Why is New England Boiled Dinner a Tradition?

New England boiled dinner is a huge tradition on St. Patrick’s Day for Irish and non-Irish alike.  It’s simpler term is ‘Corned Beef and Cabbage’.  The meal consists of corned beef, cabbage, and other variations of vegetables; most common being carrots, potato and white turnips.

Ireland produced a lot of the meat in the Atlantic trade from cattle and became half of Ireland’s exports in the late 1600’s.  Most people in Ireland did not eat the beef product because it was too expensive, or more valuable to export.  Ironically, corned beef was looked down upon in the (now US) colonies because it was associated with poverty and ‘slave food’.


American families all have their own recipes and traditions with regard to preparing their boiled dinner.  Aside from cutting up the vegetables, the meal is quite simple to make.  Some serve it with mustard and others with vinegar.  Some boil in beer and others water or variation of the two.  The meal takes all day to make and will make your whole house smell all day, so that smell is clearly associated with the holiday.

Though people who like boiled dinner tend to love boiled dinner, it’s not usually served any other day of the year.

My family boils our dinner in equal parts water and beer on a slow heat and includes: corned beef, carrots, unpeeled potatoes and cabbage.  I, for one, can not get enough!  I always have big plans for corned beef sandwiches the rest of the week but that rarely happens because it’s all gone in a fraction of the time it takes to prepare.

So we must know, how do you prepare your boiled dinner?  Will you be making it over the weekend or eating on the 17th?

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