Why Do We Eat Corned Beef On St. Patrick's Day: The History Of Corned Beef

Posted on: 24 March 2015

The Irish tradition of eating corned beef on holidays goes back as far as the 12th century. The beef was preserved with salt, which was measured in units known as corns. This preserved the meat so that it would not spoil. Beef was a lot harder to come by in ancient Ireland, so bacon or ham was often used as a substitute.

During the potato famine that began in the 1820's, over half of the immigrants that came to America were from Ireland. The tradition of eating corned beef came over with Irish immigrants. Cabbage was added to the dish as it was easier to find in the new world than the traditional potatoes. Corned beef was readily available to the Irish who settled in the North Eastern United States, due to the close proximity to Jewish butchers and delis that were often located in the same neighborhoods that the Irish lived in. Since Jewish butchers and delis are kosher, bacon and ham would have been a lot harder to find.

In the early 1900's, corned beef and cabbage was offered as a cheap or sometimes free meal to Irish workers who visited their local watering hole. St. Patrick's Day is an Irish holiday that made its way over to the United States in the 1800's. The tradition of visiting Irish pubs on St. Patrick's Day has deepened the association of eating corned beef and cabbage on this holiday, even though the dish is offered at most Irish pubs year round.

St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated since the 1600's, with March 17th, 461 being the day that St. Patrick died. St. Patrick is credited with helping to spread Christianity throughout Ireland, which at the time was a pagan country. In the United States, the religious connotations of St. Patrick's Day have been dropped and all things that are considered Irish are celebrated instead. St. Patrick's Day is a much more bacchanalian affair in modern times. Because the holiday is much more secular now, people of all religions, races, and nationalities feel welcome to participate in the celebration. Many natives of the United States have at least a bit of Irish blood as well. St. Patrick's Day is an official holiday in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and several Canadian provinces. Even though it is not a public holiday in the United States, Americans celebrate by wearing green, drinking beer, and eating meals that are considered Irish, such as corned beef and cabbage. Talk to experts like City Foods Inc/Bea's Best for more information.


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