We love cooking corned beef and cabbage for St. Paddy’s, even though we know it’s really an Irish-American cultural dish. Yup! Sorry to be the one to rain on the St. Patrick’s Day parade, but corned beef isn’t an Irish thing but an Americanization of a beloved dish from the old country, bacon and cabbage. Here’s more on that Irish myth debunked, plus 19 foods, drinks and traditions that really are 100% Irish. And here are hundreds more St. Patrick’s Day goodies to help you plan your festivities.

Corned beef brisket is inexpensive and widely available in supermarkets this time of year. They come pre-packaged and pre-brined and even include a little seasoning pack that makes everything convenient and easy peasy. But if you’re into healthier cooking, you might want to brine your own beef, leaving out the saltpeter. Known as potassium nitrate, saltpeter is often used to cure meat and is what gives the corned beef that familiar pink color. It’s been approved for food use for many years, so obviously it hasn’t killed anyone. But the fact that saltpeter is also used as in oxidizer in making gunpowder does give one pause.

If you are interested in making your own corned beef, you’ll be surprised at how tender and flavorful brining can make an inexpensive cut of beef. Over at Wellness Mama, Katie is brineing her own with an adaptation of a recipe from everyone’s favorite food-science nerd Alton Brown *crushing*. Without saltpeter, the meat will be brown (as a brisket should be), but Katie advises that if it bothers you, you can always color yours pink naturally by adding beets or beet juice to the pot. Great tip!

Well, what are you waiting for? You’ll want to start now, as Alton brines his brisket for up to 10 days (though, you can do it in less if you need to).

(Photo via Wellness Mama)