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St. Patrick’s Day is this Wednesday. If you’re like me (by the way, despite the Duffy name, I am ‘Irish’ only by marriage!) you save that corned beef & cabbage dinner for this one special day a year. After a year, I always forget how to cook it, but I always go back to my favorite recipe – New England style with extra vegetables (you could add more veggies if you’d like, such as turnips and parsnips) -- that never fails to get rave reviews from my real Irish husband.

New England Boiled Dinner
Adapted from “The Nine Seasons Cookbook” by Pat Haley

4-5 pound corned brisket of beef
Cold water
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
8 carrots, peeled
8 potatoes, peeled
2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters
1 small head green cabbage, cut into quarters

Cover the beef with cold water and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out the excess salt. Remove beef and discard the water. Place the beef in a large pot and cover with fresh cold water. Add the basil, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Skim the fat from the surface as necessary.*** Cook gently for 3-4 hours until the beef is fork-tender.

About 30 minutes before serving, add all the vegetables, except the cabbage. Add the cabbage 15 minutes before serving. Turn up the heat when adding the vegetables so that the broth is boiling. Turn down the heat to a simmer once broth boils. To serve, place the beef on a large platter and surround with the vegetables. Traditional accompaniments to a boiled dinner are pickled beets, mustard pickles and corn


Here’s advice on boiling meats from the 1845 cookbook by Esther Allen Howard entitled: “The New England Economic Housekeeper”:

“(Boiling meats) is the most simple of culinary processes (but is not often) performed in perfection. It does not require so much nicety and attention as roasting. To skim the pot well and keep it really boiling (the slower the better) all the while…and take it up at the critical moment when it is done enough, comprehends the whole art and mystery. This, however, demands a patient and perpetual vigilance, of which few persons are capable.”

(…If Esther has not put you off & made you feel not up to the task of making a simple corned beef dinner…read on…. )

“…when the pot is coming to a boil, there will always, from the cleanest of meats and the cleanest of water, rise a scum to the top of it. Proceeding partly from the water; this must be carefully taken off as soon as it rises…the oftener it is skimmed and the cleaner the top of the water is kept the sweeter the meat.”

(Sounds unappetizing, but it's good advice!)

Many thanks to the Historic Cookbook Project, which makes available many very interesting (and amusing) old cookbooks on the web at

Marcia Passos Duffy is a freelance writer and the publisher and editor of The Heart of New England online magazine and e-newsletter, which celebrate the unique character of Northern New England. Original stories written by New Englanders on food, travel, gardening, the arts and more. Visit our free online magazine at and subscribe to our companion newsletter by sending a blank e-mail to: [email protected], for recipes, bed & breakfast specials and more!

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Guess what I have cooking in the crockpot right now?????;) My house smells divine and I can't wait for dinner tonight!!!
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