St. Patrick’s Day Food — It’s Bacon and Cabbage
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St. Patrick’s Day Food — It’s Bacon and Cabbage

Um, don’t we mean corned beef and cabbage? Nope. You see, bacon and cabbage is the authentic Irish dish. Corned beef and cabbage is the Irish-American substitute that’s been front and center in what we’ve come to think of as traditional St. Patrick’s Day recipes — but most of which are almost wholly American inventions.

Unlike America, Ireland wasn’t a cattle country. So in Ireland’s past, ordinary folk wouldn’t have eaten beef; only the very wealthy would’ve had access to it. If ordinary families ate meat at all, it would have been pork. And before refrigeration, meat was kept fresh by brineing it, or preserving it with salt, so brined pork (or corned pork) would have been quite common.

For Irish emigrants in America, beef was more available and more affordable. And the Irish newcomers would have treated their meat as they always had, thus brined beef or corned beef became common among Irish-Americans. It was returning emigrants to Ireland who introduced corned beef and cabbage there, and nowadays it is available. However, bacon and cabbage is still far more common and more popular. Only restaurants and pubs catering to American tourists offer corned beef and cabbage.

If you want to make the traditional dish, you’d best look for a pork loin and some kale. At Ballymaloe Cooking School at Shanagarry, in County Cork — seat of Ireland’s farm to table movement — Darina Allen calls for pork loin with the rind on and a nice covering of fat in her bacon and cabbage recipe. And a green rather than white cabbage, such as a savoy cabbage or kale.

Here are 19 traditional irish foods, drinks and customs (minus the corned beef). And for fun, here’s one more wholly American invention: A St. Patrick’s Day beer-pretzel bar.

Do you have a St. Patrick’s Day recipe to share? Tag us on Instagram @britandco.

(Photo via Irish Examiner)