Corned beef a St. Patrick’s Day treat

Not only is this National Nutrition Month, it is also a time many of us enjoy a meal typically associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, this is an entrée inherently high in fat and sodium but also a large quantity of vegetables.

As always, good nutrition revolves around variety, reasonable portions – in this case, half a plate of vegetables and a portion of meat the size of a deck of cards – and limited frequency.

Corned beef initially was a meat preserved using a form of dry curing with coarse “corns” of salt before refrigeration was available. The pellets of salt were rubbed into the beef to preserve it. With the advent of refrigeration, the convenience of brining with saltwater quickly replaced the dry curing method. Peppercorns and bay leaves also add to its distinctive flavor.

Corned beef begins with a cut such as beef brisket, rump or round that has been corned. Selecting a corned beef sourced from the rump or round will, of course, be a leaner, healthier choice.

Regardless, it will require a long, slow, moist cooking method (stove top, oven or slow cooker).

If an uncooked corned beef has a “use-by” date, store it in the refrigerator unopened until that date. However, to freeze an uncooked corned beef, drain off the brine and wrap it well before freezing for up to one month. The reason to drain the brine before freezing is to prevent altered flavor and texture as it encourages rancidity and texture changes.

After cooking, corned beef may be refrigerated for three to four days, or frozen for two to three months for best quality.

This is another example where cooking based on color doesn’t quite work.

Corned beef may still be pink even when it is done due to nitrites added in the curing process.

The preferred option to determine doneness is “fork tender” as well as a food thermometer indicating a minimum internal temperature of 145 F. Allow the meat to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing diagonally across the grain of the meat. For quick cooling. one can cut the large roast into several pieces or slice it. Place beef in small, shallow containers and cool promptly in the refrigerator. For uniform slices, refrigerate after cooking and skim off congealed fat before slicing. Reheat to 165 F.

If you haven’t tried cooking corned beef, here is one tasty, simple option.

Corned beef

5-pound corned beef roast

6 potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks

1 onion, cut into wedges

6 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch lengths

1 head cabbage, cut into eight wedges

Rinse meat under cool running water to remove excess salt. Trim off excess fat and place the corned beef in heavy pot, add enclosed spice packet and cover meat with water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 2 hours. Add vegetables and simmer another hour until vegetables are fork tender. If vegetables are done before the meat, remove from the pot and keep warm. The corned beef is done when it allows a thin, sharp knife or fork to pass into the center of the meat with little resistance (internal temperature 145 F). or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.