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February 20, 2009

The corned beef and cabbage post



A co-worker has asked me for recommendations of places that serve great corned beef and cabbage.

Is there such a thing?

Don't get me wrong. I like the dish, which I occasionally fix at home as a one-pot boiled dinner with carrots, potatoes and onions, just fine. And just to add a note of authenticity, I serve it with corn pone. ...

But I can't imagine picking one restaurant over another because it serves noticeably better corned beef and cabbage.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you've discovered there really is one that's the best. Or anyway, the best you've found.

If so, please post below.

(Barbara Haddock Taylor/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:27 PM | | Comments (50)


I think, like a lot of things, the quality of the ingredients probably trumps most of the actual fixing part.

There is some bad corned beef out there.

Lissa, how can you tell if it's bad corned beef?
No, seriously, I like corned beef and I make it every St. Patrick's Day. I usually buy it that day from Giant and hope it's reasonably fresh. It's the easiest meal in the world to make so I can't see going out to eat it in a restaurant.

The key to a good corned beef meal is to not overcook the cabbage. 10 to 15 minutes tops.

I just licked the screen a little bit. Where can I get some of that (in the picture)?

Ryan's Daughter in Baltimore and Galway Bay in Annapolis produce creditable versions of the dish.

Corn pones are Irish?

Maybe not. :-) EL

One of my favorite meals. There are some places that try to do "ttomuch" with it and make it more than it is. those places tend to ruin it. The now-defunct Maggie Moore's had a horrible version. Mick O'Shea's puts a wrong spin on it too (fried potato wedges)!

I generally don;t order it too much though for that very reason. I'd much rather make it at home. The trick is adding a can (or two) of Guiness to the water once you put the meat in.

I agree that homemade corned beef and cabbage is the best. As Carla on Top Chef would say, "Can you feel the love."

hope it's reasonably fresh

Fresh corned beef would be an oxymoron, given that it's a cured meat (that's what "corned" means).

The Stil on York Road in Timonium.
Hands down.

Laura Lee, it is a taste thing. Quality of the beef to start, spices used to corn it, ratio of fat to meat...all critical.

James Joyce serves good corned beef, too.

blech. corned beef should be sliced thinly against the grain and piled high on fresh crusty rye bread with mustard. Taking perfectly good corned beef and messing it up with cabbage I just don't get!

Having said that I hear the corned beef and cabbage at An Poitin Stil is good (to those who like that sort of thing)

Bucky took the words right out of my mouf'

Is there any more ecumenical food than corned beef? An Irish tradition boiled with cabbage. A Jewish tradition heaped between two slice of rye (with maybe a bissel mustard or Russian dressing.) In toto, a truly tasty tribute to our togetherness.

I love corned beef, and have had the cabbage part only a few times. My Mom makes a great corned beef and cabbage, I just don't like the smell of the cabbage cooking.

On my next trip up, I think I'll go by the Stil and try their version.

Corn Pone. I hope no one takes offense, but every time I hear those words, I think of that old TV show Green Acres.

Thanks Hal, you're so helpful :)
As the USDA Fact Sheet for corned beef notes, "Food safety involves more than the luck of the Irish." They recommend that corned beef sealed in its package of pickling spices be used within 5 to 7 days of the sell-by date.

However, I'll concede that "fresh corned beef" is an oxymoron. Or Irish bull.

Joyce W., a corned beef sandwich is a wonderful thing but it's a completely different dish. Boiled dinner is great when the vegetables are cooked properly and the best thing is there's usually enough left over (at our house) for lots of Reubens.

Lissa, I hear you on all that quality stuff; unfortunately the corned beef I see in the supermarket is too bathed in blood and nitrates and vacuum sealed for any sort of evaluation before I get it home to open it.

Now where is OMG with the heart-rending tale of his Da and ten children and one potato to share.

Laura Lee, it's not all that hard to make your own corned beef, which will be more flavorful than most commercial corned beef.

It's not inexpensive, though.

No blood. No blood. No blood in corned beef. If you see red juice, that means that they added red dye. The traditonal method of curing corned beef involved the now frowned-upon saltpeter, which added a crimson hue to the meat; without it, the meat is kind of gray but delicious. If you want to cure it yourself it takes at least three weeks.

To this day me Da's favorite part of the deer is the hoof. Ah, good times.

