What are my special features?
The recipe for Ulster Corned Beef in its traditional form is a far cry from the cheap cuts of tinned beef that most people associate it with. The name “corned” refers to the rounded lumps of rock salt that looked like grains of corn which were used in the salting process. Traditionally the cuts of beef were salted using either the brining method, which meant placing the beef inside a saline bath, or the dry rub method. Spices, herbs, juniper and elderflower berries, and even burnt seaweed can be added during these processes to enhance the flavour. As a result of curing, a rich red hue develops within the meat which does not fade during cooking, and the texture becomes much tighter and the weight a lot denser as the salt draws out the liquids.
What is my history?
Corned beef is simply a method of meat preservation using salt, and this technique has a long history in Ireland stretching back over a thousand years. It allowed farmers to prevent their meat from spoiling so quickly, providing nourishment over a longer period of time before refrigeration was an option. The Irish traded their corned beef with the British, and it fed the British naval fleets on their long voyages across the oceans. Napoleon offered a huge cash prize to the person who could solve the problem of this foodstuff spoiling when his troops went on expeditions, and thus the an airtight glass jar was invented by a man named Nicholas Appert, which was the predecessor to the invention of the tin can. Mass production of canned corned beef came in full swing during both World Wars when food sources were scarce, so people of a certain generation may remember this flavour with some childhood nostalgia (or not!). The poor quality of cheap versions sold by supermarkets today, combined with the reduced demand for meat preservation, means that corned beef has rapidly declined in popularity and bears little resemblance to the original very versatile and delicious food product to which it owes its heritage.
Why am I forgotten?
There are very few producers in the Ulster region of Ireland still making Corned Beef using traditional methods. Because cheaper, canned preserved corned beef options are now available in supermarkets, consumers are no longer aware of the long history and unique production methods of Ulster Corned Beef. The traditional recipe makes for a delicious ingredient which can be used in such a diverse array of dishes, that it definitely deserves to be put back on British menus.
Don’t lose me…cook me!