“A hearty plate of housemade corned beef hash served with buttered rye toast and Zingerman’s own spicy ketchup.” That’s it. A diminutive description that might not immediately suggest what a big deal it is. (It definitely is though. Hence the name.)
Serving Up a Slice of History
Nowadays, “hash” is pretty much synonymous with corned beef, but various forms of hash have been a part of Americans’ diets since at least the 18th century, like red flannel hash (made with beets instead of potatoes) and fish hash (made with, yes, fish—mainly salt cod). The origins of classic American corned beef hash with potatoes and onions can be traced to New England as a way of using up leftovers from the previous night’s dinner and reinventing it as a filling breakfast. Eventually, due to rationing during the WWII era, it became a common dish at any meal. (It’s a favorite throughout the day at the Deli, too! Our hash was once relegated to the breakfast menu, but due to popular request it eventually became an all-day menu item.)
Eat Now (The Deli’s Version)
Our corned beef hash joined the menu a few years after the Deli opened—all thanks to customer demand! Paul Saginaw, Zingerman’s founding partner, developed the recipe (fellow founding partner Ari Weinzweig might have been a wee bit skeptical—read on!) which is named after Eddie Nemitz, an early retail manager at the Deli. Eddie actually continued to work with us after leaving that position! He went to work at R. Hirt Jr., Co., a cheese and specialty food distributor, and was our sales representative for many years. His legacy lives on here with the #422. (Catch that? The number is the Deli’s address! 422 Detroit Street.)
Flavor is the Main Ingredient
Great corned beef hash relies on great corned beef, of course. We developed our corned beef recipe with Sy Ginsburg about three decades ago, and it’s been the signature component of our Reubens (and this hash) ever since. Sy opened his business, United Meat and Deli, in Detroit in 1982—the same year that Zingerman’s Deli opened! We have been using this corned beef recipe for so long that we can finally call it exclusively our own.
We take our signature corned beef; redskin potatoes; freshly chopped onion, celery, and bell peppers; a little Worcestershire sauce; sage; and plenty of Tellicherry black pepper, cook it up together in chicken schmaltz and grill it up until it’s crisp.
We serve it with thick slices of buttered Jewish Rye toast from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a side of spicy ketchup. (Long-time fans might remember that we originally served it with Onion Rye. When we brought our hash back, after a brief hiatus from the menu during the pandemic, we decided to make the switch to Jewish Rye.) All of the Bakehouse’s rye breads are made with a high percentage of rye flour, a natural rye sour that’s fed daily with freshly milled organic Midwest rye, and “old,” a mush made from leftover rye bread and water—a step usually skipped in modern-day baking. The spicy ketchup is a housemade staff favorite (we call it “Spicy K” behind the scenes). Although there are a handful of retired sandwiches that once used it, currently, the #422 is the only item that features this flavorful sauce made with Gingras cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.
Psst: For non-meat eaters (props for even reading this far if that’s you!), we make our vegetarian hash with just as much TLC. Our #420 Stewart’s Farmer’s Hash Plate features oven-roasted sweet and redskin potatoes, piquillo peppers, sauteed spinach, and crispy onions. (Yup, the number of this one is tied to an address, too! 420 is the address of the blue house within the Deli campus where you pick up your food!) We serve it with buttered Jewish Rye toast and Calder Dairy sour cream. It can be made vegan by holding the butter and sour cream (the crispy onions may contain trace amounts of egg and can be held off by request as well).
I Would Drive 200 Miles (Just to Eat a Plate of Corned Beef Hash)
We’re hooked on our corned beef hash and we love that it’s a favorite of a lot of our guests, too. It’s so good it has the power to convert corned beef hash-skeptics, like Ari! We’ll let him tell the story in his own words:
Up until my days at the Deli, I only ate corned beef hash one time. … I hated it. And I didn’t eat corned beef hash again for nearly 20 years. … even after I started working with food, for years I just assumed it only came out of cans and paid it no mind.
It was a few years after we opened Zingerman’s that I remember people starting to ask about corned beef hash. I think it was Paul who took matters to hand and headed to the kitchen to start hashing out (sorry) a Zingerman’s version of corned beef hash. It’s a good thing he did. Before long we were making and selling hundreds of pounds of hot off-the-grill hash every year.
One Christmas Eve, a father and his two sons came in to pick up an order they’d phoned in. I happened to be there to get their order for them. True story. They were there for a quart of corned beef hash. “Wow!” I remember saying without thinking much about it. “You came all the way here on Christmas Eve to pick up a quart of corned beef hash?” … The father looked up without noticing much. “We’ve already been here once today. But we forgot to get the hash.” Gesturing to the elder of the boys, he said, “He wants your corned beef hash for Christmas brunch.” …
Two weeks after the father and son brunch bunch, one of the staff told me about a couple of customers who drove something like two hundred miles to buy Zingerman’s corned beef hash. There are no coincidences. Something was telling me to try paying more attention to our hash. … If people were gonna drive a few hours to take home our hash…. this was something I needed to check out. … After a while, I decided that it made sense that our hash would be that good.
Later that week, I decided to order some hash, check it out for myself. … Just a hot plate of steaming hash, two slices of generously buttered rye toast, and a little bit of homemade spicy ketchup on the side. Smells of the kitchen, of the kind of diner you’d like to hang out in on a Sunday morning. Corned beef set against a creamy potato and onion background. Bits of black pepper to perk up the plate. It really was good.