Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Irish Cooking and Irish Music Just in Time for St. Patrick's Day

Foods of Ireland

this lens' photo
Would you like to take an exploratory trip with me through the delights of Irish cooking? Growing up in a family of mixed heritage (Irish and German) I had a large variety of foods that were sometimes Irish and sometimes German and often times combinations of both along with other styles blended into some wonderful tastes. As an amateur genealogist exploring my own family tree, the ethnic foods I grew up with have become an interest to me. This lens will take us on a journey to learn what constitutes Irish cooking. While climbing that Irish family tree, for instance, I learned that simple mashed potatoes with a well of melted butter in the center is an Irish tradition. I only knew of one sure Irish meal while growing up and that was Corned Beef and Cabbage. My mom would make this for us every St. Patrick's Day. Over the years I learned that she did not make it the same way you see it made in recipe books. Her version was more of a soup and we ate it with crackers. She also used the canned corned beef. I've never had a real brisket of corned beef and some day look forward to trying it. The recipes and stories shared here have caught my interest. I hope they interest you as well.

Public Domain Photo Credit Bantry Bay. County Cork, Ireland. All the photos shown on this lens are from the Library of Congress photos of Ireland. To see all the photos in this set click here.

A Traditional Irish Blessing For Ye

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

My Mom's Way

Glenoe Village. County Antrim, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Glenoe Village. County Antrim, Ireland
Almost every year I try to remember to make my mom's recipe for Corned Beef and Cabbage. It is a very simple comfort food soup that I have loved since the first time she had me close my eyes and open my mouth as a child and guess what it was that she was feeding me. That was my first taste of corned beef. Out of a can, yes, but oh so good. It doesn't get much easier to make her soup. Depending on the size of crowd that is going to eat it and how long you want leftovers to last (and leftovers are so much better the second and third day) the recipe basically consists of a can or two or more of corned beef shredded up into a large kettle filled with cabbage and potatoes both cut up into small bite size bits, salt and pepper, and enough water to cover and make soupy. She would boil this until the cabbage and potatoes were soft. We ate it just like any other soup, with crackers. I already have everything ready to make this for myself this year after letting it slide the past few years. I can't wait and probably won't wait all the way until the Big Day to cook it.

So now knowing that my mom's version wasn't quite the big deal that Irish people usually make out of the meal, let's explore what we can find online about Corned Beef and Cabbage. 

What is Corned Beef Anyway???

Glenariff. County Antrim, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Glenariff. County Antrim, Ireland
Contrary to how it sounds, corned beef has nothing to do with the vegetable corn. The beef is treated with what is called "corns" of salt for curing it. Currently corned beef refers to three different distinctions of meat.
"Wet-cured in spiced brine products are more supple and tender due to the brining, and in modern times, is usually made from brisket or round steak.Dry-cured with granular salt beef is much drier and firmer in texture, even after rehydration, and can be made from various cuts of beef. Canned minced salted meat is ground salted beef that is crumbly and oily, and made from various portions of beef." (Wikipedia)

For more information about corned beef and how it is processed, please visit Corned Beef Here to learn how it's done.

Another place to learn more about corned beef is at here .  

A Little Taste of Corned Beef History

Poulaphuca Fall. County Wicklow, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Poulaphuca Fall. County Wicklow, Ireland
At this site you will be shown some video history of Corned Beef and cabbage. It will possibly surprise you to find out that it isn't a fully Irish tradition brought here from Ireland, but began with Irish-American immigrants once here in America.

Finally, another good article about the how this dish became the main St. Patrick's Day meal here in America, read this

To be So Blessed

May God grant you always...
A sunbeam to warm you,
A moonbeam to charm you,
A sheltering angel, so nothing can harm you.

Breakfast in Ireland

What's for breakfast, you ask? Well, let's find out what you might find cooking in an Irish kitchen on a typical morning.
Traditional Irish Breakfast
This meal looks like what I have heard called a "Fry Up" in the UK. Lots of food on this platter! I do hope you are hungry.
Recipes Inspired By Traditional Irish Breakfast
Here you will find 12 Irish breakfast recipes with photos. They make me hungry just looking at them. Maybe I should have had something to eat before I looked at these.
Breakfast in Ireland by Mr. Breakfast
This is a very nice website with lots of descriptions of the various parts of a traditional Irish breakfast, along with pictures to help you when you are ready to start cooking...or well, maybe when you are ready to go shopping.
The "Full Irish Breakfast"
A website about Ireland including what you can expect for breakfast.

