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irish vs. jewish corned beef

Anyone know the particular differences between Irish and Jewish corned beef?
I've been thinking about this subject for a while, and owuld even love to read a history of corned beef if one were available, but I regularly wonder why the dish is served either by Irish or Jewish folks...how did that confluence come about?

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  1. Well, corned beef was historically not an important part of the diet in Ireland at all; cattle in Ireland were much more important for dairy (for poor folk, buttermilk) that for eating flesh.
    Thus, corned pork, if any corned mammal flesh was to be had, was the thing in Ireland (pigs being much cheaper than cattle to use for flesh eating). Corned beef was an adaptation in the US to the relative abundance of cheap beef (corned beef and cabbage is a distant derivative of genuine Irish vernacular cuisine, which btw is quite wonderful).

    I cannot speak to the Jewish (central or eastern European) tradition in this regard.

    1. The link on wikipedia:

      explains the link between Irish settlers and their Jewish neighbours in the lower east side of New York

      1. The tradition is shared because (I've been told) the Irish are one of the ten lost tribes of Israel.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Gary Soup

          ...and here I always thought (HOPED) [WISHED] {PRAYED} it was the Chinese!!!!!

          1. re: ChowFun_derek

            I have heard about many nations being one of the possible lost 10 tribes. Including China!

          2. re: Gary Soup

            In one of the Father Blackie Ryan novels, he states, "The Jews and the Irish do not share a heritage, but they do share a psychosis."

            1. re: Fydeaux

              That makes less than no sense to my mind...Italians and Jews...yes .. Aggita (sp) and tsuris, family, food....
              Chinese..... food, education, extended international families, ancient history etc.
              Irish...food... not really, alcohol, nope, dancing without gesticulating arms..nope
              psychosis...psychotic....don't see it....reviving a dead language, maybe...

                1. re: Siobhan

                  No, as my grandmother would say, the Irish, the Jews, the Poles and the Armenians were obviously beloved of God.

                  The old saw is that where the Jews have guilt, the Irish have shame.

                  Both have great vernacular music traditions, which along with African-Americans helped create American popular music. (Btw, step-dancing is hardly the only form of Irish dancing; Celtic peoples are as musical a people as many sub-Saharan African peoples in the sense that the very being is infused with musical sensibility).

                  And real Irish foods can be marvelous; it's just rare in the US.

                2. re: ChowFun_derek

                  I would have to say that Jews and the Irish are diametrically opposed when it comes to their psychosis. Suffering and oppression do not a common culture make. Italians and Jews, on the other hand, are really very similar. At least in NYC. :)

                  1. re: fara

                    I couldn't agree more with Fara--polar opposites. And I think that I can speak definitively on this subject, as I am half-Irish and half-Jewish... There's just no reconciling the two.

                    And I am living far, far from any of my corned beef bretheren. I must learn to make my own this year.

                    1. re: butterfly

                      You poor baby on both counts...must be like a total internal 'war'...but you do get to create a corned beef and cabbage on rye sandwich!!!

                      1. re: butterfly

                        Hey, everyone: it was just a line from a novel that I read, not a serious socio/anthropological study. Here's another one, paraphrased because I dont recall the exact wording, from a novel about medical students called THE HOUSE OF GOD: "The Jews and the Irish are similar in their strong attachment to the family unit and the concomitant f**ked up nature of their lives."

                        In Sunday School back in the early 60s, I remember learning that the Lord Mayor of Dublin was Jewish, and that after Israel and New York City, Dublin had the largest Jewish community anywhere (I dont know if this is true or not; my Sunday School teachers were occasionally given to hyperbole).

                        [Does anyone else remember a Saturday Night Live routine which had the cast all using Irish accents rhapsodising about how fine the Purim parade was? Is it just coincidence that Purim and St Pat's Day often fall in such close proximity?]

                        No matter. Being a midwestern Jew married to a woman of Irish/Scottish/British descent, I am always happy to wash down my corned beef on rye with a Harp.

                        1. re: Fydeaux

                          > Dublin had the largest Jewish community anywhere

                          That must have been a joke. Ireland has never had a Jewish population of more than 6000 (just after WWII).

                          I now live in Spain and get my Ashkenazi Jewish food needs met by Argentine expats (and do they ever make some good streudel!). How is that for confused?

                          1. re: Fydeaux

                            In the New York St. Paddy's Day parade the "Yiddish Sons of Erin" always had a float with the jewish colleen Queen Esther (beauty Queen)..
                            ps, I think the second quote is a big crock too..."noncomotant nature of their lives"....wrong!!!
                            Was that a "David's Harp"???

                          2. re: butterfly

                            I know two full-fledged Irish Jews. I think they will beg to differ!

                          3. re: fara

                            As a Born.New Yorker..I couldn't agree with your assessment more!
                            Italians and Jews...like twins separated at birth!!

                    2. One of the quicke differences I've noticed-

                      Irish-Style Corned Beef typically is both the flat brisket and the slab of muscle across the top (dickle). It is great for slicing thick because of the different muscle textures and decent fat quanity.

                      Jewish-Style Corned beef is usually just the flat brisket.- once brined and clow cooked, it is lean and easy to slice thinly- all the muscle fibers go the same direction.

                      Other than that- if the animal was slaughtered Kosher- the process (pickling spices, braising and/or slow roasting) are usually the same.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: lunchbox

                        that's definitely something i've noticed in general too - it's exaclty these kinds of things that i'm trying to organize in my understanding - thanks!

