March 12, 2011

May God Bless Old Ireland, That's This Irishman's Toast!

The Maine House is preparing to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by baking Winnie McCarthy’s Irish Bread! This recipe was found handwritten on the endpapers of a well-used copy of The Boston Cooking School Cookbook. Winnie McCarthy was an Irish maid working for a Mrs. Powell, in North Scituate, Massachusetts during the 1920s and 1930s. The owner of the book enjoyed Winnie’s bread while visiting with Mrs. Powell, and requested the recipe. This bread is not the traditional crumbly Irish Soda Bread, but a firmer loaf. Winnie suggests testing for doneness with a silver knife.

A Maine House Mosaic

This recipe is very important because it preserves the personal story and recipe of a woman working in service. Once you read about Winnie and bake her Irish Bread, you will never forget her. Often, these people, beloved by the families they worked for, were not known to outsiders. Winnie’s recipe is a true heirloom recipe. We treasure Winnie’s story and her Irish Bread.

Lest we forget, Boston is a very Irish city. St. Patrick’s Day is a very big holiday in Boston and in all of the largely Irish neighborhoods in the Commonwealth. There is hardly a household that doesn’t have a family recipe for Irish Soda Bread, Brown Soda Bread, or Corned Beef.

Winnie McCarthy’s Irish Soda Bread
Circa 1925
3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants
1 tablespoon butter, melted

 Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cut a wax paper liner to fit the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan. Coat the pan with vegetable spray, insert the liner, and spray again to coat the liner.
Sift together flour, sugar and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add milk gradually, beating to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, and shortening. Fold in raisins and currants.
 Mix batter twice with folding motion before turning out into pan. Brush top of loaf with melted butter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until top of loaf is crisp and golden brown and a tester inserted into loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack. Store loosely wrapped in wax paper at room temperature.

Estelle's Sweet Tip:
 Winnie suggests adding 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds to the batter to give this bread a more authentic Irish taste. This bread is wonderful toasted and served with butter and orange marmalade.

Estelle's Corn Beef Brisket with Cabbage
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb.) corned beef brisket, fully cooked

 Stir together 1/2 cup orange marmalade and 2 Tbsp. stone-ground mustard. Brush 1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb.) corned beef brisket, fully cooked, with half of marmalade mixture, and place in a lightly greased jelly-roll pan. Bake at 425° for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown, basting with remaining half of marmalade mixture every 10 minutes. Serve corned beef with cooked cabbage.

Estelle's Tip: Nick the Brewmaster recommends Murphy's Irish Stout

Irish Black Velvet
chilled sparkling wine
chilled stout beer, Such as Murphy's Irish Stout

Pour chilled sparkling wine into Champagne flutes, filling half full. Top with an equal amount of chilled stout beer, such as Murphy's Irish Stout. Serve immediately!

Dunluce Castle off the Coast of Northern Ireland

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.

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