I first became acquainted with jiggs dinner as a child, but had no idea that’s what it was called until much later in life. For those of you who have no idea what it is, it’s salt beef boiled up with cabbage, peas pudding, turnip, carrots, potatoes with roast beef usually. We often have it with baked chicken or turkey or pork. My mother would make boiled raisin puddings in a large tomato juice can. So many different variations! Either way it can be a really healthy meal or if you slather it with butter and gravy you and eat a big chunk of the salt meat, you could be killing yourself. It is one of my favorite meals and it is wonderful to share with family and friends.
To say that you can make a jiggs dinner better than anyone else, you might be a little crazy to throw that out there. My mother was a pretty good cook and I would never say that when she was alive. My husband perhaps would not agree that his jiggs dinner ranks up there with the best of any household where I’ve been fortunate enough to partake of this meal, and there have been a few! Let me tell you why I think my husband’s jiggs dinner is divine and once I’ve gotten it eaten, I want to eat it all over again, if you get my drift.
First of all, Peter grows his own cabbage, turnips, carrots and potatoes. He is very particular about the soil he grows them in, not adding any chemicals. He spends hours transporting kelp and black soil. He keeps the snails away by isolating some of the vegetables, like the cabbages. He weeds them and even collects all the old bathtubs around to grow some of the veggies in each year. He is known for losing a few bathtubs during storms as he puts some tubs down on a small island in the river. But that’s a story for another time.
I don’t know how he figures it all out but he leaves the carrots in the ground until they get a little frost, and he makes sure they are given the best of care. His vegetable gardens make his eyes sparkle and when he finds that family and friends are enjoying the vegetables, he bursts with pride.
Most men I know, my father included, stay far away from the kitchen, but Peter loves to plan out the jiggs dinner and has it timed perfectly so everything is ready just at noon. The gravy is made after the fat is skimmed off. He pours the liquid into a bowl and lets it harden in the refrigerator so he can remove all the fat. So although Father Mullowney said many years ago that we shouldn’t eat it and that it will kill us, we are still eating it and I won’t say any more. It could be killing us slowly, but we will die happy!
Peter cuts up the salt beef so that you don’t have to worry about the fat, although I can vouch that although I don’t eat it any more, I love it best of all! Now I enjoy the flavour of the meat and forget the fat!
So when some of the vegetables, some peas pudding, a piece of the salt beef and the roast or other meat are placed on the biggest plate I can find, along with some dressing made to perfection, coupled with a couple tablespoons of gravy, nothing can take the place of this popular Newfoundland dish. Happy eating!
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