Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day

Irish soda bread is one of my favorite baked goods and one of my favorite traditions in baking. Just as Christmas cookies belong to Christmas, Irish soda bread belongs to St. Patrick’s Day. I bake it once per year. If you work with me, you’ll probably get a slice of bread every year. My mom would bake one or two loaves per year and we girls would gobble it up with breakfast, or as a snack, or as dessert. I recall having a hard time getting the batter to stick entirely. It took quite a few years of practice before mixing the ingredients wasn’t an entire arm workout. Practice makes perfect.

What is the origin of Irish soda bread? Soda bread is a traditional bread baked in poorer countries, and was very common during the Irish potato famine. The Irish didn’t invent it, but they’re known for it. The traditional recipe calls for basic ingredients: flour, baking soda, soured milk, and salt. The baking soda took the place of yeast. Loaves were baked on the griddle of an open hearth. The traditional cross in the loaf made before baking was to ward off the devil and protect the household. (Read more here.)

The recipe that my mother and grandmother passed on to us girls is not exactly traditional. Our recipe calls for sour cream, baking powder, sugar, and raisins. However, it’s tradition to me.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  

St. Patrick’s Day

The nation turns green today – food, drinks, clothing, rivers – and we feast on Irish Soda Bread, corned beef & cabbage, and perhaps have a drink or two, and wish each other Irish blessing. While we do this, it is important to remember that the Irish were among the waves of immigrants to New York who toiled for low wages, lived in sordid conditions, and struggled on a daily basis to make end’s meet and to make the lives of their children and grandchildren better than their own. Let’s be grateful to everyone who fought so hard, and respect those who continue to fight hard for better lives ahead. Are you Irish? Where from? With a name like O’Shea, I can’t hide the Irish (not that I would!)

Previous St. Patrick’s Day posts on PiP: Irish Soda Bread & A brief history of St. Patrick’s Day & an Irish blessing.

 

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

An old Irish blessing for you today:

May love and laughter light your days,

and warm your heart and home.

May good and faithful friends be yours,

wherever you may roam.

May peace and plenty bless your world

with joy that long endures.

May all life’s passing seasons

bring the best to you and yours!

May you have the luck of the Irish today! Need some Irish architecture? Check out the Buildings of Ireland – National Inventory of Architectural Heritage or the Irish Georgian Society.

Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! And it’s finally the time of year for Irish soda bread. According to the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, if you think you’re eating “traditional” Irish soda bread, you’re probably not. And if it has raisins, then it’s definitely not “soda bread.” And soda bread made only date to the mid 1900s. The original, traditional recipes contain four ingredients: flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and salt (nothing else)!  It certainly does not include yeast.

While the Society aims to provide everyone with the truth about traditional recipes, it is not insinuating that people are making soda bread improperly. They say that a family tradition is a tradition, that recipe is worth being passed down generations. Simply, do not claim that your modern recipe is a true traditional cultural recipe.

With that said, some modern recipes are delicious!  Everyone is allowed to modify recipes. My family tradition (not traditional to Ireland) includes sour cream and cream of tartar and lots of raisins. My great-aunt passed down the recipe to my mom, and that’s what we use and will keep using. This year I tried some variations (muffins and no raisins) but also stuck with my favorite recipe and method.

Soda bread goes well with a bit of butter (though it’s just as good plain) and nice cup of coffee. Enjoy!

Soda bread muffins anyone? (Paper muffin cup not recommended.)

Soda bread that ended up looking like a clover.

Soda bread in a cast iron pan, my family's tradition.

St. Patrick’s Day

Here in the United States St. Patrick’s Day brings to mind green, shamrocks, leprechauns, Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage, green food and drinks, a parade, a green river, etc.  It doesn’t typically recall the story of St. Patrick or the religious aspects of March 17.

In fact, St. Patrick’s Day became even more popular when, in 1995, the Irish government began a national campaign to showcase Ireland, using St. Patrick’s Day to help.  Since St. Patrick’s Day is a religious day in Ireland, pubs were closed on March 17 until the 1970s, which is probably contrary to popular belief. [Source: History.com]

Yes, St. Patrick’s Day is mostly a secular, fun, green holiday for us Americans; however, it couldn’t hurt to understand the traditions associated with the holiday. Check our History.com’s The History of St. Patrick’s Day page for information about St. Patrick, the traditions, symbols, religious origins, etc. 

For instance [from History.com], why do we eat corned beef and cabbage? This is not a traditionally Irish dish.  Instead, it originated at the turn of the 20th century when Irish immigrants living in New York City could not afford their traditional Irish bacon, so they replaced it with the cheaper corned beef.  If you are Irish, did you know that Irish immigrants were members of the Protestant middle class in America until the mid 19th century? Then, when the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland, millions of Catholics fled, now poor and uneducated and starving, and the Protestants began to reject the Irish Catholic, denying them jobs and creating negative images – hence the infamous, “No Irish Need Apply”.  The New York City parade began in 1848 and over time became a source of pride for Irish citizens. However, it wasn’t until 1948 that a president, President Truman, attended the parade to show support for those Irish-Americans who had faced prejudice for so long.

You can read more interesting facts about St. Patrick’s Day on History.com. And while you’re celebrating the luck o’ the Irish today, religiously or secularly, remember that the Irish have come a long way. Make a toast to your neighbor and enjoy.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. My favorite Irish blessing for you:

May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be ever at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rain fall soft upon your fields,

and until we meet again,

may God hold you in the palm of his hand.