Follow the Links For the Road to Good Food

Onward with our journey into Irish cooking. What follows here is a listing of some good Irish cooking websites. I am hoping to gather up enough of a variety to show us as many different types of foods that are typical and traditional in Ireland.
Cooking Traditional Irish Recipes
Irish Potato Soup, Nettle Soup, Seafood Cockle Soup, Irish Skink, How to make a full Irish breakfast, and much more.
Real Irish Cooking
Looking at Irish cooking from a totally different perspective you will have to see to believe.
Traditional Irish Cooking
Breaks the meals down into segments and gives the recipes by segment.
Dochara Your Irish Friend
A very interesting blog about Irish foods and traditions.
An Irish travel guide complete with a section on traditional Irish cuisine.

Be Ye Blessed

May the saint protect ye-
An' sorrow neglect ye,
An' bad luck to the one
That doesn't respect ye
t' all that belong to ye,
An long life t' yer honor-
That's the end of my song t' ye!

Potatoes, Potatoes, Potatoes

Killybegs. County Donegal, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Killybegs. County Donegal, Ireland
To the Irish, the potato is a staple of life. It shouldn't have surprised me so much when I discovered that mashed potatoes with a well of melted butter in the center was a traditional Irish dish. The Great Famine, or as those of us outside of Ireland call it, The Irish Potato Famine, changed lives in Ireland drastically. From 1845 to 1852 nearly 1 million Irish died of starvation while another 1 million emigrated to other countries for survival. The Irish population dropped by 20% to 25%. Everything changed in Ireland because of the potato blight that caused the famine. Political, social, and economic changes caused Ireland to mark The Great Famine as a dividing line of history in Ireland. For more information on the Irish Potato Famine, go here.

For more interesting history about Ireland and the potato, click here.

What is an Irish Potato? According to the Irish potato is another name for our common white potato. Even though the potato was not originally native to Europe and Ireland until it was brought there from the Americas, because of the Great Famine, the potato has become known as the Irish potato.

Potatoes have great versatility for making all kinds of foods including breads and candy. My favorite way of making potatoes is...well...ummm...I don't know if I have a favorite kind of potato dish. I love potatoes pretty much anyway you can think of to make them from simple mashed potatoes to loaded baked potatoes to steak fries and au gratin or scalloped.

Check here for Irish potato candy recipes. I've never tried it myself, but after doing this lens, I think I might.  

That's an Irish Recipe?

Just to give you a variety of Irish recipes along with maybe some good Irish folklore, I've made this list of favorite Irish cooking websites.
Irish Recipes and Baking
A very good start for a variety of Irish dishes.
Irish Abroad
A very full website of Irish culture including recipes.
Top 10 Irish Recipes and Food Terms
A brief but interesting glossary of Irish food terminology.
St. Patrick's Day Celebration
A listing of recipes especially for St. Patrick's Day
Irish Food and Gift Store
A little of everything from Irish breakfasts to Irish cheese.
Irish Recipes-Home Cooking
Another listing of good Irish recipes
Irish Recipe Tips
Check this out for good Irish cooking tips and recipes.

Breakfast's Over, Time For Lunch

Lunchtime in Ireland

After a full Irish breakfast maybe we won't really be too hungry for lunch. But just in case, here is what you might find on the table at lunchtime.
Raglan Road Lunch Pleasure Island Downtown Disney
Just for fun, here is the lunch menu from March 2012 at Raglan Road, Pleasure Island Downtown Disney, at Disney World in Orlando, FL. I've never had the opportunity to visit an Irish restaurant. Have you?
Traditional Irish Foods For Lunch
eHow brings us another article on what you would find at lunchtime in Ireland. I am thinking that you would have to work very hard physically to use up all the calories eaten in an Irish home every day. Maybe that's my problem, since I am partly Irish and really love food.
Irish Ploughman's Lunch for St Paddy's Day
I found this blog with an article about the Irish Ploughman's Lunch. I had never heard of this before finding the article. And I call myself Irish? Hmmmm.

We Can Never Receive Too Many Blessings

Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter.
Lullabies, dreams and love ever after.
A thousand welcomes when anyone comes...
That's the Irish for You!

An Irish Supper

After all this food, are we ready for supper yet?
A Fieri Irish Supper
Irish supper made the Guy Fieri way.
Ireland Steak and Guinness Pie
It already sounds good.

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Irish Lamb Stew

Gap of Dunloe, Killarney. County Kerry, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Gap of Dunloe, Killarney. County Kerry, Ireland
Okay, okay, I'm not about to tell you to go find Mary and cook her little lamb. But lamb stew is another traditionally Irish meal. In my locale finding lamb to cook is not easy. In fact, I haven't seen lamb at the local stores in years. I used to get lamb at Easter time and make my own lamb stew. I don't know if mine was Irish or not, but I loved it. Now that I have done this lens I might have to try harder to find some lamb in the very near future to see if I can make my stew again.

