Ireland’s national dish of bacon and cabbage can be a sorry disappointment nowadays, partly because it is so difficult to get good-quality bacon with a decent bit of fat on it. Traditionally, the cabbage was always cooked in the bacon water. People could only hang one pot over the fire at a time, so when the bacon was almost cooked, they added the cabbage for the last 30 or 45 minutes of cooking. The bacon water gives a salty, unforgettable flavor, which many people, including me, still hanker for.
Serves 12 to 15
- 1 (about 7-pound) “collar bacon”—smoked pork shoulder (picnic shoulder)
- 1 Savoy or 2 pointed cabbages, cut into thin shreds
- 3 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the parsley sauce:
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- A few parsley stems
- 1 thyme sprig
- A few slices of carrot (optional)
- A few slices of onion (optional)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons roux
- 3/4 cup freshly chopped curly parsley
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a stock pot, cover the meat in cold water and slowly bring to a boil. If very salty, there will be a white froth on top of the water, in which case discard the water and start again. Cover with hot water, replace the lid, and simmer until almost cooked, 25 minutes per pound.
About 20 minutes before the end of cooking, add the shredded cabbage to the water in which the meat is boiling. Stir, cover, and continue to boil gently until both the cabbage and meat are tender, about 1 hour 45 minutes in total.
To make the parsley sauce, in a saucepan, combine the milk, herbs, and vegetables, if using. Bring the mixture to a simmer, season, and let simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Strain the milk, bring it back to a boil, and whisk in the roux until the sauce is a light coating consistency. Season again with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the chopped parsley and simmer on very low heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Season to taste.
Lift the meat onto a plate and remove the rind if desired. Strain the cabbage and discard the water (or, if it’s not too salty, reserve it for a tomato soup). Add the butter to the cabbage and season with lots of ground pepper. Serve the meat with the cabbage, parsley sauce, and some boiled floury potatoes.
Reprinted with permission from “Simply Delicious: The Classic Collection” by Darina Allen. Published by Kyle Books.