Why, you ask? Well, I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps it’s because I have Irish blood in me–my Grandpa Ira used to fondly call my Grandma Jean his “flat-footed Irishman,” and ancestry.com backs him up on that heritage. Perhaps it’s because it’s one holiday that doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to pull off–no presents to buy, no trips up and down from the attic needed to carry decorations back and forth, no carols or social gatherings or stress required. Perhaps it’s just that I really, really like corned beef and cabbage alongside some hearty Irish soda bread (recipes to follow).
Whatever the reason, I love St. Patrick’s Day. Here’s how St. Paddy’s Day looks around my house: I get up in the morning and start the day by pinching anyone in the family who was unwise enough not to wear green before going to bed. The pinching will continue throughout the day, and you can bet I’ll be wearing green on various parts of my body.
As I begin working on the bread for dinner, Irish music is turned on and played full blast all day. By far, my favorite song is “Rocky Road to Dublin,” sung by The High Kings.
Once dinner is ready, I gather with my family and we feast. After dinner, we enjoy a green dessert (usually mint chocolate-chip ice cream, because let’s face it, I’m tired of cooking by then), coffee with a dash of comforting Bailey’s Irish Cream (hair of the dog), and whichever of my favorite three Irish films I feel like watching this year. Those films, alternated year after year, are Waking Ned Devine, War of the Buttons (1995), and The Secret of Roan Inish. I’ve linked the trailers in case you’d like to watch them too.
Honestly, I think the REAL reason I love St. Patrick’s Day so much is that it means that I’ve managed to live through another long, cold winter, and that spring is finally, finally here. Since the real St. Patrick was all about hope, luck, faith, and perseverance, I think he’d approve.
“For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth once again; the time for singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land” (Song of Songs, 2:11-12).
Corned Beef and Cabbage (and Boiled Potatoes)
I make this part easy. I buy the biggest corned beef I can find (because it always shrinks down and everyone always wants more), I open it over the sink because the meat juice runs if you’re not careful, and I dump the corned beef into the crockpot. I open the little spice packet that comes with it and dump it in too.
On top of that, I throw a large onion, cut into rough wedges, and a head of cabbage, also cut into wedges, and jam it in to fit. I pour a bottle of dark Guinness beer over it all and add water, about covering the meat. This goes on “low” for most of the day–I’d say six hours or so.
When it’s time to eat, I strain the cabbage and onion from the juice with a slotted spoon and put that into a stoneware bowl. I remove the corned beef from the pot and slice it, placing it onto a platter.
For the potatoes, I am partial to small red, unpeeled. I quarter a 3 lb. bag and boil them in salt water until they are soft, then put them in a bowl to serve as well.
Irish Soda Bread
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbs. baking powder
2 Tbs. dark brown sugar
2 to 2 1/2 c. buttermilk
green food coloring (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix all the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and brown sugar. Add the buttermilk until the mixture forms a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just enough to blend the ingredients. This is when you can add a few drops of green food coloring, just for fun. (My kids always said it made the bread look “moldy,” which I thought was hilarious.) Divide the dough into two portions and form each into rustic rounded loafs.
Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on racks for 10 minutes, then slice and serve with butter (Kerrygold Irish butter is my favorite, of course.) Serve all of this with whatever beverage you fancy–maybe the rest of the Guinness? If so, sláinte!
And finally, an Irish blessing, from me to you: