Jigg's Dinner ✠

Bringing Up Father was an American comic strip in the Sunday “Funny Papers” that ran for 87 years, from January 12, 1913, to May 28, 2000. I read it faithfully as a child and adult until the end. Also known as Jiggs and Maggie, it was about an immigrant Irishman named Jiggs, a former blue-collar laborer who had become wealthy by winning a million dollar sweepstakes (roughly $25M today). Although now rich and proper, he constantly attempted to sneak out to be with his old gang, eat corned beef and cabbage, and hang out at the local tavern. His efforts were often countered by his social-climbing wife, Maggie, their young daughter, Nora, and their lazy son, Ethelbert.

In many of the Atlantic provinces of Canada and the Eastern U.S., a traditional Sunday dinner is named for this humorous cartoon character. It resembles the New England Boiled Dinner found in many cookbooks, but is a little more elaborate. Corned beef and cabbage was the favorite meal of Jiggs and is the mainstay of his namesake, which typically consists of salted beef, boiled potatoes, carrot, turnip, and cabbage or turnip greens. Pease pudding and figgy duff (raisin pudding) are cooked in cloth bags along with dumplings immersed in the rich broth that the meat and vegetables create. Condiments are likely to include horseradish, mustard, pickles, pickled beets, cranberry sauce, butter, and a thin gravy made from the drippings of the roasted meat.

For dietary reasons and indolence, my tribute to that meal here is not as elaborate as its namesake; but I have kept the title anyway, in fond recollection of Jiggs’ antics. I’m not fond of raisins, so I omit the figgy duff. I do not have pudding bag, so I cook the split peas on the side. To reduce the sodium content, I use regular corned beef, rather than the traditional salted beef. I do make it with potatoes, but I don’t eat them myself; the wife does, though. And I don’t usually make the dumpling.

  • 2 lb corned beef brisket
  • 1 tbsp corned beef seasoning (made from coriander, dill seed, brown mustard seed, yellow mustard seed, allspice, bay leaf, cloves, red pepper flakes, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom and star anise)
  • 4 carrots, topped and cleaned
  • 1 large turnip, peeled and quartered
  • 4 small white new potatoes
  • water to cover
  • 1 head green cabbage, in 4 wedges
  • 2 cups yellow split peas
  • 2 tbsp <butter>
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup LGI flour mix
  • 1 tbsp <sugar>
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup water

To reduce the salt content, on the night before serving put the corned beef into a bowl, cover with water, and seal the bowl with plastic wrap. Soak overnight in the refrigerator.

The day of preparation, drain and rinse the corned beef thoroughly before cooking. Put it in a stock pot big enough to hold all the ingredients listed above and add the seasonings that came with the brisket, or make your own from the list supplied above. Add the amount of water recommended for cooking, plus another 2 cups. Begin to cook the beef. After 30 minutes, remove and reserve 3 cups of the liquid for the split peas.

Split peas do not require soaking. Merely wash them, put them in a separate pan with the corned-beef-flavored reserved water. Cook for 2 hours at a simmering temperature. Add more water from the stockpot if the mixture seems too dry. When done, remove from the heat, mash the peas with <butter> and season with the blackpepper. The consistency should be smooth, not runny, but more like fluffy mashed potatoes. Keep warm until serving time.

While the beef cooks, make the dumpling batter. Mix together the lower G.I. flour, <sugar> and baking powder. Add the water slowly while mixing to the point that the dough has a slightly sticky consistency but still can be molded. Wrap the dough in about 4 layers of cheesecloth and tie it up with kitchen twine at the ends and along its girth, to prevent leaking out.

Half an hour before serving, add the dumpling, carrots, potatoes, and turnip to the beef pot, and continue the boil.

Fifteen minutes before serving, lay the cabbage wedges on top of the beef pot ingredients and continue to cook, until the cabbage has reached the desired limp-icity, the potatoes are tender, and the dumpling is firm.

Remove the corned beef to a cutting board and slice it thinly across the grain. Place enough slices for the meal in the center of a large serving platter. Use a slotted spoon to add the boiled vegetables to the platter. Add the mashed pease porridge. Remove and unwrap the dumpling, slice it into quarters, and add these to the platter. Garnish with chopped parsley and a generous season of black pepper, if desired. Bring the platter to the table and serve, along with the usual condiments.

Serves 4.