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Corned Beef Tips from the F&W Test Kitchen

Question: What is corned beef?

Corned beef is one of the most popular dishes to eat on St Patrick’s day. What people may not know is that it originated during the days when refrigeration didn’t exist and foods were likely pickled or cured to preserve them. Corned beef, which is traditionally made from the brisket cut, is either pickled or cured using a super-seasoned brine or dry rub, then it’s braised for a few hours to get deliciously fork tender. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit about corned beef is that corn isn’t actually an ingredient. “Corned” refers to the large salt crystals that were traditionally used during the preservation process. Nowadays people use all sorts of salts or specialty products to preserve it, but it still carries its famous name.

Question: What kind of spices would you recommend for a brine for making your own corned beef?

The corned beef you find in stores is likely brined and will include some common seasonings like mustard, black pepper, bay, coriander and clove. But if you’re going through the effort of brining your own beef, try including some flavors that you think are interesting. We recommend adding an aromatic like garlic, shallots or ginger, and then throwing in more punchy flavors like crushed red pepper, all spice, caraway or something earthy, like cumin.

3 Variations on Classic Corned Beef and Cabbage

Black-Bean and Corned-Beef Soup

This hearty soup calls for an equally hearty wine, such as Australia’s unique Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend, a red wine redolent of blackberries, cassis, herbs, and eucalyptus.

Cabbage Gratin with Potatoes

Amy Tornquist’s grandmother used to prepare a version of this dish for Sunday lunch with baby cabbages and freshly dug new potatoes, all tossed in bacon fat and ham stock.

Corned-Beef Salad with Thousand Island Dressing and Rye Croutons

Strips of corned beef are tossed with lettuce and rye-bread croutons, then topped with Thousand Island dressing.

Country Potato-and-Cabbage Soup

More Cabbage Recipes

Country Potato-and-Cabbage Soup (photo)

Bacon adds salty richness to chef Mark Sullivan's delicious recipe.

Braised Red Cabbage

The braised cabbage can be made up to 4 hours ahead.

Braised Savoy Cabbage with Bacon

This sweet and spicy side dish delivers a good hit of vitamin C from the red cabbage.

Cabbage-and-Mushroom Toasts

You'll need a knife and fork for these hearty, luscious toasts from chef Steven Satterfield. The cabbage topping would also be delicious as a side dish for roast pork.

Sweet-and-Sour Braised Cabbage

To punch up the flavor of braised cabbage, a classic accompaniment to sauerbraten, Frank Castronovo adds dried sour cherries, apples and a pinch of ground cloves.

St. Patrick's Day Recipes
Slideshow: Irish Dinner
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