                      2. the main difference is sodium nitrate. that's what causes it to be pink. most 'irish' ones have it. not sure if it's kosher or not. it's not a requirement or anything for it to be irish, but in today's classifications, it's the most common distinction.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: ashwood

                          Both have it in the supermarkets here in
                          SF..ie. Shensons,...then again maybe Shensons is just kosher style....

                          1. re: ashwood

                            Actually, for Irish-American corned beef in the Boston area, no nitrates has historically been the norm. Gray corned beef. Tastes beefier that way. Better texture, too. Can still find it in more locally oriented markets.

                            1. re: Karl S

                              Yup- I grew up in a secnd generation Irish household in the Boston area, and we always had gray corned beef. Still love it! My mom and grandmother used to get the corned ribs to cook with it. Can still find them at local stores around St Patrick's day. I have actually never cooked a Jewish style corned beef- only had it on sandwiches. I will sy it is hard to find good deli style corned beef in the area.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                my mom used to make corned beef w/o nitrates and it was somewhere inbetween grey and red.
                                are you saying that you think it's hard to keep it red w/o nitrates?

                            2. it's impossible to keep it red w/out nitrates. but i suspect that the actual distinction, orriginally, is than jewish beef would be.... smoked, i believe?.... something like that. I remember that jewish corned beef and pastrami came from south eastern europe, when before they immigrated, jews and christians were the ones who brewed the alcohol for the inns in these areas, because other religious groups were unable to(such as muslims). The preserving of beef was part of the job discription. don't remember what actually differed about the process though. also of note, corned beef can be either dry cured, as in a salt rub, or wet cured, as in a brine. That might also have something to do with it, but I would be unsure as to which is which.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: ashwood

                                I think Jewish corned beef is just salt cured....Pastrami is smoked (and salt cured also I guess)........"basturma" ....pastramis progenitor is from Turkey coming through Romania...

                                1. re: ashwood

                                  Yes, the sodium nitrite is the only way to preserve the red color. Pastrami is just corned beef that is seasoned and smoked.

                                  I've heard that true corned beef connoisseurs consider the salt-cured (no sodium nitrite) corned beef superior in flavor although it is gray. I've only had the pink/red kind, but I'm very interested in making corned beef with plain salt.

                                  1. re: DamnAvocado

                                    My mother-in-law buys the brisket pickled and boils it herself. It comes out pinkish red.

                                2. According to Alton Brown's Good Eats program the traditional dish in Ireland was bacon back with cabbage. When the Irish immigrants came to America it wasn't as easy to find the bacon back so they looked for a good alternative.

                                  They found one with their new Jewish neighbors in the cities with Corned Beef. Corned beef can be considered Kosher since it is the beef brisket (front chest muscle) and therefore is not connected at all to the sciatic nerve. The Jews had been making corned beef for ages and the Irish Immigrants found that they could get the corned beef cheaply and it was readily available.

                                  The Irish eventually adapted it and it became a customary part of the diet for Irish Americans but you wouldn't find it in Ireland due to the fact that the salt and beef would have been too expensive to become a staple of the diet back in Ireland.

                                  Corned beef is a Jewish thing that the Irish adapted to so Irish Corned beef is just the corned beef that the Irish bought from the Jews and boiled it instead of putting it on rye bread.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: tyrusg

                                    Damn right tyrusg! As an Irish person living in Ireland I have never ever had corned beef. In fact I had a conversation with my aunty today regarding sending cattle to market for meat and it was frowned upon in as recent times as the '50s and '60s so lets assume cattle were not for eating around the time of the big migration of Irish to America.
                                    The traditional Irish dish is salted pork with cabbage or turnip and potatoes. That is not to say the corned beef is not authentic from an Irish-American point of view, God knows maybe it is aspirational in that the Irish left behind would have loved to be eating corned beef so it would have been a big boast in the letters back home:-) Definately a more economic thing than a traditional Irish thing from back home.

                                    1. re: tyrusg

                                      Well, guys, according to another blog post, corned beef is actually Irish. Check out this comment about corned beef on "savethedeli":
                                      # EuroCuisineLady Says:
                                      March 15th, 2008 at 8:25 am

                                      Hi all!

                                      Just a note about the above article. Corned beef definitely is an Irish meat: it’s referred to in Irish-language poetry dating back to the 12th century. But corned beef and cabbage is correctly described as an Irish-(North-)American invention ..and your correspondents are probably also right about the Jewish connection as well: it makes sense.

                                      Our site’s been flying the flag on this issue for thirteen years now. Just drop by http://www.europeancuisines.com and put the words “corned beef” in the search box.

                                      Happy St. Patrick’s Day, all!

                                      1. re: rwilke

                                        Just to add to this, while a product similar to corned beef is mentioned in the 11th century Irish text, Aislinge meic Con Glinne, the actual term corned beef didn't appear until 1621 and was associated with mainland Europe (cheers to the OED).

                                        While beef was cured in Cork, most heavily during the 17th century until 1825, very little of it stayed in Ireland. So while product similar to corned beef was produced in Ireland, it had little to do with the diet or culture of the Irish. That being said, most dictionaries of food view salting meat as something that happened in a variety of cultures independently. By the time the Irish and the Jewish met in New York, there may not have been much cross pollination that needed to happen.

                                    2. Not entirely on topic, but there's a variation of the bacon/corned beef and cabbage theme that's become popular in Hawaii. Kalua pig and cabbage. Kalua pig is a whole hog cooked (until falling-apart tender) in an earth oven. Normally seasoned with lots of salt and chili peppers. The dish is a combination of shredded kalua pork and cabbage stewed together. It turns up in plate lunches, normally served with two scoops of rice.

                                      1. my understanding is that jewish corned beef has garlic. irish does not