St. Patrick's day conjures up images of parades, beer, green-clad crowds, and, of course, Corned Beef! Corned Beef actually has nothing to do with corn. As early as Medieval Times, Europeans were cured meats with large pieces of salt, called corns, in order to preserve the meat's shelf life. The Irish turned to boiling tough beef cuts in brine, a corn and salt water formula, and was the largest exporter of Corned Beef in the 19th century. The dish spread in popularity in canned form, which was a favorite of mariners and European colonies that imported most of their food.
The cuts used today are usually beef rump, round, or brisket and are given a locally determined spicing. The nitrate used in the curing process is where the Corned Beef gets its distinctive pink hue. Fear not, your corned beef is, in fact, cooked to perfection.
While the tradition of consuming vast amounts of Corned Beef seems to have left Ireland with the wave of Irish immigrants that came to the United States, it is an essential part of the American celebration of St. Patrick's Day. The traditional way to prepare Corned Beef is to boil it with chopped cabbage, creating a symbiotic flavor symphony. Others eat their corned beef on rye bread with spicy mustard, and Swiss cheese.
Whatever form strikes your fancy, munch away at this ancient culinary tradition in the spirit of the Irish!