A Traditional Boiled Dinner

Friday 19 February 2021

There is nothing more comforting on a cold winter's day than a traditional boiled dinner! This is something which has been very much a Maritime, Eastern Canada and New England tradition for many years.

It may seem a bit old fashioned, but there is a great comfort to be had in the simple cooking of thse very humble ingredients.  This is  full  meal in a pot that has been pleasing families for many years.

I strongly suspect it hails back to the Irish roots of many maritimers, as there is not a lot of difference between this and a good old fashioned Iish Corned Beef dinner!

Today I have downsized my regular recipe which serves 6 to 8 people to half the size. Catering to the smaller family. If you would like the full sized recipe, do feel free to check it out here

I may have cut back the quantities, but I can assure you that none of the full and hearty flavours of this deliciously simple supper have been left out at all. It includes all the pleasure and enjoyment of the fuller sized version!

This was a very popular meal with our Maritime ancestors. For several reasons.  One is that back in those days the best way to preserve meat (before the advent of refrigeration) was to salt and dry it.

The long slow cooking meant that you could revive the flavour of the dried and salted meat as well as get rid of some of that saltiness. This was quite simply, a most delicious way of presenting it.

Another reason was that it helped to present tired old winter vegetables in a fabulously tasty way.  Without freezing and refrigeration, most of the vegetables available in the winter would be root vegetables and the like.

Vegetables that would keep well over the long winter months. Vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, potatoes and swede/rutabaga. As you can imagine a steady diet of these could become quite tiresome.
This was a way of presenting them in a most delicious manner that most people would heartily approve of! Simple ingredients done incredibly well!

You can cook corned beef, salt beef, gammon (or ham), or even sweet pickled pork (a very maritime ingredient) in this manner. I have a wonderful fondness for sweet pickled pork, especially when cooked with sauerkraut.

It is such a delicious combination when served with boiled potatoes. But I digress. This is about a boiled dinner, not sweet pickled pork and kraut.  (Its the foodie in me!!)

A Traditional Boiled Dinner 

If your piece of meat is very salty you may soak it for several hours/ to overnight in cold water, discarding the water and replacing it with fresh water every hour or so.  Sometimes these meats can be incredibly salty and this helps to solve that problem.

The meat doesn't need browning or anything. You simply pop it into a pot, cover with cold water, some aomatics and seasonings, and bring to the boil before reducing it to a simmer. It needs to simmer for several hours.  You will see that a scum will rise to the top occasionally.  Simply skim this off and discard.

Once your meat is tender (a fork should easily poke into it) you can remove it to a platter (covered) or a low oven to keep it warm while you cook the vegetables.

The timings on these vegetables is perfect. In the past some have just thrown everything in all at once and whilst that still tastes good, these are vegetables that cook in a variety of times, so you will want to stagger their addition to the cooking liquor/water.

The long slow simmer of the meat, lends such a tender quality to the meat and flavours the liquor, which then imparts flavour into the vegetables when you cook them in it. 
I like to begin with thick wedges of cabbage. I don't remove the core as it helps to hold the cabbage together during the cooking. I also favour the bullet hard white/green cabbages as they are better suited to the longer cook time.

This cooks for about 10 minutes before adding the remaining vegetables. I always cut them in thick slices as well, and leave the carrots pretty much whole, or at least only cut in half lengthwise. 

I have never added anything else, but you could, if you have a root vegetable that you think would go nicely. Celery Root comes to mind here. It would be lovely in this.

The potatoes I simply pare and cut in half lengthwise if very large. If they are smaller you can just leave them whole.

You also want to use a potato that will no all apart when it cooks. You want one that will keep its shape.

One other element of this deliciously simple dinner is the sauce. You could of course use a mustard sauce or no sauce at all, but this parsley sauce is excellent with it.

It literally goes with everything.  Literally. It is simple and rich and delicious.

It is just a basic cream/bechamel sauce.  Flour, butter, milk, some seasonings and chopped fresh parsley. 

For a mustard sauce leave out the parsley and add some plain or even grainy Dijon mustard.

Ultimately there is no finer dinner than this.  Perfectly cooked meat, tender and juicyand cut into thick slices.  
Delicious, perfectly cooked vegetables placed just so on the plate along side of the meat,  with that delicious parsley sauce spooned over everything.

 I cannot think of anything else you might need, except for maybe some bread and butter and a few pickled beets.

This is a one pot, perfectly delicious, comfort supper that is a real family pleaser.  And the leftovers the next day, fried up into a delicious hash are even better. I guarantee!

A Classic Boiled Dinner

A Classic Boiled Dinner

Yield: 3 to 4
Author: Marie Rayner
prep time: 30 Mincook time: 3 Hourtotal time: 3 H & 30 M
A scaled down version of my full sized recipe, this never fails to please. Its delicious!


  •   2 pounds corned beef, gammon or salt beef
  •   1leeks, trimmed and cleaned
  • 1 small carrot
  •   1 rib celery
  • half a cinnamon stick
  •   4 peppercorns
  •   3 stalks parsley
  • a bay leaf
  • cold water to cover
  • (If doing gammon, you can do half water and half apple juice)
For the vegetables:
  • 1 very small rutabaga/swede peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 1/2 head of white cabbage, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 3 to 4 carrots peeled
  • 3 to 4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and halved
For the Parsley Sauce:
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1 TBS flour
  • 1 cup (240ml) milk
  • pinch dry mustard
  • a grating of nutmeg
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • a handful of fresh parsley, washed and chopped


  1. Place the meat, leeks, carrot, celery, cinnamon stick, peppercorns,
  2. parsley stalks and bay leaf into a large saucepan. Cover with the cold
  3. water. Bring to the boil. Scoop off any scum which has risen to the
  4. top, then reduce to a simmer and partially cover.
  5. Simmer slowly for 2 to 3  hours until the meat is very tender. A fork should go through it easily. Remove the meat and set aside. Cover to keep warm.
  6. Remove and discard the carrot, leek and celery. Bring the liquid back to the boil, add the cabbage and cook for about 10 minutes, then add the potatoes and swede, cook for about 10 minutes longer, add the carrots and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes at which time all of the
  7. vegetables should be tender.
  8. While your vegetables are cooking make your parsley sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and dry mustard. Cook for about 2 minutes, then whisk in the milk slowly. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to the boil, then reduce to a slow simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with a grating of nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve.
  9. To serve slice the meat across the grain into thick slices, and place on
  10. dinner plates along with some of the vegetables. Pass the parsley sauce at the table.


Note - If the cooking liquor is not too salty you can strain it and serve it with the meat and vegetables in shallow bowls.

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A Traditional Boiled Dinner

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