What’s the big hairy fascination with Jiggs dinner and how come the minute Sunday hits, it’s the one thing that pops into your mind and you think, hmmm, I wonder is Mom cooking that?
Could it be the long steeped Newfoundland Sunday tradition, or the thought of being home, or the massive plate of grub that pours over the side of your plate, (enough to keep you going for a week)? Or maybe it’s the variety of dishes that Jiggs has to offer? Or could it be true that it “cures what ails ya” on a foggy ole’ day?
Whatever it is, it’s got a massive appeal, and it’s as rooted in the genes of our people, as the rock island that we live on.
Jiggs dinner has always been a dinner from the outport (rural) Newfoundland communities but became commonplace in St. John’s, the capital city as well. It can be called boiled dinner, cooked dinner or Sunday dinner or of course, Jigg’s Dinner (Jigg’s for short).
The name Jiggs came from an Irish immigrant living in America who regularly ate corned beef and cabbage, which was the foundation of the dish. As many people in Newfoundland have an Irish heritage, the food and culture came with the Irish Celtic ancestry and had evolved into a mighty feast and fare. Jiggs is the king of meals set in the traditions of all that is Irish-Newfoundland.
With the harsh cold winters of Newfoundland to withstand, and without refrigeration back in the day, meats were salted and pickled to keep them safe for consumption. That’s how Jiggs started with salt meat. It’s trimmed naval beef or short ribs which come from pork. All the vegetables get cooked with the salt meat giving them extra salty flavour. So good in fact, that you’re bound to get the body salt-puff for a day or so. (Go on by’e its only water)
As if Salt Beef, Potatoes, Cabbage, Carrot and a bag of Peas Pudding wasn’t enough, like most Sunday traditions, a roast Turkey is served with Jiggs Dinner. Then to add to the table, there’s pickled beets and sweet mustard pickles that get slathered over the top. Oh and then there’s Gravy too – if you’re lucky, you’ll get Figgy Duff to top it off. (A molasses steamed pudding that looks like dumplings). And after that, there’s Red Rose Tea and perhaps a Blueberry Crumble or Bake-Apple Pie. Oh my, I could dive into that right now.
Over the years, because mums are more of the working class in the last few decades, Jigg’s is becoming less of a household Sunday affair. Supporting Jigg’s lovers, some progressive local restaurants have picked up the slack, and none have become more famous than in the Celtic Hearth Sunday Jiggs Brunch.
The Celtic Hearth is a snuggly warm getaway in the heart of downtown St. John’s that serves a 10 + course Jigg’s Dinner, unlike anything you’ve had before.
The Jigg’s adventure at the Celtic Hearth starts with an open salad bar. But really who want’s that when you can dive into appetizers like Cod Au Gratin or traditional Sheppard’s Pie. Then it’s onto the Jiggs (Salt Beef and Veg), then it’s onto the Turkey Dinner, and all the fixings topped off with the best friggin’ gravy around.
By the time you get all that on your plate, you have one motha’ load of a heaping helping of all that is amazing about Newfoundland cooking.
I dare you to eat the whole thing!
2 lbs Salt Beef or Corned Beef Brisket cubed or chunked
1 medium turnip
1 lb or 500 g carrots
1 lb or 500 g cabbage or 1 head of cabbage quartered
2¼ lbs or 1 kg potatoes peeled
4 oz or 125 g dried peas, soaked overnight in cold water
Salt and pepper to taste
Some people start by soaking their salt beef the night before to ensure it’s not too salty when it’s time for cooking the vegetables. And they may even empty the salty water (known as juice) after boiling and start with fresh water again to lessen the salt.
Alternatively, you can place the water in a large pot (big enough to hold all your veggies) over medium-high heat and boil the meat along with a small amount of salt pork for 45 minutes or longer. While all of that is boiling away on the stove, prepare your veggies.
Each vegetable takes a different amount of time to cook, so cut them in such a way that they can boil together without overcooking. Cut your turnip in small pieces. Peel the carrots and potatoes and cut into medium-sized pieces. Cut the cabbage into large pieces. Add the vegetables to the pot in this specific order to ensure you don’t over or undercook. Begin with turnips, then the carrots and the cabbage and lastly the potatoes, allowing 15 minutes between each vegetable. Cook until the potatoes are soft (but not falling apart).
The highlight of Jiggs for many is Pease Pudding. Pease pudding, also known as pease pottage or pease porridge, is a savoury pudding dish made of boiled Peas. In Newfoundland typically we use split yellow or Carlin peas. Take a cup of peas and place them in a cloth and tie them with a string and hang in the pot to cook – before the vegetables are added.
Ideally, the turnips, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, and pease should come directly from somebody’s garden or root cellar and be washed by hand before peeling.
Local, organic veggies are the best if you can get them.
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