My children’s great great grandparents, Patrick and Katie Fleming, came to America from Ireland during the potato famine, probably passing through Ellis Island with hundreds of other brave people risking it all to find a better life in America. (I wonder what they would think of the state of things in this country now?) One of boys once joked that “I’m more Irish than you are.” That sounded like a great T-shirt slogan to me. At any rate, we all celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a big family meal, usually roasted corned beef (yes, I like mine roasted) and cabbage and mashed. (I have learned that the Irish themselves don’t think much of corned beef, since it hearkens to the days when beef about to go bad had to be salted and preserved before it was completely rotten.) The kids love soda bread, and there seem to be a lot of different recipes out there. Some call for buttermilk or sour milk, some don’t. Some have raisins or currants, and I have seen at least one that calls for caraway seeds. My daughter Kelsey made a great loaf this year that had eggs, which gave it a very tender crumb. This is the recipe that I gave Amos when he asked for it this year.
Irish Soda Bread
- 3 cups flour (I usually use 2 cups white and 1 cup whole wheat)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces (please, no margarine)
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup raisin, chopped, or currants
Heat oven to 425 degrees. I hope you have a baking stone, otherwise, you can use an iron skillet (and I hope you have one of those, too!) or a baking sheet. Put the flour, sugar, soda, and salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter (with a pastry blender — get one; you can’t cook as well without the proper tools) til it looks like crumbs. Stir in the raisins, and then add the buttermilk. Stir until a stiff dough forms (but don’t overmix). On a lightly floured countertop, knead about 6 strokes to form into a large ball. Put it onto the stone, and flatten it out slightly. With a sharp knife, slash a cross into the top. Bake about 35 minutes, until it is nice and brown and sounds slightly hollow when you tap it. It’s really good hot slathered with real butter. If you’ve got the money, go to a gourmet grocer and look for some imported Irish butter.
“For food in a world where many walk in hunger, for faith in world where many walk in fear, for friends in a world where many walk alone, We thank Thee, O Lord.”