An interesting thing about the traditional American St. Patrick’s Day meal of corned beef and cabbage is that corned beef is not a traditional Irish food at all. When they could get it the Irish ate bacon with their cabbage, beef being reserved for the Anglo-Irish landlords and too dear for even a once a year splurge, even if it had been available. In fact, historically, corned beef was associated with the Atlantic slave trade and poverty; undesirable cuts of beef were corned and traded to France or other countries, while the “better” portions were sent to the British colonies. In any case, corned beef was not on the menu for the common Irishman.
It must have been quite a shock when the Irish landed in the U.S. and found that corned beef was both readily available to all and cheap! No wonder corned beef became the Irish-American celebratory centerpiece for the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
This past Saturday we went over to Jeffersonville, New York to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade. My husband’s grandfather, son of a machinist immigrant from Ireland, moved to the area from New Jersey in the early 1900s.
He and his wife Margaret had 5 sons and Jeffersonville and the surrounding towns are teeming with their descendants, most of them named Brian, Kevin, Patrick and Michael, with Coleen, Meaghan and Maura for good measure :)
The family has done well in this town and had the good sense to secure ownership of the town’s only pub, among other things. I didn’t get a picture this time of the pub. I don’t know what I was doing.
For Saturday’s celebration, the pub featured corned beef dinners and sandwiches with live music after the parade. After greeting the family we decided to head back to Pennsylvania for a late lunch because the pub was so jam packed with celebrants, we would have died of thirst and starvation before we could work our way to the bar :)
Little known in the Irish communities of the United States, colcannon is a rich, buttery mix of cabbage, potatoes, leeks and cream, a both common and authentic dish of Ireland.
When sauteing the leeks and cabbage, be generous with the butter. In the good times, many Irish families owned at least one milk cow which supplemented their diets with milk, cheese, cream and butter. So dash it in there!
I don’t add cream to my colcannon because I don’t put milk or cream in my mashed potatoes either, thinking that the butter is enough and liking the texture of un-creamed potatoes. Please yourself.
Of course, some Irish Americans could care less about old country authenticity and contend that if they had wanted to be vegetarians, they would have stayed in Ireland :D
1 lb potatoes
1 knob of butter
1 knob butter
1 leek, thinly sliced
1/2 cabbage, chopped
Salt and pepper
Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks, then boil until done. Mash the hot potatoes with the knob of butter and add cream if preferred. Set aside.
Melt the second knob of butter in a large saute pan, then add the leek and saute until just soft. Add the cabbage and continue to saute until the cabbage is crisp tender. Mix the cabbage with the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.