Two foods come automatically to mind when someone mentions St. Patrick’s Day in the United States: Corned Beef and Soda Bread. Neither are truly “traditional.”
In my family, because my mother loved to coordinate the menu with holidays, we usually had corned beef and cabbage (and carrots and potatoes) on St. Patrick’s Day. But we never, to my recollection had soda bread. Now in researching these two foods that we think of as “typical Irish”, I learn that neither of them were commonly eaten in the old country.
Well, a soda bread was baked, but it was a heavy, stone-ground wheat affair with no fruit/raisins–until our ancestors arrived in the New World where they were introduced to white flour and other innovations. Corned Beef has a similar history–both these foods and the wild celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish immigrant thing–not an old country Irish thing.
I chose to try a recipe with muesli and whole wheat flour standing in for the original rough peasant flour. The link to “two other versions” below is where you can find the recipe. I liked the symmetry of pairing a recipe from my Scots Irish ancestors with a cereal popular with my husband’s ancestral land–Switzerland.
I’m not going to repeat all the information about soda bread, or even give you the recipe here, because the web site American Food Roots does such a good job. They present not just one recipe (the one you may be familiar with) but several others. Also, my favorite baking site, King Arthur’s Flour gives you a basic recipe.
Just to complete the melting pot version of my St. Patrick’s Day meal, I served it, not with corned beef, but with the sauerbraten of my German ancestors. I spread a little applesauce on the bread as another nod to the German ancestors.
Stay tuned. The sauerbraten recipe is coming to you next week.
I never realized until I was an adult that people in the US commonly think Irish soda bread has fruit in it — go figure. I expect in your research you came across barmbrack, though, a dark bread with fruit in it that among other things is often part of Hallowe’en times in Ireland. And as for corned beef, indeed it is not an Ireland thing, something I have had no success at all in explaining to people — but I am glad you mention it here.