For my Lamb Stew, I basically just cut up the lamb into stew size pieces and browned it, then put it in a kettle with potatoes, onions and carrots and let boil until done. I didn't do much to thicken it like I do beef stew.

I've seen the lamb in the stores with the little green packet of mint sauce. I've never used the mint sauce. Have you? I don't know really how to cook lamb other than the way I just mentioned but I would love to try some other recipes. 

Shepherd's Pie

Menawn Cliffs, Achill. County Mayo, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Menawn Cliffs, Achill. County Mayo, Ireland
Another traditional lamb recipe is Shepherd's Pie. I've never made it with lamb, but I have made it with hamburger. I think hamburger is more normal for the typical home cook in America to use when making Shepherd's Pie. It is funny, I think, that I have so much Irish blood in me and my mother cooked Irish food (mixed a lot with the German foods) but she never made Shepherd's Pie or taught me how to make it.

For 47 various Shepherd's Pie recipes, click here. All these recipes are already making me hungry. Gotta take a quick break now just to get the baked potatoes out of the oven. See? Talking about potatoes made me decide to bake some.

May It Be So

Lucky stars above you,
Sunshine on your way,
Many friends to love you,
Joy in work and play-
Laughter to outweigh each care,
In your heart a song-
And gladness waiting everywhere
All your whole life long!

Irish Afternoon Teas and Irish Desserts

After the filling meals the Irish prepare for breakfast, lunch, and supper (dinner), it's hard to imagine having an afternoon tea and any desserts added at the end of the regular meals. But who doesn't love dessert?   

How To Throw An Irish Tea Party
eHow is back with more help preparing an Irish menu. This time it is an Irish Tea Party. I've never been to a real afternoon tea party. Have you? The closest thing I ever got to this was either my mother getting me a child size folding table and chairs to have tea parties with friends, and later in life drinking the hot tea with cream in it.
The Ultimate Irish Dessert Recipe Collection
How many of these Irish desserts have you had?
Irish Tea Traditions
After you scroll past the ads on this site you will find a nice page full of ideas for Irish teas.
Delia's Irish Tea Bread
This recipe takes two days, so make sure you are prepared before you plan to have it for tea.

Irish and Celtic Instrumental Music

this lens' photoPhoto Credit: Public Domain Photo
Whether or not Irish blood courses through your veins, getting a chance to listen to traditional Irish and Celtic music can be a very nice change of pace. In my case, the Irish blood mixes with the German and all the other blood types, and sometimes the Irish music seems to call to me to come listen and take a vacation in my mind to the green grasses of Ireland. As I write this, it's one of those times when my Irish roots tickle my senses until I just have to find some good music to listen to. So at this moment I am listening to an older CD by Sunita Stanislow and Northern Gael.
To share some Irish/Celtic music with you, I have added quite a few videos from YouTube. I am aware that for some this makes a page a bit slow when it loads, however, I am sure that you will find this worth the wait if you love Irish/Celtic music or if you are just wanting to hear it for the first time. 

What Do You Mean Celtic? Isn't It All Irish?

The best way for me to respond to this question would be to let you read the same places I searched for the answers myself. In some cases it almost seemed as though the answer is not really that well defined or known. But to learn about the differences and similarities of Irish music and Celtic music would involve some information about history. Being that the Celts were in the land now known as Ireland prior to it becoming known as Ireland, Celtic influences abound throughout all the culture. However, apparently much of what is considered Celtic music is more of a labeling or branding rather than a difference in style. In other words, the word itself is being used to market the music according to different websites I have found. This is one of the sites where I found a good explanation of the difference between Irish and Celtic music.

You can learn more about the traditional musical instruments here and here. Many of the musical instruments of Ireland are the same as other areas of the world. For instance the violin (or fiddle) is a well known instrument around the world. On the other hand, the bodhran may not be so well known. Many of us, if we are old enough, have heard of a tin whistle, but do many of us know what a tin whistle is? Another instrument, the flute, may not be the same as the flute we are more familiar with. Mandolins are commonly used in Irish music. One of the interesting things I have noted over the years is how much Irish music resembles the music of the hill country of Tennessee and other southern states. Could it be that when the Irish settled in those areas that the people there have chosen to keep the music as a part of their culture, whereas the rest of our country seems to have tossed aside much of the traditional music of the various countries our ancestors came from? Well this could be a question to be answered at another time. For right now, please sit back and enjoy the music brought to you on this page. Photo Credit: Public Domain Photo
YouTube has tons of great Irish and Celtic music for you to enjoy.  To end this blog I will leave you with one of my mom's favorites.

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