Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with feast

Next Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day. Many of us have some Irish blood in our veins, but all folks tend to celebrate the day, even if they don’t have a drop of it in their veins. It has turned into a “fun holiday” for everyone.

The political scene and unrest, followed by the failure of the potato crop and the resulting famine, caused thousands of Irish to immigrate to the United States in search of a better life. They settled mainly on the East coast, Boston and New York. Many of the rich families of the 1900s came earlier as penniless immigrants. They took any job they could get, and worked hard, and many became quite wealthy. The most openings for work was in police work, and the “Irish cop” became a stereotype. They worked as maids and on the docks — anywhere they could find work. The dominant religion is Roman Catholic, due primarily to the missionary work of St. Patrick. These immigrants were, basically, the start of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in this country — they worked hard and played hard.

The way it is enjoyed here is more “American” than the celebrations are in Ireland. It is a “Saint Day” in that country, but they also have adopted much of the “American” celebrations in the tourist areas as the tourists expect it.

American school kids try to wear green if the 17th happens on a school day, so they don’t get “pinched.” Green beer is served everywhere and green foods appear on the tables of many families. That is a way to get young ones to eat more green vegetables. Corned Beef and Cabbage, Irish coffee, and Soda Bread seem to be the required dietary items of the day. Since they are all treats, no one seems to complain.

Now, for a bit of history. There are many stories of the life of St. Patrick; this seems to be the one most researched. He was born in Scotland in 387 AD. As a teen, he was kidnapped by Irish marauders and sold as a slave to a Druid chief in Ireland. He worked as a swineherd, so I would guess that meant he took care of the pigs. While in captivity, he mastered the Celtic language. After six years, he escaped back to Scotland.

He entered a monastery in France, became a priest and then became a bishop. He was sent to Ireland in 432 AD by Pope Celestine I. The Pope gave him the name of Patricius. His former masters, the Druids, were not overjoyed to see him, but he eventually purchased his freedom from them and converted his former owner, the Chief, and his family to Christianity.

The shamrock evolved as the national symbol of Ireland, mainly because St. Patrick used it to explain the concept of the Trinity to the Irish people. He died on March 17, 463 (or 465), so March 17th is the day we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

If you want a taste of the holiday, go to Dublin, Ohio, for their St. Patrick’s Day celebration. It is close and has “everything Irish” for your enjoyment.

Many years ago, I was privileged to visit Ireland. What wonderful memories. The countryside was beautiful and the people so friendly. I loved the breakfast menu; Irish oatmeal with raw sugar and heavy cream. The tea was much to my liking, also. There were always plans to return for a visit, but like so many dreams, life got in the way. One of my prized processions is an authentic Irish cape. Since it is rather dressy, I seldom wear it.

There is a lesson in this; don’t put off what you really would like to do, whether it is a trip or a special visit or learning a new trade. Life moves so quickly and we are not promised tomorrow, so enjoy each day and don’t delay living your dreams.

St. Patrick’s Day is bittersweet for me. I always loved this holiday, my saint’s day. Then, five years ago, my younger son, a true Irishman, dropped dead of a heart attack. He had inherited my love of the bagpipes, and it will always bring a tear when I hear them play. So, this is dedicated to you, Bill. I know there has to be the pipes in heaven.

Enjoy these Irish recipes. Make a double batch of one of them to share with someone Irish today. Always tell your family how much you love them and hug the babies. Pray for your loved ones and those who protect us. Count your blessings and be thankful. Smile; the sun is shining somewhere.

God Bless.

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CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE

1 corned beef brisket, trimmed

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons whole peppercorns

1 medium cabbage, cut into wedges

6 medium potatoes

6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into coins

4 medium onions, peeled and quartered

Fresh parsley springs for garnish

Place brisket in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Add spices and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat and simmer for 2 ¢ hours or until brisket is tender. Add cabbage. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, and onions and cover and simmer an additional 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove brisket to a warm platter and slice thinly across the grain. Remove vegetables from liquid, discarding spices, and place on platter with sliced brisket. Garnish with parsley.

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THE EASY, CHRISTOPHER VERSION OF CORNED BEEF

(using same ingredients as above)

Place corned beef brisket in a large crock-pot. Cover with water and add spices. Next, add whole or halved potatoes, carrots cut into large chunks, onions quartered, and put cabbages wedges on top. Turn pot on and go to work. When you come home, remove vegetables to a serving bowl and keep warm. Place brisket in a baking pan and cover with glaze. (Handle carefully as it is well done and likes to fall apart.) Place in hot (preheated) oven for about 15 minutes, or until glaze bubbles. Don’t leave too long or you will have a hard caramel shell on the meat. Slice across the grain and spoon any glaze from the pan over the meat. (I have found that using an electric knife is the easiest way to slice this very tender meat.)

GLAZE: Brown sugar — at least a cup

Prepared mustard — about 1/4 cup or enough to make a spoonable glaze

Note: This same glaze with catsup added and a little less mustard is a good glaze for meatloaf.

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IRISH SODA BREAD WITH RAISINS

3 cups flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup raisins

2 eggs

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons melted butter

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in a bowl. Add raisins. Beat eggs with buttermilk in small bowl. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in butter. Pour into a greased 8-inch baking pan. Bake at 350-degrees preheated oven for 1 hour. Invert onto serving plate.

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PEASANT IRISH SODA BREAD

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients. Add buttermilk and stir to make a soft dough. Turn out on lightly floured board and knead for about 1 minute. Shape the dough into a round loaf about 8 inches in diameter. Put in a greased round pan or on a greased cookie sheet. Cut a cross on the top with a sharp knife. Bake in preheated 350-degrees oven for 40 minutes, or until done (sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles). Cool on its side before cutting. For a soft crust, wrap in a tea towel when it comes from the oven, then cool on its side.

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WHISKEY SODA BREAD

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup Irish whiskey

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon grated orange rind (zest)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/3 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup butter, melted

Whiskey Butter — recipe below

Soak raisins in Irish whiskey overnight. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and orange rind in a large bowl. Mix well, then stir in raisin mixture and blend well. Dissolve soda in buttermilk and add to flour mixture, stirring well. Stir in melted butter. Spoon batter into a greased 2-quart baking pan or casserole. Bake in preheated 350-degrees preheated oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve with Whiskey Butter.

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WHISKEY BUTTER

1/2 cup butter

1 tablespoon Irish Whiskey

Combine and blend well.

The three Soda Bread recipes are different, but all are from Irish cooks and all are good.

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IRISH COFFEE

Pour 1 jigger Irish whiskey into a warmed goblet or coffee mug (traditionally crystal goblet). Add 1 or 2 teaspoons sugar. Add strong, hot coffee to within about § inch of the top. Top with chilled, sweetened whipped cream, and drizzle a few drops of green Creme de Menthe on the top.

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“HOT IRISH”

1 cup hot water

2 ¢ tablespoons Irish whiskey

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 lemon slice studded with cloves

Combine all ingredients in a mug, stirring well. Serve at once.

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Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

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