Mar 13, 2012

Corned Beef & St. Patrick's Day

Corn beef hash including potatoes and carrot.
Corned Beef Hash breakfast via Wikipedia
Something that has been on my mind for a few decades, is why Irish-Americans gravitate to eating corned beef on St. Patrick's Day and drink a lot of green beer. Okay, I understand the green beer part, but I've always wondered about corned beef since I've never eaten it and have received a LOT of junk mail promoting it for breakfast and lunch on St. Patrick's Day. So, I am going to summarize based on these 3 key websites (and yes, this is my bibliography):

The name of corned beef most likely came about when meat was dry-cured with salt in Europe and the Middle East. The word "corn" derives from Old English which describes the meat being dry-cured in CORNS of salt. The pellets of salt were approximately the size of kernels of corn and were rubbed into the meat to keep it from spoiling.

Canned corned beef
Canned Corned Beef via Wikipedia
Irish corned beef was used and traded extensively from the 1600s to the mid 1800s for England and as provisions for the British naval fleets & North American armies due to its non-perishable nature. It was traded to the French for feeding the colonists and slaves in their Caribbean sugar plantations. Corned beef as a commodity started to die out in the mid 1800s when slavery was abolished but it did have a resurgence during World War II in the canned form. Makes me wonder about where Spam started.
During the Great Potato Famine, raising cattle to sustain the British Isle and Atlantic trade crowded out land in Ireland for other agricultural development and prevented the raising of crops to feed the local population. Which is why a ton of people from Ireland emigrated to the U.S. Because beef was less expensive than pork here, that is why the Irish immigrants substituted it in recipes on holidays.

Which leads me to my conclusion. According to all of the research & reading that I've been doing, corned beef on St. Patrick's Day is an Irish-American tradition, not a true Irish national tradition. That's why I haven't had it yet and why I'll be making a bacon joint instead...

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