Why Do We Eat Corned Beef on St. Patrick’s Day?

(Last Updated On: March 17, 2017)
Sy Ginsberg’s Corned Beef. A Michigan made product.

Food traditions in this country can be funny. We often associate food with difference countries with a certain type of food. Often that food isn’t actually consumed in that country and in some case no one has ever heard of it. I watched a documentary on Netflix on General Tso’s Chicken. They went to China and people did not even recognize the dish. Here in America we associate that instantaneously with Chinese cuisine. As today is March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day that brought me to the question about the meal that we most associate with this day – corned beef.

Why Do We Eat Corned Beef on St. Patrick’s Day?

Corned beef has become the traditional dish to enjoy each St. Patrick’s Day. The question is why? You might assume because that is what they eat in Ireland on this day. But the truth is eating corned beef on St. Patty’s Day is as American as apple pie. Beef was only eaten by the rich in Ireland. The corned beef tradition began when Irish people moved to the United States, particularly New York City. They were looking for a substitute for bacon joint, back bacon, or back rasher. True back bacon contains part pork loin and part pork belly (where we think of when we think of bacon). You can find Irish bacon in stores. It usually just meat from the loin and is the same thing as Canadian bacon. You can also look for peameal bacon. It is leaner than pork belly bacon and was originally rolled in crushed yellow peas but now normally just yellow cornmeal. You can use it or Canadian bacon as a sub for traditionally Irish back bacon.

How Corned Beef Became Associated with St. Patrick’s Day

Back to the story, when people from Ireland came over to our side of the pond, beef was more affordable and as I said their back bacon was hard to come by. So they treated the beef as they would have their back bacon. Over time this started becoming a traditional meal on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s still not popular in Ireland. The only places you will find serving up corned beef in Ireland today are those places that are catering to American tourists, who think they are having an authentic Irish meal. Don’t let this information stop you from enjoying your corned beef. It still is a tradition, an American tradition. It’s fun to be authentic but it won’t ruin your day if opt for American traditions. You can even enjoy some stereotypical shamrock cookies (like these ones!)