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Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
It seems like corned beef and cabbage is the St. Patrick's Day equivalent to margaritas and burritos on Cinco de Mayo. So, Irish-American (or Mexican-American) food. I get, though...and it's not necessarily a bad thing. Growing up in a melting pot, we often grab on to symbolism and culture in only flashy, consumeristic way we know how.

I grew up in a country that uses Lucky Charms, four leaf clovers, Irish cream, green beer and spry little leprechauns to represent something that has nothing to do with any of those things. And while I've been told that I have a sliver of Irish in me, that was the extent of it. I knew nothing about my Irish roots (or my German, Bohemian - as in Czech, or Cherokee ones, either).

It was always this time of year that corned beef starting hitting the meat coolers and reuben sandwiches were heavily advertised. I really don't remember corned beef and cabbage ever being made in our kitchen, but I was always intrigued by the smell coming from the kitchen of a few of my friends...most of whom were Irish and Catholic. So while most (all?) Irish-Irish folks will tell you that corned beef and cabbage isn't "a thing" on St. Paddy's Day in Ireland, most (all?) Irish-Americans will acknowledge it as part here in the States.
Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
This probably has to do with Irish immigrants and Jewish immigrants living in close proximity when they moved to American, starting in the mid-1800's. Back home, most of the Irish people would have eaten bacon (smoked pork, not necessarily our streaky bacon) and cabbage, but living in close proximity to Jewish butchers, pork wasn't as easy to come by. Instead they found corned beef brisket, which was salted and cured in a similar manner, so they purchased that and brought it home and prepared it in the same manner. The rest, as they say, is history.

So, while corned beef and cabbage may not be an authentic Irish celebration meal, I think it's safe to say that it is an authentic Irish-American meal...and definitely a part of wonderful, oftentimes-gaudy-and-commercial-but-usually-well-meaning-and-inspired festivities that honor St. Patrick in the US. Plus, it's super delicious.

This version is made in the slow cooker, which means minimal work and maximum juicy meat.

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
Corned beef brisket, cabbage, and root vegetables made easily in a slow cooker. This Irish-American dish is often enjoyed on St. Paddy's Day in the the US.
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Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 1/2 hours
Keywords: slow-cooker entree beef cabbage potatoes carrots St Patricks Day Irish American

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 1 (3 pound) corned beef brisket
  • 4-6 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup peeled pearl onions, fresh or frozen
  • 12 ounces Irish Beer (Smithwick's, Harp, Guinness, Murphy's, etc.)
  • 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) water
  • 1 pound (~8) small red or yellow potatoes, scrubbed and halved
  • 1 small head green cabbage, cut into 8 wedges
Add corned beef brisket with packet of pickling spice to the crock of your slow cooker. Tumble in the carrots and onions. Add beer and water. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours.

Nestle the potatoes and cabbage wedges into the crock, put the lid back on, and cook for another 90 minutes, until the potatoes and cabbage are tender.

Slice the corned beef against the grain (or shred it if you'd rather) and serve with a wedge of cabbage and the other veggies, with a bit of cooking liquid dribbled over the whole shebang.

If your corned beef brisket does not come with a packet of pickling spice, add 1 heaping tablespoon of homemade pickling spice.

If you don't want to use beer, you can substitute more water in its place.
Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
The "corn" in corned beef comes from the age-old art of meat preservation where meat was (is) packed into a crock and covered in salt. A kernel of rock salt was about the size of a wheat or oat kernel/seed, and thus became known as a "corn of salt". The word kernel comes from the word kernam or kurnilo, meaning the root of the seed.

The History of Corned Beef from The Kitchen Project
Is Corned Beef Really Irish? from Smithsonian online