Friday, March 15, 2013

"Irish Soda Bread" For St. Patrick's Day And The Feast Of St. Joseph

“May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.” This is a blessing for St. Patrick’s Day which is celebrated on March 17th. This is a day that everyone is Irish, a day to be merry and commemorate the love of St. Patrick for his followers, Irish or not. This is also a day when stories of Leprechauns and spirits are told.

In Irish mythology, a Leprechaun is a type of male faerie said to inhabit the country of Ireland. According to folklore, these “faerie folk” were to have inhabited Ireland before the arrival of the Celts. Leprechauns usually take the form of old men who enjoy partaking in mischief. In most tales and stories Leprechauns are depicted as generally harmless creatures that enjoy solitude and live in remote locations. They are said to have been cobblers or shoemakers. They are supposed to be very rich, having many treasure crocks filled with gold buried in secret locations. Another popular belief is that you may find a Leprechaun and his pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Some say that they have mythical power and magical control over the workings of Earth, and even have the power of trickery that confuses their target allowing the Leprechaun to play tricks on his victims. In 1831 Samuel Lover describes the Leprechaun wearing a red coat that was laced with gold, a cocked hat, pointed shoes, a beard like an elf, silver buckles on his shoes, and spectacles stuck on his pointed nose. The modern image of the Leprechaun is depicted by having red hair; with a beard, wearing an emerald green frock coat, and often with a crock of gold.  He has knowledge of the many locations were more treasure is buried.

Did you know that the color associated with St. Patrick was originally blue not green? Green was the color that was most widely associated with Ireland and the Irish people.  St. Patrick‘s color now in modern times is green, also due to the phrase, “the wearing of the green". St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish. The shamrock is now the symbol of Ireland. Shamrocks are considered to bring good luck. The change from blue to green began about the 1750s.

“St. Joseph, protect me and my family as you did with the Holy Family. Kindly keep us ever united in the love of Christ, ever strong in the virtue of the Blessed Mother, and always faithful in devotion to you. Amen” This is a blessing to St. Joseph which the Italian people celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19th. As like St. Patrick often it is expressed through the “wearing of the green,” “wearing of the red” is what the Italian people do for St. Joseph. The spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus’ step father, St. Joseph has solemnity and rank in the Roman Catholic Church. St. Joseph was a carpenter by trade and is the patron Saint of not only carpenters but also, married people, family life, and workers. In Italy, especially Sicily, St. Joseph is also regarded as their patron saint. In some Catholic countries, mainly Spain, Portugal, and Italy, St. Joseph’s Day is regarded as Father’s Day. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph’s custom. In Italy a typical St. Joseph’s Day alter would have flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, cookies, specially prepared cakes, breads, and Zeppole. (A Neopolitan pastry)  This is done as a thank you to St. Joseph for surviving a famine that the Italian people went thorough. Foods that are traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent saw dust since St. Joseph was a carpenter. The alter usually has three tiers to represent the Holy Trinity.

St. Joseph’s Day is also the day when the swallows are traditionally believed to return to Mission San Juan Capistrano after having flown south for the winter.

My recipe this week is “Simple Irish Soda Bread”. This sweet, delicious bread is traditional for St. Patrick’s Day. It can be served warm with some butter or room temperature with a cup of tea or a mug of cold beer. Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day and the Feast of St. Joseph. Hope that you find the luck of the Irish and the peace of St. Joseph!

Simple Irish Soda Bread

1 cup of all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
4 - 1/2 teaspoon cold butter
1 egg
1/3 cup Buttermilk
3 tablespoons of raisins or currants

In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Combine egg and buttermilk; stir into crumb mixture just until moistened. Fold in raisins. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; gently knead 6-8 times. Shape into a 5-inch round loaf. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Using a sharp knife cut a 1-inch cross about 1/4 inch deep on top of loaf. Bake at 375°F for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf 

Till Next Time……………….

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