Traditional Irish Recipe – Bacon and Cabbage


You might be thinking, “Shouldn’t this be Corned Beef?” Indeed, it should not. Bacon (pork) was the most readily available meat in Ireland for centuries. Cattle were prized for their dairy products rather than their beef and sheep were used for their wool. Pork could be cured by local farmers, who also grew their own vegetables. Pork and cabbage were simmered together for a long time in a large pot and the two tastes merged. Potatoes in their skins were always cooked separately.

Nowadays we like cooking our vegetables more quickly, so the cabbage for the dish is usually boiled just before the meal. However, if some of the bacon water is used for this, we have the authentic bacon and cabbage taste.


  • 2 lb lean bacon (pork belly including the rind or a boiling ham)
  • 1 head chopped cabbage, chopped roughly
  • browned breadcrumbs


Place bacon in pot (you can add 10 cloves and a chopped onion if you wish) and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and skim the white scum off the top. Simmer gently for about 1 1/2 hours. When tender, keep the bacon in a warm place in its water.

Take 1/2 cup of the bacon water and the same amount of water and bring to a boil. Throw in the cabbage and cook it quickly (about 10 minutes) until the cabbage is tender. Drain well.

(If you wish to have potatoes as a side, boil 4 lbs of them in the bacon liquid for approximately 30 minutes. You can then add the cabbage to the water, cover and cook for a further 10 minutes until the cabbage is tender.)

Sprinkle the bacon with browned breadcrumbs and serve everything very hot with parsley sauce.


Parsley Sauce

This simple but popular sauce is relished with boiled bacon or boiled salt beef. The good taste of the sauce depends on using parsley lavishly. For family meals, there’s no need to cop finely. Just snip the parsley with scissors; it’s much quicker.


  • 3 3/4 tsp parsley, chopped roughly
  • 1/4 stick butter or margering
  • 2 tbs plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt


Keeping the chopped parsley beside you, melt the butter gently in a saucepan. Add the flour and mix to a smooth paste.
Add the milk very gradually, stirring carefully all the time. Add the salt.
As soon as the sauce starts to simmer, add 3/4 of the parsley and cook for several minutes. The mixture should become thick but pourable.
Add the rest of the parsley, stir, and pour into a very hot sauceboat. Serve at once.


My wife and I will be giving this a try today, in honor of tomorrow’s celebration. I hope you’ll try it too!

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