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Get Ready for St. Patrick’s Day!

Try this Irish Soda Bread to celebrate an age-old tradition with a delicious treat.

The whole world is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, a day that celebrates the death of St. Patrick on March 17, 461 AD. What may surprise a lot of people is that St. Patrick was not Irish, but Welsh. He arrived in Ireland as a slave of the Irish marauders who had raided his village. During his captivity he converted from paganism to Christianity and became a very persuasive missionary, converting the pagan Celts of Ireland to Christianity.

While St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Ireland from the time of St. Patrick’s death, it wasn’t celebrated in America until 1737, when it was publicly celebrated in Boston. Since that time, Americans have put their brand on how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated. The first parade took place in New York City in 1762 when the Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through the city playing their Irish Music. Irish patriotism continued to grow. Today, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City is considered to be the oldest parade, and the largest in the United States, overshadowing even the Thanksgiving Day Parade!

In our family we have Irish Soda Bread for breakfast (recipe below). Then we feast on the traditional (American) corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes for dinner. Corned beef is distinctly Irish in that County Cork was the largest producer of Corned Beef from the 1600s until 1825. It was canned and sent great distances because the corning process of putting meat in a crock and covering it with salt called “corns of salt” preserved it.

However, most of the Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a ham (Gammon) or a bacon joint. When Irish immigrants couldn’t find the bacon joint in America, they turned to the corned beef for their holiday celebration, a habit we continue to this day. However you choose to spend St. Patrick’s Day, enjoy some Irish music, food and drinks. Slainte!

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 cup dried currants (or raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots)
2 cups milk

1. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender. Stir in the dried fruit. Add enough of the milk to make a soft dough. Spoon into a greased 12-inch cast iron skillet you have warming in a 350 oven. Cook for 1 hour or until top is nicely browned.

2. Serve hot or cold with butter. This makes an excellent St. Patrick’s Day breakfast bread with hot Irish tea!

Note: I usually use currants or raisins, but one year I had none and so substituted dried cranberries. Delicious! Another year I had received some dried Montmorency cherries from Michigan, another delicious variation! Dried apricots have also been used with great success. There are enough variations of this wonderful bread that you can make it for just about any occasion.

I have made this every St. Patrick’s Day morning to top off the glee my kids always experienced at discovering that the leprechauns had been to visit; their toys were lined up on the stairs, magic sprinkle powder all over the house (including on the kitties). Those leprechauns are certainly tricky little creatures. They would often leave behind their gold coins in their haste to evade the leprechaun traps set all over the house. Yum!

Written and photographed by Kathleen Birmingham, kitskrafts.com

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