Forget about the leprechauns, St. Patrick’s Day has a far more meaningful beginning than a simple pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or little green men bringing us good luck. St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken as a prisoner by a group of Irish raiders, who held him in captivity for six years until he escaped. He was a minister to the Christians of Ireland and it is rumored that he died on March 17, around 460 A.D. The Irish took his teachings very seriously and continued to carry on with the legends and myths surrounding St. Patrick’s beliefs. The three sided shamrock was originally used as an analogy to explain the Trinity to the Irish.
This festive green holiday was started by millions of uneducated and poor Irish immigrants looking to escape starvation by coming to America. They poured into American ports seeking a better life, but were despised for their religious beliefs and funny accents by the majority of American Protestants. The hopeful immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs and faced starvation and becoming homeless due to a lack of income.
Remaining true to their beliefs, Irish Americans living in Boston took to the streets, forming a large parade on St. Patrick’s Day in 1737 to celebrate their heritage. This was the first year that St. Patrick’s Day was publicly celebrated in this country. Unfortunately this type of behavior by foreigners was considered to be outrageous, and newspapers soon portrayed the Irish immigrants in cartoons as violent drunks.
These kind hearted, and hard working Irish immigrants began to realize that their large numbers empowered them with a political alliance that had yet to be examined. They started organizing a voting block, known as the “green machine,” that became an important swing vote for political hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick’s Day parades became a show of strength for Irish Americans.
In 1948, President Truman attended the New York City s St. Patrick’s Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in America. Irish immigrants would be proud to know that St. Patrick’s Day is now celebrated by people of all nationalities and countries, and not just in the form of parades. Most families gather to a festive meal of green beer, Irish coffee, corned beef brisket, potatoes and scones. It is a day of celebrating a traditional heritage with friends and family in all corners of the world.
The traditional Irish dinner would have consisted of a slab of bacon, potatoes, and cabbage. According to the US department of Agriculture, corned beef and cabbage was a traditional dish served for Easter Sunday dinner in rural Ireland. The beef, because there was no refrigeration at that time was salted or brined during the winter to preserve it, then it was eaten after the long, meatless Lenten fast. Cattle were quite plentiful in Ireland, but they were used for milk rather then for beef. In fact beef was considered a delicacy, and reserved for the king in an attempt to conjure the demon of gluttony out of his belly.
Simple Menu Planning for St. Patrick’s Day
Corned Beef & Cabbage
1 4-6 pound corned beef brisket
2 cans of beer
2 dried Serrano’s chilies, optional
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 Tablespoons parsley
6 large potatoes chopped in quarters
5 coarsely sliced carrots
3 large onion chopped
3 turnips sliced, optional
1 large green cabbage, coarsely chopped
4 cups of water
Salt & pepper to taste
Put the corned beef into a large stock pot with the beer and water. Place the remaining ingredients except for the cabbage into the stock pot. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut into quarters, add to the pot. Cook for another hour or until the meat and vegetables are tender.
Irish Mashed Potatoes
2 cups green cabbage, shredded
2 cups prepared mashed potatoes
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
Milk or cream as needed for desired consistency
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
Bring 6 cups of water to boil, stir in cabbage, cover and heat to boiling. Cook 5 minutes and then drain. Fold cabbage, onions, butter, milk and seasonings into the mashed potatoes. Garnish with more parsley and serve.
Irish Buttermilk Scones
2 1/4 Cup flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup currants
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 425. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarsely ground meal. Add the currants and buttermilk, stirring with a fork until the dough is soft and slightly sticky. With floured hands, press the dough into a ball and then knead softly for 1 minute. Flatten the dough into a 1″ thick circle. Cut into 3″ circles. Lightly brush the scones with egg. Bake 12-15 minutes.
Prepare a solution of 1 ounces of water and 4-8 drops of green food coloring. If your beer is amber to red you may need more coloring. Mix the solution in a microwavable glass dish. Heat it in the microwave until it boils. Cool it and then add a few drops to the beer. Serve cold in chilled glasses.
A classic Irish coffee consists of coffee, Irish whiskey and sugar with cream floating on the top of the drink. The purpose of the sugar is to keep the cream floating, and from melting into the mix. The cream should be dropped on top of the coffee forming a head, and thereby giving an overall appearance similar to that of a properly poured dry stout.
1 shot Irish whiskey
8 ounces hot prepared coffee
Whipped cream for garnish
Mix the first 3 ingredients, top with whipped cream.