Lucy's Irish Restaurant (Maggie Moore's) has some pretty darn good corned beef. I think it comes from Westminster. It has this incredible glaze on it. I would definitely recommend it.

The CB&C at Galway Bay in Annapolis is so good, this vegetarian has it once a year.

the now frowned-upon saltpeter

Yes, I had a heck of a time finding saltpeter the first time I made pastrami. I finally scored a jar of it from an old-fashioned pharmacy in Highlandtown (that's no longer with us). The jar will last me the rest of my life.

Just so everyone knows, corned beef & cabbage is NOT Irish. It's as American as apple pie (sort of).

First of all, there never was Corned beef in ireland. As legend goes, the traditional Sunday meal in ireland was some some sort of bioled salted pork, known as "Irish Bacon", but in reality it's much more closer to Ham. But it was typically served and boiled with cabbage and potatoes, and other root veggies.

When the massive waves of irish immigrants began coming over here in the late 1800's/early 1900's, a huge number settled in New York City on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in neighborhoods that at the time were predominantly Jewish.

"Irish Bacon" and other similiar cuts of salted pork were not readily available in those neighborhoods, and it was rather expensive to find in general. So their Jewish neighbors turned the Irish immigrants onto corned beef as a suitable (and less expensive) option to biol with their cabbage and potatoes.

When I was in college, they used to put saltpeter in the cafeteria food. I wonder if they still do that today. colleges still have cafeterias?

Donny B. I believe you are correct. Can you imagine that corned beef (and lox) were once cheap?

Joyce, it's even more amazing that crab cakes used to be cheap.

Corned beef is about $3.50 - $4 / lb. That's cheaper than hotdogs.

The community college in town here has a cafeteria. I've been there once or twice during seminars. They have both hot and cold food lines, and a big salad bar. Its not bad, but still its cafeteria food.

Back when our sons were looking at colleges, we always tried to sample the cafeteria. These days there are usually many options, including vegetarian and vegan offerings. We found we could size up whether the students were happy or not--some places there were lots of students eating alone, and in others they were in groups and having a good time.

Are there any retail butcher shops around that make their own corned beef?

In NYC almost every Jewish style deli makes their own corned beef, here not so much. Maybe Attman's? Maybe the kosher butcher shop in Pikesville? Wasserman & Lemberger Butcher (7006 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville) used to do a heck of a business back when I lived in Pikesville - not sure if they're still there or in business but it's a place to start.

Make your own. It's easy and cheap.

Okay I've never even thought of doing it until yesterday. Maybe I will. The lame regular deli corned beef is about $11-12/lb. For the price of one deli sandwich you could probably make two pounds of corned beef. I wonder if it would be that good? Other than the salting process I wonder if there is a lactic acid conversion process at work too? Probably. Any food chemists out there? A lot of the time with cured meat the salt is there to inhibit bad bacteria and yeasts while allowing the naturally occurring lactobacilli to do their thing.

So how was your homemade pastrami Hal? How did you smoke it?

I would never have guessed that corned beef and pastrami were from the same cut of meat. I even had a friend who sneered at pastrami, calling it garbage because it was from pigs, while he ate slices of corned beef from Atmans without offering me any. Bastard. Dumb bastard.

Owl, the homemade pastrami is way more flavorful than most commercial pastrami. I smoked it in my backyard in one of those bullet-shaped smokers. It's a lot of work, though. You have to cure it, smoke it, and then boil it.

Corned beef is somewhat easier, as the smoking step isn't needed. Pastrami is usually (but not always) done with a dry cure, and corned beef with a liquid cure. Other than that the curing process is very similar.

As a fellow urban dweller, you should be aware that you need some of your precious refrigerator space for the three-or-so week curing process.

James Beard's American Cookery has some decent corned beef and pastrami recipes. I assume it's long out of print, though.

Owl, contact me through Facebook if you want more details.

OMG, yeah a raw corned beef is in that price range ($3-$4 per lb), but when you cook it, it shrinks virtually in half. If you get it cooked sliced from a deli counter, you're looking upwards of $10 per lb.

Beard's American Cookery has been one of my most used cookbooks over the years. It is available new and used on Amazon.

Beard's recipe uses saltpeter. Julia Child has a recipes for corning beef or pork in Julia Child and Company. It uses no saltpeter so the end product is not red. All natural ingredients (including rutabaga) for the flavors. I have used the recipe many times and it is great.

