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Newfoundland Expression


I’m hoping someone can help me with this one. I’m searching for the origins of “Jiggs Dinner”. In Newfoundland this is the traditional Sunday dinner consisting of peas pudding (yes, from the old nursery rhyme, salt meat, cabbage, carrot, turnip, and potatoes, all cooked in the same pot). In case anyone is wondering, it is delicious. ;-)

My question is: Who is Jigg and why are we eating his dinner? No one here seems to have any information on the origin of the name.

Thanks much,

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Found this mention online:

"Jiggs was a comic strip character and his wife would make him his favourite meal, corned beef and cabbage. (thus Jiggs Dinner)."

It's evidently the same thing I used to make and call "New England Boiled Dinner" when I ate meat. Originally from Ireland, it consists of a piece of corned (partially pickled in salt and herbs) beef, boiled with cabbage and various root vegetables, sliced thinly and served with the vegetables, broth, and a dab of prepared horseradish. In the States, it's the traditional St. Patrick's Day meal, eaten in honor of the Irish saint.

Here is a link to an article about the comic strip that is mentioned above:

speedwell2 December 7, 2004, 10:30am

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Incidentally, I always thought "pease pudding" was thick, cooked-down, mushy bean soup that solidified somewhat when it cooled. The nursery rhyme,

"Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot,
Nine days old"

referred, I understood, to the practice of cooking up a huge quanitiy of the stuff and reheating it as necessary for subsequent meals.

speedwell2 December 7, 2004, 10:40am

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Hi Speedwell, thanks for your reply and the origin of Jiggs!

Jiggs Dinner is a little different from the New England Boiled version. In Newfoundland it's not served with horseradish and the beef is just salt preserved, no vinegar or spices. As well, the peas (or pease) pudding is also served with the meal. Quite often too you will find the meal served with "duff" (boiled pudding that comes as figgy duff, blueberry duff, or molasses duff - the duff being cooked in a bag in the same pot as everything else.)

Pease pudding in Newfoundland is dried yellow spit peas cooked in the pot with the Jiggs dinner. The dried peas are put into a small cotton bag and tied tightly with string (in case you don't have a pudding bag a bit of clean white pillowcase can be used, or in dire times, a clean white sock). It is put in the water with the salt meat, vegetables, etc. and left to cook. It comes out creamy, smooth, and with the wonderful flavor of the salt meat and vegetables.

I think you are correct about the rhyme. Pease pudding can be made in large quantities and eaten as left overs, hot or cold.

lynn December 14, 2004, 6:57am

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Oh, that's terrific! (thinks about going home and making something like this for dinner) :)

speedwell2 December 14, 2004, 11:07am

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lol.. If you'd like any recipes, just let me know!

lynn December 15, 2004, 5:39am

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I think it probley has something to do with the fact that it;s a tradition to listen to newfoundland music (other wise known as jiggs) at lunch time sundays, so maybe that has something to do with it!

erica August 13, 2006, 1:25pm

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there's lots of talk about the salt meat, Jigg's Dinner, ect. What I would like to know is, 'how do Nefoundlanders salt the meat'. I know it sounds simple but thats usually when things go awry. How is the salt brine made to put the beef into? What proportions of water, salt etc?


archie277 October 10, 2006, 11:49am

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jiggs dinner is wicked

ducky due November 16, 2006, 3:17pm

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"erica | Aug-13-06 5:25PM

I think it probley has something to do with the fact that it;s a tradition to listen to newfoundland music (other wise known as jiggs) at lunch time sundays, so maybe that has something to do with it"

Way off. The initial poster was correct in citing the comic strip (the name of which escapes me) involving the nouveau riche Jiggs enjoying his low-brow fair, much to the chagrin of the other members of the upper eschelons of society. Technically, this would make it Jiggs's Dinner, according to Fowler's Modern English Usage, but it's all good.

andrewob November 27, 2006, 8:52am

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Traditional Jigg's dinner is derived from kitchen parties when we all got together for some great fun this is usually what was served. Using one pot is what everyone had . Not complete pots and pan sets. To do a :jig" means to dance as well as doing a "reel". Thanks January 8, 2007, 8:10am

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Jiggs was indeed a comic strip (Maggie & Jiggs) but Maggie would never cook this for Jiggs. He got his corned beef and cabbage (not salt beef) at his favorite bar Dinty Moore's. He also would pay dearly for eating and drinking there when he got home to Maggie.
Americans started aclling this Jiggs dinner because of the similarities between the two meals and it stuck.

Walter Quinlan October 9, 2007, 7:25am

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Hello there,
I am not sure of the origins for sure but i grew up in a little coastal town in nfld.( and it was perfect for growing up)! but often the old folks in town would use a saying that was " by the jigs and the reels" these were both pieces of fishing equipment that were very nessary. I may self got to jig fish a lot. The saying was used when something was done the best it could be with what they had . I am sure there other uses for the saying but as I remeber that was most often the idea. so perhaps you could translate this to the dinner as in the cold of winter the only food left would have been the vegtables that were kept in the root cellar.( the grew these) and then of course the salt beef and dried slipt peas would be a staple in winter as well. but either way I have to agree that it is a wonderful meal and should be eatten with a group of good friends who are having a day of rest and a good old chat and if your luck one might pull out anaccordian so you can jig away!

