Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. Many people, Irish or not, usually celebrate the holiday with a dinner that includes corned beef and cabbage. I thought it would be of interest to find out exactly what corned beef is and to look at the meal’s nutritional value.

Corning is a form of curing that has nothing to do with corn. The name comes from Anglo-Saxon times, long before refrigeration came into being, when meat was dry-cured in coarse “corns” of salt. Pellets of salt, some the size of kernels of corn, were rubbed into the beef to keep it from spoiling. Today, corned beef is made by brining, which has replaced the dry salt cure method. The name corned beef has stuck, rather than refer to it as “pickled” beef or “brined” beef. Common spices that give corned beef its flavor include peppercorns and bay leaf.

Corned beef is made from one of several less tender cuts of beef such as the brisket, rump or round. Therefore, it requires long, moist cooking. Keep food safety in mind when preparing corned beef. It can be cooked on top of the stove or in the oven, microwave or slow cooker. Corned beef may still be pink in color after cooking. This doesn’t mean it is not done. Nitrite is used in the curing process, which fixes pigment in the meat and affects the color.

A 2 ounce serving size of corned beef brisket or first cut corned beef provides 70 calories, 3 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 340 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of protein and 1 gram of total carbohydrate. Calorie-wise you save a little with a bottom round cut of corned beef. A 2 ounce serving size is 60 calories, 2 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 320 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of total carbohydrates and 9 grams of protein.

On a positive note, each serving of corned beef and cabbage provides 80 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A, which provides antioxidant benefits. A significant amount of vitamin C, another antioxidant, also is found in the combination. One serving contains 40 percent of the amount you need on a daily basis and helps to make collagen for your skin, blood vessels, ligaments and cartilage.

Corned beef and cabbage is a good source of the mineral iron. The high level of vitamin C in corned beef and cabbage helps your body absorb more of the iron from the food as well. Iron helps make up red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body.

Obviously because of the way corned beef is prepared it is high in sodium, so it is best to keep your portion of corned beef small and watch your intake of high sodium foods throughout the rest of the day. Be sure to drink lots of water.

And now for “not your typical Irish dessert” – which is definitely not low calorie, but a special treat.

Chocolate-Stout Cake with Guinness Whipped Cream

For the cake:

Butter, for greasing pan

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup Guinness stout

1 cup molasses

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

3 extra-large eggs

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

For the whipped cream:

2 cups heavy cream

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup Guinness.

1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt pan. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.

2. Pour the beer and molasses into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the baking soda. The mixture will rise and foam.

3. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs and two sugars until combined then add the oil. Whisk in a little of the beer mixture to temper the eggs, then whisk in the remaining mixture.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the liquid ingredients into the well, whisking slowly until just incorporated. Be careful not to overmix or the cake will be tough. Pour the batter in the pan and bake until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan, the top starts to crack and a cake tester comes out mostly clean when inserted in the middle, about 30 minutes. Cool cake on a wire rack, covered with a dry kitchen towel to keep it moist. After 30 minutes of cooling, invert onto a cake platter.

5. Make the whipped cream: Using a whisk, whip the cream until slightly thick. Add the sugar and Guinness and whip until peaks form. Serve each slice of cake with scoops of whipped cream. Cake adapted from “Sunday Suppers at Lucques” by Suzanne Goin.

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at or email her at