bacon grease, cover the pot, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring halfway. Pour in 1 – 1 ½ cups of the reserved cooking liquid, stir well, cover the pot and cook for about 10 minutes. Feel free to cook the cabbage for more or less time, depending on how you like your cabbage – a little but crisp, or completely wilted. Salt to taste.
When ready to serve, unwrap the meat, remove to a carving board. Carefully cut off any fat from the top of the corned beef, then slice into thin slices. Some of the meat may crumble off. No worries, eat that as is or stir it into the cabbage.
Serves 6 -8, with some leftovers for sandwiches