Saltjunk Dinner (alias Jigg’s Dinner)
The History of Salt Junk
This dish is also known as Boiled Dinner, Salt Meat Dinner, Sunday Dinner, Cooked Dinner, Corned Beef & Cabbage and Jigg’s Dinner The name Jigg’s Dinner came from the comic strip created by George McManus “Bringing Up Father, it ran from 12 January 1913 to 28 May 2000. The comic book characters were known as Maggie & Jigg’s. Jigg’s got his corned beef and cabbage (not salt beef) at his favorite bar, Dinty Moore’s. In my home town, Cape St. George, most people referred to this meal either as “Salt Junk or Salt Meat Dinner”. Salt Junk got its name from the scrappy or pieces of meat that was either too fatty or not much meat on the bone.
There were two types of salt meat use for this dish; Salt Junk (Naval Beef) or Short Ribs. Don’t confuse Short Ribs with Spareribs or Riblets, Short Ribs are from beef and Spareribs or Riblets are from pork.
Before people bought this meat commercially, they preserved their own by heavily salting fresh meat over the fall for their winter season. The fresh meat was usually placed in build-in wooden containers (in their sheds) with a heavy salt concentration (rock salt) for approximately 3 to 4 weeks then transferred to little wooden barrels with added salt and sea water (know as brine or pickle). I have seen this done with mutton, beef, caribou, moose and pork.
The preparation and cooking of this meal was designed to either feed a lot of people and/or additional meals for throughout the week. Such as Hash, Soups (cabbage or pea) and Liquor (see Lost Recipes) to either soak your bread in, used to make gravies or pour this liquor over your vegetables. See recipes for Hash and Soups.
The preferred meat for this dish is Beef Short Ribs (contains less fat). Years ago we used Navel Beef (aka Salt Junk). Regardless of the amount of meat and vegetables you prepare, cooking time is the same. The trick to cooking this fabulous meal is using one large pot (preferably 2 gallons). This meal usually takes between 4 – 5 ½ hours to complete and is done in two phases. There are three famous side dishes that can be prepared with this dinner; pease pudding, figgy duff (molasses steamed pudding) and dough-balls (see recipes).
Makes 8-10 servings
- 7 lbs short ribs (or naval beef)
- 2 lbs carrots
- 2 lbs parsnips
- 5 lbs potatoes
- 1 large turnip (peeled, sliced about ¾ “ thick)
- 1 large cabbage (cut in 4 wedges)
Cut meat in small pieces (approx 2” – 3”). Soak meat in cold water over night (usually 6-8 hours).
Phase 1 (first water) – Drain pot and refill with cold water three inches above meat. Cover and bring to a boil, simmer for 2 ½ hours. If you want to cook pease-pudding (see recipe), this would be the time to add it. While meat is simmering, prepare vegetables.
Phase 2 (second water) – After meat has been simmering for 2½ hours, change (drain) water (first water can be saved for liquor – see recipe). Refill pot with hot water to save on cooking time. Bring to boil and simmer for another 1½ hours. At this stage you can start adding vegetables; cabbage first, 15 minutes later add the turnip and carrots, 15 minutes later add the potatoes. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain the liquid to another container (stock for cabbage or pea soup– see recipe). Serve Salt Junk dinner with side dish of pickled beets and sweet mustard pickles.
- If you want your meat and vegetables to be a little saltier, do not throw out all the first water, drain approx half the water in the pot.
- If you wish to have pease pudding as a side dish, you would prepare it in phase 1 (see recipe)
- If you wish to have dough balls as a side dish, you would prepare it in phase 2 (see recipe)
fadge – to bustle about; to manage. “I got to fadge for myself now”