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St. Patrick's Day

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Red Owl

50 Cal.
Jan 26, 2021
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I am told Corned Beef is actually more of a New England or English thing. In any event how do you make corned beef and can you substitute game meat?

Loyalist Dave

Staff member
MLF Supporter
Nov 22, 2011
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People's Republic of Maryland
I am told Corned Beef is actually more of a New England or English thing.

Um.... yes and no....

In the 17th century, England had moved a lot of beef over to Ireland. Cattle had been seen by the Irish as sources for milk/cheese, oxen, and manure, but not often for meat. English Red Cattle were a good all-around-cow, but only average milk producers. The large increase in the numbers of cattle, and the demand in England for beef, caused Ireland to suddenly begin to dominate the British beef market. So in 1663, the British beef farmers got the "Cattle Acts" passed, and blocked the importation of Irish beef and dairy products.

BUT this didn't block preserved beef, just fresh beef and live cattle to be fattened and butchered after arrival in England, as well as blocking butter and cheese. Beef for storage (no refrigerated transport yet) was preserved with salt. Now Ireland didn't pay the import duties that England had in place, so the Irish imported rock salt from Spain and Portugal, which was of large crystals, akin to the size of barley seeds or in the vernacular of the day, barley corns... hence the name "corned beef" when the beef was salted using this salt. (TOO MANY so called scholars such as Smithsonian Magazine think "corn" meant the salt was the size of kernels of American Maize... :rolleyes:)

Because of the good quality of the meat and the salting, Ireland and especially the city of Cork, became the hub of corned beef trade the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries, as well as salted, Irish butter, and Irish cheese. Even after the Cattle Acts became highly restrictive, the Irish corned beef dominated transatlantic trade, as well as provisions for Royal Navy ships, and was traded to the West Indies, and to New York and Philadelphia.

BUT, cattle was a commodity raised on English owned lands, for English absentee landlords, who set the rents, and as such, beef was not the favorite in-country meat in Ireland.... it was "English meat". Pork was and still is preferred, with Irish bacon (another advantage to development of the salted beef business) being known then and now as a most excellent product. Bacon, and other pork products were much better suited to the low incomes of the tenant Irish farmers, and provided protein and fat that went well with the starch from potatoes.

When the potato famine(s) hit, and the Irish started to leave Ireland for America, either by choice or by legal sentence... they ended up in Boston and New York City, which is also where the Irish corned beef was entering America. Coincidentally, the Irish neighborhoods were located adjacent to Jewish neighborhoods, and brisket was a popular, and affordable cut of meat in the Jewish community at that time. The Irish actually made enough in America to afford brisket, and so they, who knew how to salt meat, began making "corned beef brisket", which is why that is what you usually find in the stores in February for St. Patrick's Day... though often labelled only "corned beef".

The Irish in Ireland still prefer pork on St. Patrick's Day....

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