Holidays are an example of a “man-made” fluctuation in the market, and because they happen annually, it can be considered a cyclic change in the market. You’d think that knowing a lot of people wanting to make Corned Beef and Cabbage for St. Pat’s would drive the cost up, but luckily for us consumers, there’s good ol’ fashioned greed at play – everyone wants a piece of our corned beef dollar and that drives stiff competition. In some areas, the cost of corned beef drops even lower; here in the Twin Cities the lowest price I can find is $1.88.
But who wants stringy Corned Beef, mushy cabbage and waterlogged vegetables? Someone who was raised on it or has no choice but to throw everything in a crock pot and let it go all day. St. Paddy’s is on a weekend this year, so try my recipe: Treat your corned beef a little more carefully and slowly braise it, then add your vegetables at an appropriate time for a beautifully cooked meal.
As far as cost, this is an example where individual ingredients come out to play on more than one night: Yep, leftovers. The first meal costs more, but the subsequent ones are far less, so we get to take an average on the cost. You’ll need to put aside part of the meal for the leftovers; I generally do this in the kitchen – and that means smaller servings of the corned beef the first night. You’ll need enough thin slices for the Reuben sandwiches and a little bit leftover for the Corned Beef hash. I’m also counting on using one potato per person, with 4 leftover for potato cakes; if yours are smaller or you want to eat more, add more potatoes – that’s what good Irish cooks have done for centuries. Pick up Rye Bread or make Soda Bread (you can make for about 60 cents – but you’ll want to have an additional use for that buttermilk) and set aside enough for Reuben Sandwiches (or Reuben Panini) for the second meal and some toast for your Corned Beef Hash.
The cost for all three meals for 4 is $13.22, or an average of $4.41 each, so you have a little wiggle room for additions (like more potatoes, (ALWAYS my vote – besides, briskets shrink so much during cooking, you’ll probably want to be more generous with the potatoes) or a cheap vegetable – $1.78, exactly, if you want to stay under the $5.00 mark.
Meal 1: Corned Beef and Cabbage, serves 4, cost about $8.46
- 4 pounds Corned Beef Brisket, rinsed with the little packet discarded – when I was growing up, I never saw anyone cook Corned Beef and Cabbage without rinsing, and of course, there were no spice packets. If you love that pickled flavor, by all means, use the packet.
- 2 large onions, one peeled and studded with about 4 cloves, the other peeled and quartered through the root end
- 4 cloves
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 8 red potatoes (about 5 ounces each, more if smaller)
- 4 large carrots, scraped and cut into about 4 inch chunks
- 1/2 head of cabbage, quartered through the root end so it will remain intact
Put meat in Dutch oven with all ingredients except potatoes, carrots and cabbage. Cover with water just to the top of the corned beef and bring just to a boil, skimming off any foam. Immediately turn down and put on a lid and simmer very gently for an hour and a half. (When I say very gently, I mean a small bubble popping up here and there.) Put in vegetables and simmer gently another hour. (You may want to check the level of the cooking liquid during the long simmer.) Cut across the grain in thin slices.
The corned beef should be fork tender but not stringy and falling apart. Rest it for 15 to 20 minutes before cutting.
If you’d like, you can cook the corned beef till done, then remove it to rest, covered. Cut your vegetables into chunks (except cabbage, keep it quartered.) Add your vegetables to the pot, turn up the heat and simmer until they’re done. You can simmer them faster and have more room for more vegetables.
General rule of thumb for different weights: Cook 30, then an additional 30 minutes per pound. Smaller cuts may need slightly less time.
Reuben Sandwiches & Potato Cakes, serves 4 (see below for potato cakes), cost about $3.17 (not counting the corned beef; that cost was figured in the original corned beef recipe.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 8 slices rye bread
- 8 thin slices corned beef
- 4 slices Swiss cheese
- 1 cup sauerkraut, drained and lightly rinsed, if desired
- 1/2 cup Thousand Island dressing
Preheat a large skillet or griddle on medium heat. Lightly butter one side of bread slices and place on griddle. Add sliced corned beef, sauerkraut and swiss cheese. Spread non-buttered bread slices with Thousand Island dressing, place on top of the sandwiches on the griddle, Thousand Island side in. Butter the top of those slices after they’re in place. Grill slowly (so they will warm through) until golden brown and toasted, several minutes per side.
Corned Beef Hash, with Toast, serves 4, Cost: About $1.59 plus cost of Corned Beef; pricing included in the Corned Beef Recipe.
- 1 lb peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice, about 4 medium
- 1/2 to one cup corned beef pieces (should be small)
- 1 onion, chopped
- optional, but you may add any leftover cabbage and carrots from the corned beef dinner
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 large eggs (optional)
- 1/2 loaf of Rye
Cook potatoes in boiling salted water to cover until just tender, about 3 minutes, then drain, or use leftover potatoes.
Sauté onion in butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until the onion is translucent, several minutes. Add potatoes and corned beef, salt and pepper to taste.
Once combined, spread evenly over the pan and firmly press down with a spatula. Place a heavy lid, heatproof plate or second pan directly atop the hash and allow to cook until browned, approximately 5 minutes. Remove lid or plate and carefully turn and brown the other side. (I like to slide mine out on a plate and invert, or else I’ll cut into 4 servings and turn each over. I also don’t use the lid when I cook the second side.)
