Ah, ‘tis the luck of the Irish to ye. Come Thursday, everyone — regardless of their true origins — will become Irish for at least a few hours. You may not really go in much for shamrocks and leprechauns, but if you have children or those who are kids at heart, you may want to join in “the wearin’ o’ the green” to avoid getting pinched.
Of course, St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t exist if not for St. Patrick himself. The man who was to become the Patron Saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, was not Irish, Catholic, nor Patrick in the beginning. He was Maewyn, a pagan and son of a Roman tax collector in Wales.
At age 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish marauders and sold into slavery in Ireland where he remained captive for six years. There, as he tended his master’s sheep, God became the focus of his life. In a dream, Maewyn was directed to go to the seashore to find a ship to freedom in Western Europe. He became a priest after studying for 12 years in a monastery in France. Although he was English by birth, the time he spent in Ireland had developed a feeling that made him Irish. In another vision he was instructed to take Christianity to the Irish where he became the second bishop to Ireland.
Patrick was charismatic and very successful at winning converts in Ireland. The Celtic Druids, angry at his success, made every effort to stop him. Patrick was arrested and imprisoned several times, but always managed to escape He kept after his endeavor and won over the Druids and kings and converted many peasants to Christianity. For about 30 years Patrick traveled across the countryside, spreading the word of God. He established monasteries, schools and churches to help him convert the Irish to Christianity, making Christianity the prevailing religion of Ireland.
Patrick became such a beloved saint in Ireland, that stories mushroomed up in his name. He is credited with ridding the island of Ireland from snakes. He gave a sermon on a hilltop alleged to be so dramatic that it drove all the snakes from Ireland into the sea. He was also believed to raise people from the dead.
Everything associated with the day is green like the hillsides full of green shamrocks. Streets are painted green for parades, the Chicago river is dyed green, and children and adults alike find themselves wearing a bit of green — enforced, of course, with the threat of a pinch if you don’t. The day has come to mean everything of Irish folklore.
Leprechauns, the blarney stone, potatoes, corned beef and cabbage, and pots of gold have become infused in the celebration. The holiday may be Irish, but it welcomes everyone. It matters not if your origins are Scottish, Danish, African, Russian or Korean, today you can be “Irish.”
St. Patrick’s Day is a great day to try foods that smack of the Irish. What could be more appropriate than corned beef and cabbage?
Corned beef is brisket, topside or silverside which has been pickled in brine. It is especially popular around Dublin. It is best to soak a joint overnight to remove excess salt. You may or may not like this pickled meat, but St. Patrick’s Day is the day to find out.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
(serves four to six)
5 lb/ 2 kg joint of corned beef
1 large cabbage
1 bay leaf
2 large onions
Cold water to cover
2 large carrots
Ground black pepper
Quarter the cabbage and put aside. Peel and slice the other vegetables. Cover the meat with the water and bring to a boil. Skim the surface, add the vegetables (except the cabbage), the bay leaf and the pepper and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for a further 30 minutes. Serve the meat surrounded by the vegetables with additional mashed potatoes.
Irish pancakes are also known as Scotch pancakes the further north you go. Preheat the griddle so you can cook these thick pancakes quickly after mixing to get maximum use of the baking soda. These thick pancakes can double as scones and top with jam or honey.
2 cups enriched all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Make a well in the middle with a wooden spoon and add the egg. Break the yolk and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly to a thick batter. For light pancakes do not overbeat. Fry in large dollops on a lightly-greased, hot griddle or heavy frying-pan.
Although potatoes originated in the Americas, they were quickly embraced in Europe and particularly Ireland. They became so much a part of the Irish diet, that a potato famine in the late 1800s starved many and drove millions to emigrate to America. Anything potato fits with an Irish theme.
Bacon and Potato Squares
1/2 pound sliced bacon, diced
1 medium onion chopped 3 eggs
2/3 cup dairy sour cream
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and coarsely shredded 2 tablespoons chopped chives or fresh parsley
1/4 cup dairy sour cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towel. Pour off drippings, reserving 3 tablespoons. Grease 12” x 8” baking dish with 1 tablespoon reserved drippings. Place 2 tablespoons reserved drippings in skillet. Add onion. Saute over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally. In a large bowl, beat eggs until blended. Mix in 2/3 cup sour cream, flour, salt and pepper. Place potatoes in cheesecloth or kitchen towel. Squeeze out moisture. Add shredded potatoes, chives or parsley and half the bacon to egg batter. Pour into greased baking dish. Sprinkle remaining bacon over top. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 325 degrees. Continue baking 45 to 50 minutes or until lightly browned. Cut into squares. Garnish each serving with additional sour cream. Serve hot. Makes 8 servings.
Old Fashioned Potato Bread
1 medium potato (or reconstituted potato flakes — to make 1 serving)
Hot tap water
2 packages yeast
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup warm milk
6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cups flour (unsifted)
Peel and dice potato. Boil in water to cover until tender — about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid. Add tap water to potato water to make 1 cup or use one cup warm water. Cool to warm. Mash potato and set aside (or make reconstituted potato flakes to mashed potatoes — do not add salt). Pour warm water into large warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast and stir until dissolved. Add margarine, sugar and salt. Stir in mashed potato, warm milk and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough added flour to make a stiff dough.
Turn out onto lightly floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic — about 8 to 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover, let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk — about 35 minutes.
Punch dough down. Turn over in bowl and cover to let rise again about 20 minutes. Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured board; divide in half. Form each half into a loaf and place each into a greased 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.
Cover. Let rise in a warm place free from draft until doubled in bulk — about 50 minutes.
Dust loaves with flour. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 50 minutes or until done. Remove from baking pans and cool on wire racks.