Also she recommends using ziplock bags for the corning process which makes it easier to store in fridge for 3 or so weeks.

Saltpeter? I clearly remember that, growing up, one of the dads in my neighborhood used to threaten his sons with saltpeter as a curative to their raging libidos.

I buy the biggest corned beef I can find at the supermarket and cook it with beer and more spices. Not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but it's very good, especially with horseradish cream. There's always enough left over for both hash and Reubens--YUM.

I am a veteran beef corner. I get my brisket from Deer Creek Beef or another local purveyor and I put it up the way I learned from Julia Child (thanks to the internet). You can do it with kosher salt and whatever seasonings you like, but I keep a stock of Morton (the salt company) "Tender Quick" around to add a teaspoon or two the the mix. Yes, it has the dreaded nitrites and nitrates, but I use comparatively less than commercial cures and I do, frankly, like a little pink in my corned beef. I also use two rounds of Penzey's corned beef spices -- once in the curing process (which I do in a vacuum bag for a couple of days) and then, rinsed and replenished, in the enameled Dutch Oven in which the thing cooks (cheap lager works best for the braising liquid).

I put up maybe 8 corned beef briskets a year. I do a couple of pastramis a year too, but mass quantities of juniper berries are increasingly hard to find.

Since I was passing through Catonsville this weekend, I stopped at "H-Mart" and picked up a fair sized piece of beef "Flap Meat" which I think was a large piece of skirt steak or something like it. I decided to give it the corning treatment to see what happens.

I have got to corn a beef this summer. I love the stuff, have a good source for beef and don't particularly care for the supermarket beef, ethically or taste-wise.

I really need a bigger kitchen, an extra fridge, a chest freezer and a few odds and ends like a good Kitchen Aid mixer.

Although, I supposed there is nothing to keep me from cutting the beef into smaller bits, and corning mini-beefs. That might be the way to go, since I cook for one.

Lissa ... the piece of meat curing in my fridge as we speak is a mere 1'5". The best part is that at that size it only takes about 48 hours to cure. Corned beef for Mardi Gras!

MD Canon I have secret place that I buy some ingredients in bulk at very very reasonable prices. You can get a pound of organic dried juniper berries for $14.71, which should last quite a while. That's about 90 cents an ounce. Ka-ching.

So Lissa, now that you got rid of eighteen boxes of books and a viola you think you have room for a chest freezer?

Good point, Laura Lee. Except that I was hoeing out the back bedroom, and that wouldn't be the handiest place to put a chest freezer. My guests might wonder why I was putting them to bed next to it.

I guess it might be useful until you can get them to Leakin Park.

Laura Lee--my goodness gracious! Now I am starting to wonder if you are really Laura Lippman!

Terriermom ~╥╥☺ -- Bless you for the reference! (That's official.)

Lissa -- looking at my earlier post in response to yours, what I should have typed was 1 lb. 5 oz., instead of what showed up.

Point to Laura Lee!

MD Canon, I figured you meant a wee piece of meat. 1.5 lbs. would be about a perfect size for me. It'd have just enough left over that I wouldn't need to freeze any.

Which, of course, would leave more room in the freezer for other kinds of flesh.

Dahlink wrote Laura Lee--my goodness gracious! Now I am starting to wonder if you are really Laura Lippman!

Maybe you should be the private investigator, Dahlink. I think you might be right.

Now, who is slippery pete or whatever his name is from another topic?

wasnt slippery pete in the seinfeld show about the frogger game

Good catch howie. I was thinking that he was the horse that Kramer bet on once, but research shows that Slippery Pete was played by awesome actor Peter Stomare in the Frogger episode. He was the guy that got fed into the wood chipper in Fargo.

A ha! I knew there was a horse. Prickly Pete is the name of one of George's fake horses at his fake house in the Hamptons:

George, driving in the car with the Rosses: "And that leads into the master
Mrs. Ross: "Tell us more."
George: "You want to hear more? The master bedroom opens into the solarium."
Mr. Ross: "Another solarium?"
George: "Yes, two solariums. Quite a find. And I have horses, too?"
Mr. Ross: "What are their names?"
George: "Snoopy and Prickly Pete. Should I keep driving?"

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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