If desired, when turned, make 4 holes in hash and break 1 egg into each. Cook over moderately low heat, covered, 5 minutes, or until eggs are cooked to desired doneness, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle hash with parsley.
Money & Time Savings Strategies
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains.
If you need to cook this in a crock pot, throw everything together, set it on low and leave for six to nine hours, or cook the brisket, and then boil your potatoes, cabbage and carrots in the broth for about 30 minutes when you get home.
- Corned Beef: I’ve never seen it lower at any time of year except St. Paddy’s day. If your store is one that discounts their meat, it is possible that if they have too many leftover, you may find some marked even lower next week. None of the stores in my area tend to do that very often with any kind of meat or poultry. An average corned beef is 4 pounds: Cost $7.52
- Potatoes: I do generally shop at my neighborhood store for all my ingredients, Rainbow, but this week I know I’ll be going past Aldi’s, and I can’t pass up their 5 pounds of red potatoes for 89 cents. Here’s their shopping list this week from “Pocket Your Dollars.” I’ll probably buy more than one bag, since they store so well. I do buy a lot of the basic vegetables at Aldi’s – I go past one at least once a week, but I do check my regular store flier first – sometimes the sales price at my grocery store is less than at Aldi’s. I’ve also found that sometimes Aldi’s potatoes and sweet potatoes aren’t as uniform or perfect as the ones at my local grocery store. For the savings, I can deal with it. The rest of the vegetables all look the same as any vegetables anywhere. Cost for 12 potatoes (4 are for the corned beef hash): 68 cents.
- Onion: Another vegetable I’ll pick up at Aldi’s: 69 cents for two pounds, three onions are 30 cents.
- Cabbage: Priced at my store for 33 cents a head, Aldi’s price is 68 cents a head. This week, I’ll actually pick up two at my store – I’d pick up more if they didn’t take up so much fridge room! Cabbage is so good for you, we all should be eating more. I’ll use half in my corned beef & cabbage, slice a quarter for a bit of slaw, and slice another quarter for some Sesame Peanut Asian Noodles. (I’ll post that when I get a chance.) The other cabbage will keep for weeks, so I won’t worry about it now. Cost for Cabbage: 17 cents!
- Carrots: On sale for 68 cents a bag, again, I’ll pick up several bags since they store forever. I’ll use about 1/2 the bag in this recipe, so the cost is 34 cents.
- Rye Bread: On sale for $2.00 a loaf, an inexpensive substitute would be homemade Irish Soda Bread. I’ll save out 8 slices for Reuben sandwiches for our second meal.
- Cheese: You need Swiss to make a Rueben, and it’s not on sale this week, but I last bought 8 ounces for $1.49 on sale. I’ll use about half of it for the sandwiches, and then I’ll use the rest for snacks, a salad, or to make my Kinda Chicken Cordon Bleu. Cost for four sandwiches: $.75
- Sauerkraut: Bagged is always best, but expensive, and generally a large amount or a single serving – canned is generally around 97 cents. An elderly German relative told me to lightly rinse your sauerkraut, and sprinkle with a scant teaspoon of sugar. Cost of sauerkraut (I’ll count the whole can, because unless you really like sauerkraut and have another option for the leftovers (maybe on hot dogs or with sausages) we’ll use most of the can. 97 cents.
- Thousand Island Dressing: You do know this is basically the same as McDonald’s “special sauce,” right? I don’t buy it; we’d just end up throwing it out. When I was a teenager I worked in a Mom and Pop restaurant: Mix some Mayo in a bowl (three to four tablespoons) add a little ketchup until it’s pink, then add some sweet pickle relish or even chopped pickle. You can add onion, finely chopped, if you’d like. I hope you bought several jars of Mayo over the summer with coupons, enough to last through to May. If you didn’t last year, plan on doing it this year. Mayo is cheaper in the jars than the squeeze bottles, by the way; at least at our store the price is the same, but there are several ounces less in the squeeze bottles. (Plus I hate that you can’t get all the mayo out of the squeeze bottle!) Cost, about 6 cents.
- Butter: Watch for the good sales on butter now, prior to Easter, and freeze it. Watch, as well, for great prices on eggs and baking ingredients – not to mention Ham and specialty roasts and lamb. Last week, Rainbow had sales prices of $1.49 a pound with store coupon. Cost for two tablespoons to fry the sandwiches in and two tablespoons for the hash: 10 cents.
- Potato Cakes: I’ll be using the leftover potatoes from the Corned Beef and Cabbage. I like to mix them with an egg yolk (save that white to add to scrambled eggs or an omelet!), salt, pepper, perhaps some green onion (put the green onion whites into a small glass of water and let them reshoot.) Form into patties (add a little flour or bread crumbs if they aren’t sticking together) dust them with flour and fry in about a tablespoon or two of oil in a nonstick skillet. They’re very traditionally Irish. You can fancy them up as much as you’d like – look what Paula Dean does to her smashed potato cakes, or what her son, Bobby, does to his on “Not my Mama’s Meals.” The only additional cost is from the egg yolk, $.48 a dozen two weeks ago, an egg is 4 cents.
Rest to follow; we’ve some unexpected things come up this week, but hopefully I’ll be able to get out photos and update the nutritional information at a later date! Happy St. Paddy’s Day.