Bacon Two Ways. Cooking up a St. Patrick’s Day Tradition.

Bacon and cabbage (12 of 12)St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. It’s a little known fact outside Ireland that we short-of-stature and long-on-wit exchange gifts in advance of World Day of Drunkenness. I was lucky enough to be brought within the scope of benevolence of Pat Whelan, master butcher, advisor and innovator in all things meat related. This led to my cooking the internationally famous, traditional Irish staple of Bacon and Cabbage. But, I couldn’t leave it there. I had to put a modern twist on it. Hence, Bacon and Cabbage Two Ways. Sticking strictly with tradition, I served it with parsley sauce and floury potatoes. Also, with a ring of irony to it, I served it with a big dollop of English mustard. 

I was very happy with this ingredients shot - Taken standing on a chair in the kitchen.

I was very happy with this ingredients shot – Taken standing on a chair in the kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • Cured loin of bacon, prepared bone-in for flavour.
  • Cured belly of bacon.
  • Potatoes
  • Cabbages (2)
  • A very big handful of parsley
  • 1 pint of milk
  • 1 generous knob of butter
  • 1 dessert spoon of flour
  • English mustard powder.

Not many people know this. When St. Patrick was working as a shepherd near Tara in County Meath, he stole pigs from a local farm, butchered and salted them. He then cooked them wrapped in the outer leaves of the now extinct giant wild Irish cabbage. He paid for his return ferry trip to Wales with the proceeds. He even had the temerity to hide all the snakes of Ireland in the back of his wagon. This is in fact how St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland and invented Bacon and Cabbage. The parsley sauce and mustard are a modern addition to this uniquely Irish dish. 

Side note on making mustard: Make your own from mustard powder. Anything else tends to be mustard flavoured sauce. These are generally a poor imitation of the real thing. They will bring a tear of regret rather than a tear of sinus burn to you eye. The real stuff doing the opposite. Painful, but fantastic. 

To give this dish a modern twist, I cooked the bacon loin sous vide. That is I took it out of its vacuum sealed plastic bag, vacuum sealed it in another plastic bag and cooked it for three hours at 62ºC.

Yes, I unsealed it. Poked about with it and sealed it again, as one does.

Yes, I unsealed it. Poked about with it and sealed it again, as one does.

To stick with the traditional, I baked the cured pork belly in a tin-foil tent in a moderate 160ºC oven for 90 minutes.

There is very good reason to use the foil.

There is very good reason to use the foil.

I chopped the cabbage and, maintaining as much tradition as possible, I boiled it in water.

Lots of cabbage for a good St Patrick's Day look to things.

Lots of cabbage for a good St Patrick’s Day look to things.

I then put the milk, butter and flour into a saucepan over a moderate heat. I stirred until the white sauce cooked. I then chopped and added the parsley.

When I say a big handful, I mean a BIG handful of parsley.

When I say a big handful, I mean a BIG handful of parsley.

When everything was cooked I drained the cabbage and added the bacon juice from the tinfoil tent.

Don't pour off that beautiful bacon juice.

Don’t pour off that beautiful bacon juice. Perfect in the cabbage.

The bacon loin was cooked to perfection. It carved beautifully.

Traditional Irish bacon cooked in a modern way.

Traditional Irish bacon cooked in a modern way.

Next, carve the bacon belly into strips.

A very different texture to the loin. Very flavoursome.

A very different texture to the loin. Very flavoursome.

Assemble the two kinds of meat, potatoes and cabbage on plates. Pour over the parsley sauce.

Pour on lots of parsley sauce. You will be nearer to heaven.

Pour on lots of parsley sauce. You will be nearer to heaven.

Have an excellent St. Patrick’s Day, whether you spend it part comatose from green beer in a New York gutter or sitting with family and friends, enjoying this most excellent non traditional, yet truly traditional and authentic (of course it is!) Irish St. Patrick’s Day dish.

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  • I’m sure St. Patrick would be proud of your dish, especially with two types of bacon 😉

    • Thanks MD. I just thought we had to do something to promote one of the few ‘Irish’ dishes that stand out from the crowd.

  • Very tempting!

    • Thanks Karinna,
      It was a fantastic early St. Patrick’s Day celebration for us.

  • Oh, this is WAAAYY so enticing!

    • Thanks. Well worth the bit of multi-cooking effort. Lovely tasty bacon.

  • Fabulous ingredients, Conor. I’m making porter cake this weekend in celebration. Though I hope we smash you in the rugby. Unfortunately I’m cycling so can’t actually watch it :(. Distraught.

    • The rugby has us all in a state of angst. It should be the match of the championship. You guys have home advantage and an immensely strong back line. We have an improving forward set with real power and ball carrying capacity. It should be a cracker.
      I’ll be out on the bike on Sunday. I have committed to doing Paris toNice in September. Lots of training needed.
      Porter cake sounds particularly appropriate to the day that’s in it.
      Happy St.Patrick’s Day!
      Conor

      • Thanks for the advance notice! Paris > Nice put down in the Diary: sometimes watch, sometimes not – this year for certain 🙂 !

        • Hi Eha,
          Not that P2N! I am probably 30 years too old to compete. This is far more sedate. Though, I intend doing Mont Ventoux on the way.

        • Oh, and there I was hoping !! Well, take it as a compliment 🙂 ! Mont Ventoux will be an accomplishment to remember: good training meanwhile!!!!!

  • Another winner. Have a great St. Patrick’s Day, Conor.

