Here's a fun fact: my first name is actually Gaelic. And so is my middle name. I often joke that I should have married a nice Irish boy and been done with it (I didn't, but my married name is Welsh, of all things). Because of this, St. Patrick's Day is my second favorite holiday, right next to Christmas. I decided to make corned beef and cabbage, as I do every year, but this time, I was going to make soda bread as well.
St. Patrick was originally born in England as a pagan, but converted to Christianity courtesy of an Irish marauder, who captured him and brought him to Ireland. He eventually escaped and made his way back to England, where he became a bishop. At that point, he returned to Ireland, and converted many of the people there to Christianity as well. He built schools, churches and monasteries, many of which still bear his name.
Originally, St. Patrick's Day was, and still is, a Catholic feast day. (In certain dioceses, if the day falls during a Friday in Lent, a special dispensation is given so the celebrants can eat a traditional meal.) Now, of course, it's celebrated by everyone, regardless of religious background or lack thereof.
Here's two other fun facts: St. Patrick never chased snakes out of Ireland. In fact, he couldn't have even if he wanted to, because snakes never existed in Ireland. Also, the reason corned beef got its name is because the brisket it was made from was cured with corn shaped kernels of salt.
Making corned beef and cabbage is as easy as following the instructions on the bag of corned beef. I put the beef in my slow cooker, added water, cabbage and carrots, and turned it on low before I went to bed that night. Everything was ready by the time I got home from school the next day. To make my meat last a little longer, I cut it in half and will make barbecued beef sandwiches with the rest. (That recipe may come later.)
The tricky part was making soda bread. I'd only made it once before, but it was so long ago I couldn't remember how I'd done it. Instead, I looked up a recipe in Gourmet magazine and used that instead. Hey, if actor Andrew McCarthy thinks it's great, then it has to be tasty. I didn't realize, however, that I was going to have to knead it as much as I did to make it look decent. With a workout like that, I won't need free weights.
The corned beef and cabbage turned out well. My husband and I ate nearly all of it at once; I do feel a bit guilty that we left our roommate a piece of corned beef the size of half a deck of cards. The soda bread was much denser than I'd anticipated--I didn't really like it, but it was wasn't bad hot and with butter. My search for Guinness or a Finnegan's to drink was in vain, so we finished our dinner off with Twisted Thistle, a good Scottish beer.
Don't be afraid of good old fashioned corned beef, cabbage and soda bread. Save your money next year and make your own Irish dinner on St. Patrick's Day. The leftovers (if you have any) will taste even better the next day.
Crockpot Corned Beef and Cabbage
2-3 pounds corned beef
1 small cabbage, shredded
4 carrots, chopped
Pickling spices (often, these come in the package)
Water to cover
Put everything in a crockpot and cook on lowest setting for 12-14 hours, or turn it up higher and cook for 2-3 hours minimum. Corned beef may fall apart when done.