Ann puddicombe October 18, 2007, 11:08am

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I live in the States and when you look for corned beef here it is not the same... they use spices as all. What I want to do is salt my own beef so that it is the same as the naval beef I remember as a child when I lived in Nfld. I cannot find one can you help?

sampsonsgirl November 22, 2007, 5:27am

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My grandparents were from Newfoundland. When I was young, we had what we kids called "Corned Beef N Garbage" (Corned Beef and Cabbage) .... My granddad would make up "Dough Boys"
(dumplings) and they would be on the top in the pot ... My mother used to say to put the dumplings in the ice box separate from the Stew or "Jiggs Dinner" as I now realize it was ..It was a staple Sunday Dinner in out house and memories of it are very clear ..

Bill December 1, 2007, 8:08am

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25% Irish. Grand Ma full blown Irish, red haired Clare McCollough. Married Irish. Mum in law 100% mean and hatefull Irish. ENOUGH ALREADY. Early years boiled dinner was staple on Sunday; beef, cabbage, potatoes, onion, and carrots all in one pot. Substituted corned beef on St. Pat's and only St. Pat's, and this was Jiggs Dinner. Don't know why, maybe a cost thing for the sub. We carry on tradition today as I pigged out on this glorious meal just yesterday plus the day prior. I was, and still today, told "Jiggs" was name for festive dance on sundays. "May ya be in heaven an hour B 4 the devil knows ya died"

JJ in Ohio March 18, 2008, 5:25am

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I had my first Jiggs dinner while in Newfoundland this summer...nervous at first to try it, within minutes I was hooked. The salt beef is amazing and the peas pudding was surprisingly good. Today I made my first Jiggs dinner in Ontario after finding salt beef in a local store which offers this type of meat. It was met with applaud, although I could have used a much larger pot! I too was asking my down homer friends the origin of Jiggs dinner while we were eating...good question, nobody knew the answer.

Gisela September 22, 2008, 2:52pm

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All the vegetables that are in the pot may not be done at the same time. Thus you may have to "Jigg" out the vegetables that are cooked while the pot continues to boil. In some respects this process is similar to "jigging" for cod fish in the ocean.

Paul October 14, 2008, 1:22pm

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My question is what is the difference between corned beef dinner and a salt beef dinner? I have had both and while the corned beef dinner is not as tasty as the salt beef dinner i am left wondering what is the difference. If they are the same then why do the two taste so different?

Daggie December 3, 2008, 2:21am

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giggs dinner is the best thing ever !
i loveee it ! : ) haha

kelsey January 2, 2009, 5:09pm

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My grandmother (from Conception harbour in Newfoundland) taught me to make my Jiggs Dinner or Corn Beef and Cabbage. I beleive we had to do the Irish jig when cookin'and yes we jigg out the vegetables as they cook. I have read alot of what was said here it is all very familiar. I think the Jigg comic strip came later due to Jigg being part of the terms used by the Irish.

czarro_kiheihs March 16, 2009, 4:47pm

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When I was a child in Michigan, in the 1940s & 50s, my mother would make what she called "New England Boiled Dinner" using a pork roast, cabbage, potatoes, onions, carotts, salt & pepper. Usually it was a Saturday night meal. Years later while I was living in a little cabin in northern New York, trapping, I would make about the same dish only I would use Bully Beef, (canned corned beef) and cook it in a big pot on a wood stove. This dish would cook down into slop that all looked the same but it tasted so good on a freezing cold evening, after covering seven miles on snowshoes tending my trapline with a 30-45 pound pack. Yes nice to come home to a bowl of that Slop, hot boiled coffee and a bit of Brandy.

walnutastoria August 11, 2009, 5:52pm

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I recently got a pellet stove. The best part is you don't need to spend a ton of money. I got mine on craigslist for $500. This stove keeps my house very warm.

TedJNesbitt November 20, 2009, 9:08am

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In response to Archie...I believe salt beef is preserved in a mixture of water and good old table salt sometimes with a little saltpeter tossed in.You could salt your cuts in a bucket...the "brine" appears as the juices are drawn out of the beef.Just salt between the layers and keep in a cool place.

ganderboyuno December 17, 2009, 1:54pm

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My understanding i the word Jiggs, came from Jiggs, which was a Meat Company in New York and when imported to Nfld, in Jiggs Barrels, the salt meat was used to create a boiled dinner, Hench, a Jigg's Dinner!

kayaknf1951 December 25, 2009, 7:18am

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I grew up eating a dish my mother called 'Maggie and Jiggs' that consisted of ground beef, onions and cabbage and S&P at its base. Whatever leftover veggies that were in the fridge also got added in, typically it seems that was corn. She did not serve any starch with this. We LOVED this dish and recently I have started making it again, using ground turkey. Last night I made it with the basics, plus some fresh green beans and a can of black beans. Also added lots of fresh herbs, worstershire and soy sauces. Fantastic comfort food that was born of the necessity for frugality and simplicity in my home. BTW I am a California native but both sides of my family originate from the south.

marchelburges June 30, 2010, 10:46am

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This is a good common sense article. Very helpful to one who is just finding the resouces about this part. It will certainly help educate me.