  • I can almost taste that from here. Makes me wish I was back in Dublin. Have a great St Patrick’s Day and raise a glass of something suitable for me. Lx

    • I have no idea what I’ll be doing on St.Patrick’s Day. Since the kids are now adults, the need to attend the parade is part of history. Perhaps a whiskey by the fire?

  • Very nice mix of tradition and innovation, Conor. Have a great St. Patrick’s Day!

    • Thanks Stefan,
      Looking forward to the day off, if truth were told. We are mad busy at present.
      Have a good one,
      Conor

      • Did you get my e-mail about coming over for seafood & wine? I’d like to set the dates this weekend.

        • I did. I will reply by mail. Things a bit hectic.

  • What a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Your parsley sauce adds makes the meal perfect. Be careful not to fall off the chair when taken such a gorgeous photo.

    • Thanks Gerlinde,
      If I stay off the Guinness, I’ll be fine!
      Best,
      C

  • Just the other day I was wondering what I could make (blog-worthy) for a St. Patrick’s Day meal that I actually like. I always see corned beef and cabbage or Shepard’s pie recipes everywhere this time of year and I just don’t want that. I thought of you and just knew you could answer my question. Funny, I didn’t even have to ask. I enjoyed the tidbit of information about St. Patrick and his pigs. What a little thief!

    • He was not the Saint that they have him in his press releases.

  • Bacon makes everything better!
    I think that the sous vide has changed your life.
    I am going to have a low-key St. Patty’s day with some corned beef and cabbage. Like New Year’s Eve, this is a day when all the amateur drinkers are out. I graduated to the big leagues years ago.

    • I like your style. I never looked at drinking as an organised sport. Over here, while there are a lot of us at it, it tends to be very unruly and without a referee.

  • Dear good lord Conor, this makes me want to swear out loud.Rain, hail or shine I am going to make this for St. Patrick’s Day… and then go and steal all of the snakes! 🙂

    • Excellent. Your comments always make me smile. Perhaps you could do something about those toads you have down there? A bigger menace than the snakes, I hear.

  • I can’t tell you how many pictures I’ve taken of food while standing on a chair! (On particularly lazy days I’ve gone so far as to instead put the food on the floor! The dog goes outside for those shots.) Your Bacon Two Ways has me drooling, by the way. Very nice!

    • I should have added that that lot was on the floor. The hound in this house is better behaved than yours. She stays in her bed, watching me as if I were mad. She may be on to something.

  • I fully intended to come away from reading this post with a new appreciation for bacon, Conor, but I’m afraid I ruined everything by being gobsmacked at your mustard revelation. I’m going straight out to replenish the powder in the morning. I do hope this doesn’t get me thrown out of the country for Paddy’s Day. I might go into exile out west just in case.

    • It really does prove that we are a very tolerant race, open of heart and generous of spirit. It’s either that or it goes very well with the bacon….

  • I shall be mournfully wishing for bacon and cabbage whilst heading south on the back of a motorbike. I know what St Patrick did with all those snakes… He sent them to Australia, along with everyone else’s poisonous spiders, jellyfish and toads. I will also politely refrain from mentioning rugby…

    • Don’t mention the rugby today. Those Welsh coal miners dug deep.

  • I look forward to your St. P’s day post every year. You’ve never let me down! So glad I now know the real story. 😉

    • There are so many stories out there Michelle, it’s my duty to get the truth out there (play X Files music. Fade under).

  • It’s been a while since I made a cabbage dish…looks delicious! I’m inspired…perhaps not to make this exact dish but to make something cabbage-related. Thanks!

    • Plenty of Vitamin B. Nothing beats a cabbage type dish for St. Patrick’s Day.

      • Great fun fact! Thanks for the reminder and inspiration. Picking some up tmrw!

  • That looks so lovely, but my favorite part? That you didn’t waste those juices and poured them over the cabbage! 🙂 Oh, and the Coleman’s. I love the kick it has. Funny, we were taught in school all about St. Patrick, but so nice to get the real story from a real Irishman!

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🙂

    • One does have to be careful not to believe some of the misinformation out there about St. Patrick.

      • lol – one should use a bit of discernment concerning legends and Saints, and Bacon & Cabbage as well, it seems.

        • All you need to do is trust your source…
          Happy St. Patrick’s Day,
          Conor

  • I wish I could sit at your table and experience a real and very traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal. I usually make corned beef and cabbage but this year I’m traveling and will have to forgo my usual tradition.

    • A change is as good as a rest, as they say.
      Happy St.Patrick’s Day Karen.

  • Thanks – Have just committed that Parsely-Bechamel sauce idea to memory for future use. In the states, St Patrick’s is another excuse for a pub crawl (as if they needed one). I generally hide indoors until its over.

    • Not a bad strategy. I’ll take the bike up the mountains in the AM. It’s indoors for me too after that.

  • Looks amazing Conor. Haha, as I read this I am wearing green and sitting in an office full of likeminded green people. This is how Australians celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Afterwards I shall go to the pub for a pint… but at least I’m making a proper beef and Guinness pie.
    I think very few of us know the actual significance of St Patrick’s Day and the fact that it’s not just created to popularise shamrocks. Thanks for letting us in on the significance of the occasion for your family and for ‘real’ Irish!! Your bacon dish and all the trimmings look absolutely delicious!

    • Thanks Laura. I have a mental picture of you. Enjoy the pint and the stew.
      Happy St. Patrick’s Day,
      Conor

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