I was born into a loud, crazy Irish-American family. My grandfather was 100% Irish and that side of the family is exactly what one might expect. Large, fun, and pretty amazing. They even look like leprechauns. Since the Irish side of the family was always the most prevalent because of their numbers we take our Irish pride pretty seriously. So much so that we often seem to forget that we’re also half German.
Even though it’s a bit of a cliché and really not a popular meal in Ireland (it’s true), every year I look forward to making corned beef and cabbage on Saint Patrick’s Day. It speaks to my Irish-American New England roots. I could easily eat it more than once a year, but I like to keep it special, so I don’t give in to the temptation to make it on a random Saturday in September. A lot of people don’t like it but so many people just boil it in water with the packet that comes with the corned beef then calls that a meal. No thank you! There are two things that I do to set it apart from the plain old corned beef and cabbage that many people are familiar with.
So if you’re looking for a corned beef and cabbage recipe with some flavor, you’ve come to the right place!
For this recipe, you will need a small cabbage, about 8 small red potatoes, a large onion, baby carrots or 3-4 large carrots, an 11-ounce bottle of Guinness, pickling spice, and flat cut corned beef. Do not substitute with a regular brisket. We tried that once and the results were no bueno. Corned beef is cured, brisket is not.
Cut up your potatoes into large cubes, enough to cover the bottom of a crock pot, put in a handful or two of baby carrots, and rough chop your onion and throw it in.
Cover the vegetables with water, about four cups.
Now throw away that spice packet that comes with the corned beef and get a good quality pickling spice; one with visible leaves and berries in it. I discovered this a few years ago when the corned beef we bought didn’t come with a spice packet and I had to do some research to find out what’s in that spice packet. It’s pickling spice! Well, it’s a pretty lame pickling spice.
I love Penzey’s but the McCormick brand is also pretty good. Anything is better than the stuff in the packet which is pretty flavorless.
Put your corned beef on top of the vegetables and water fat side up then liberally cover the top with pickling spice. I used 2 tablespoons, but you could use a little less if you’d like.
Now for the coup de grâce, Guinness. I don’t like Guinness on its own at all, but I do like it a lot as an ingredient. Pour that whole bottle in.
Now it’s time for your cabbage. Cover the top of your corned beef with as much cabbage as you can and still be able to get the lid on the crock pot. I used 3/4 of a small cabbage.
To get the core out, I cut my cabbage into quarters then cut at an angle to remove the core. You will have to do this with each quarter.
Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for about 8½ hours then enjoy!
Note: as with anything cooked in a slow cooker, the vegetables will be very soft. If you prefer them to have more bite, I would suggest doing a quick boil on the stove then add them to the juice in the crockpot to soak in some flavor after the meat is removed.