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symennerren April 13, 2011, 11:57pm

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I like yoru comments ''The saying was used when something was done the best it could be with what they had''.
And why jig the veges out as they are cooked? Would it not be easier to add the fast cooking ones later?

tel April 16, 2011, 4:42pm

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jigs was a comic strip caractor who took care of his father and this dinner is what the young lad cooked for him

charley October 30, 2011, 8:22am

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I have a friend who is married to a Portuguese man. He CLAIMS that Jiggs's dinner originated in Portugal. Growing up and all my life I have believed that Jigg's diiner was in fact an IRISH/Ireland tradition. PLEASE help me ..... I need the straight facts on this!

Mommy B March 29, 2013, 10:12am

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@Mommy B - It sounds like your Portuguese friend is barking up the wrong cork tree.

'It is generally agreed these days that the name Jiggs Dinner, referring to the common Newfoundland meal of salt beef (or salt pork spare ribs), boiled vegetables and steamed pudding got its name from the popular comic strip "Bringing Up Father", which began back in the early 1900s. In that comic, the main character was an Irish lad named Jiggs, whose favorite meal was corned beef and cabbage.'

From a food blog by the "Wicked Newfoundlander"

Warsaw Will March 29, 2013, 11:39pm

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I'll no doubt get jumped on for following 'It sounds like' with a clause, so I just thought I'd get it in first. Not that I really care; according to MWDEU I'm in good company.

Warsaw Will March 29, 2013, 11:49pm

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salt beaf uses a different part of the cow and is left in the brine longer than corned beef so that the brine penetrates the meat more, plus the brine is a lot more concentrated and this is why salt beef must be soaked in fresh water for a period of time and if you start with the cabbage in the pot , ad turnip, carrots and lastly potatoes at certain intervals(round an hour for the cabbage and half an hour for everything else) then everytihng will be cooked at the same time so that no 'jigging' is required. I believe warsaw will to be the most accurate and believable answer to the jiggs dinner name.

chris molloy April 8, 2013, 10:38am

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I cook a batch of salt beef 2-3 times a year and make enough to have leftover peas pudding and corned beef hash. The latter is a mix of the leftover meat and vegetables mashed up and fried for breakfast with eggs and bacon, nothing in world like it. ummm. The leftover peas pudding is great cold or hot and good for lunches (nasty side effect though if you get my drift, LOL).
But back to my intended response, the comments on what beef to use.
The salt beef used in "Corned Beef N Garbage" was indeed, salted beef in watery brine, this was a preservative in days gone by. I do not know the cut of the beef but it was low quality and fatty, hence the need to cook it for such a long period. As a boy in St. John's Nfld I remember just about every corner store would have a big wooden barrel full of brine and salt beef. The brine kept it preserved. The store used a big hook to pick out pieces and often the customer would say, not that one, too fatty, etc. There were always complaints about quality LOL. The purchased piece of meat would be weighed and wrapped in paper.
Fast forward to today. You can get salt beef in a few supermarkets but in small pails (4-10 lb sizes). Up until a few years ago most of what I saw in supermarkets was made by Maple Leaf foods but lately there are other brand names, i.e Best Meats.
Yesterday I made a batch of Corned Beef and Cabbage, oops, a Jiggs dinner, and will have leftover corned beef hash for breakfast tomorrow, yeah!!.
What you buy today. I purchased a 4 lb pail ($16.95 cnd), labeled “cured navel beef packed in brine” after cutting off the major fat it yielded less than 2 lbs of fatty raw meat and some with bone in so the meal is no longer an affordable staple meal. This does not seem to be a negative to the brand, it is just what you get these days when you purchase it. I have yet to find a place to buy the salted meat without paying for the brine. Another note, as a boy, the fat was never removed, we burned it off in work and play. Also note the commercial purchased pails now say “keep refrigerated” so I guess the brine is no longer a reliable preservative.
Alternatives. The meat flavor from the salted brine cannot be beat so if you can afford it that is the best way to go. But if you want to increase the meat proportion and keep the cost down a little try adding some pre-packaged “Corn beef brisket”. I say adding because making the meal with just “Corned beef brisket” is good but produces a different meal, not the typical corned beef and cabbage flavour.
This time, I also purchased 2 lbs brisket at $5.4 lb cnd and it yielded no bone and very little fat. I mixed the 2 lbs of brisket with the 2 lbs salt beef from the pail and got a good result. Caveat; wash the brisket really well to get the spices off as much as possible. I like to wash the salt beef but I do not soak it anymore as it is not as salty as it used to be. But that depends on your affinity for salt in your food and the proportion of meat to other vegetables. I use a lot of vegetables to have left overs for corn beef hash. I also cook the meat longer than most suggested 4-5 hours (with peas pudding) adding the vegetables and cabbage at the end.

Benjimin March 17, 2018, 8:20am

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