For most people, St. Patrick’s Day means drinking beer, wearing green and bar hopping in freezing cold NYC weather. For those who are obsessively interested in food (like me) it’s an opportunity to explore, make, and write about this up and coming “Gastro Pub” style cuisine. Not Irish, not much of a beer drinker, I decided to attempt and refine the well known corn beef and cabbage dish-one of the most popular dishes served on St. Patrick’s day…But guess what… As I did the research, I found out that corn beef is really not Irish at all. In the late 1800’s, Irish American immigrants living on the lower east side realized that corn beef (salt cured brisket –the corn referring to the salt grains) was cheaper then the Irish bacon and over time, no one really remembered that the Irish got the whole cured brisket idea from their Jewish neighbors and it became the popular pub grub all across the U.S. on St. Patrick’s day.
And now for some Food Science,- I will now further explain why the meat was salted (cured). Salt inhibits the growth of microorganisms by drawing water out of the food and bacteria cells (via osmosis) thus preventing bacteria outgrowth, thus preserving the food. The salt which is used to preserve also gives corn beef the desired salty flavor. It all works out so well-longer meat shelf life (the corn beef I just bought had a 5/09 expiration date!) great flavor and no bacterial spoilage.
And now for some corn beef and wine pairings-and why! Corn beef is salty with peppercorns and mustard and other strong acidic flavors. I always try to follow the classic rules of pairing like with like, or like with the exact opposite. So in this case it would have to be something very acidic (to get through the saltiness and richness) like a bone dry Greek Moscofilero, or one of those dry acidic Kabinett Rieslings. Or, one could go the opposite path and pair the corned beef with something slightly sweet like Sauternes or a Gweurztraminer. The sweet and salty combination pairs well.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!