The art of pickling foods has been around for over 4000 years. The process has been instrumental in history by providing a way to preserve foods for longer periods of time yet also gives rich flavors to otherwise common foods. This cooking method allows for meats and/or vegetables to be eaten on long journeys. This was especially common during sea exploring days and/or times of war. During both World Wars, corned (or salted) beef that was then pickled was very popular because of both meat rationing and long months at sea.
Corned Beef made in Ireland was heavily traded from the 1600’s through the 1800’s. It was a high priced exported commodity that ironically not many Irish people were able to afford within their own country. Today, corned beef and cabbage are commonly associated with dinner served on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve read that this has become more of an Irish/American tradition than actually in Ireland itself.
Regardless of whether or not it is St. Patrick’s Day, this pickling spice recipe can be used year round in a variety of foods to add depth and flavor. Below are ideas for various recipes using the spice mix.
Irish Pickling Spice Mix
1T coriander seeds
1T dill seeds
2T whole mustard seeds
1T fennel seeds
2T allspice berries
1/2 stick of cinnamon
1T cardamom seeds
2T black peppercorns
1T dried ginger
6-8 bay leaves crushed
1t red chile flakes
This spices should not be ground, but mixed as whole seeds and/or crushed leaves. Combine the spices and use on a variety of foods. Store the mixture for up to 6 months in an air tight container when not in use.
Recipe Ideas for Irish Pickling Spice Mix
Corned Beef and Beef Brisket – Today it is easy enough to head to your local grocery store and pick up a beef brisket that has already been corned. Many corned beef packages come with some pickling spices, but there is never enough! So, create your own spice mix following the recipe above, then drop the corned beef and/or brisket into a large pot of water and add the Irish pickling mix. Boil for several hours to have the beef soak up the delicious flavors. If you are so inclined to also corn your own beef, there are many recipes online to help you in that process.
Cabbage, Onions, Carrots, Potatoes – Pickling vegetables like cabbage, onions, carrots and potatoes with the Irish pickling spices will add a rich flavor to these somewhat generic vegetables. They can be served with a meat or fish and be the perfect comfort food on a cold winter day.
Fish – Pickled fish (using the spice mix above) is a delicious alternative to preparing fish. Once pickled, you can serve the fish as part of an appetizer, or main course.