Feast on Homemade Corned Beef

In my grandfather’s day, you could get world-class corned beef from a half-dozen delis and meat markets up and down Delancey Street in New York City. But how did Irish corned beef get from the Emerald Isle to New York-style delicatessens?

Cooking authority Darina Allen says the Irish have been corning beef since the 11th century. The term “corned” comes from the medieval word for a large kernel of salt. The coarse rock salt used by butchers had grains roughly the size and shape of barleycorns, and these “corns of salt” gave rise to the name “corned beef.” The Irish mainly ate pork and mutton, reserving beef in all forms for special occasions. Though the English established huge cattle farms in Ireland when they conquered the nation in the 12th century, legislation in the 1660s forbade the export of live Irish cattle to England. Irish beef prices plummeted, forcing the nation’s meat merchants to salt-cure their surplus inventory to keep it from spoiling.

Irish corned beef became big business. It fed sailors in the Royal Navy, foot soldiers in Wellington’s army, and armies of slaves on Caribbean plantations. It was exported

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