By Michelle Osborne
The story of St. Patrick’s Day begins around 385 A.D. with a man named Maewyn. At age 16, Pagan Maewyn was sold into slavery, which brought him closer to God. He finally managed to escape slavery six years later and headed to a monastery in Gaul to study, where he adopted Christian name, “Patrick.”
Upon ending his studies, he moved to Ireland, where he felt his calling in life was to convert Pagans to Christianity. For next 30 years, he traveled throughout thr country, setting up monasteries and converting natives. After his death in 461 A.D. (on March 17, when else did you expect?), he was declared a saint.
So what happened from there? How did a man who spent his entire life converting Pagans to Christianity result in a day devoted to rowdy songs, parades, and drinking green beer, a day when everyone is just a wee bit Irish?
The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was in America, not Ireland. It took place in New York City in 1762, and consisted of Irish soldiers in English military marching through city. This was a chance for soldiers to reconnect with their heritage. Eventually, as more Irish immigrants came to America, parades were a show of strength for Irish-Americans and political candidates had to make an appearance at them. Now a regular annual event, people of all backgrounds celebrate this day.
Ireland, on other hand, does not have such a long history of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Prior to 1970s, it was a religious occasion and, indeed, Irish law mandated that pubs be closed on March 17! Apparently, there was no green beer for those in Ireland.
This changed around 1995, when government made a push to use St. Patrick’s Day as a way to drive tourism and to showcase Ireland to the rest of world. Parades and celebrations are now common in Ireland around this day (in fact, their celebrations last several days) and some 1 million people took part in last year’s festivities in Dublin.
When people nowadays think of this day, they get an image of shamrock in their head. You see it on the sides of buildings, on hats and clothing, on balloons and decorations. Why? Its origins are rooted in Patrick himself. He used the shamrock as a way to show how the trinity works: three separate elements of same entity.
So wherever you are, whether you’re Irish or not, get out there and enjoy day!
Celtic MP3s Music Magazine writer Michelle Osborne (Irish Music Reviews), a native to central New York region, plays both high and low whistles regularly with the Syracuse Irish session. Besides being heavily involved in Irish traditional music, she is also a classical clarinetist and composer.
For more information on the holiday, The History Channel will be showing The History of St. Patrick’s Day this Wednesday, March 17 at 6 p.m.
And from the U.S Census:The St. Patrick’s Day parade became an annual event with President Truman attending in 1948. Congress proclaimed March as Irish-American Heritage Month in 1995 and President issues a proclamation each year.
U.S. residents of Irish ancestry
The number of U.S. residents who claimed Irish ancestry in 2008 was 36.3 million. This number was more than eight times the population of Ireland itself (4.4 million). Irish was nation’s second most frequently reported ancestry, trailing only German.
Irish heritage in Massachusetts
The percent of Massachusetts residents who were of Irish ancestry in 2008 was 24 percent. This compares with a rate of 12 percent for the nation as a whole.
The percentage of people of Irish ancestry, 25 or older, who have a bachelor’s degree, or more, education is 32 percent. In addition, 92 percent of Irish-Americans in this age group had at least a high school diploma. For the nation as a whole, corresponding rates were 28 percent and 85 percent.
The median income for households headed by an Irish-American is $52,029 for all households. In addition, 9 percent of people of Irish ancestry were in poverty, lower than the rate of 13 percent for all Americans.
The percentage of householders of Irish ancestry who owned home in which they live is 71 percent, with the remainder renting. For the nation as a whole, homeownership rate was 67 percent.
U.S. cities named for the shamrock
There are several places in the United States named Shamrock, which is the floral emblem of Ireland. Mount Gay-Shamrock, W.Va., and Shamrock, Texas, were the most populous, with 2,623 and 1,807 residents, respectively. Shamrock Lakes, Ind., had 153 residents and Shamrock, Okla., 123.
Beef and Cabbage Production
United States beef and cabbage production in pounds in 2008 was 40.7 billion and 2.5 billion. Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dish.
The corned beef that celebrants dine on may very well have originated in Texas, which produced 6.5 billion pounds worth of beef. The largest producers of cabbage are New York, which produced 584 million pounds and California, which produced 528 million pounds.
RECIPESBeer-Battered Rock Shrimp with Honey Mustard
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra flour for dusting
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 8-ounce bottle of beer, room temperature
1 ½ pounds rock shrimp
4 cups peanut oil for frying
Lemon wedges for garnish
Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce
6 tablespoons honey
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon Tabasco
To make batter, combine flour, cayenne, salt, baking powder and sugar in a medium bowl. Add beer and whisk until smooth. Set aside uncovered for at least 1 hour.
In large saucepan, heat oil to deep-fry temperature, about 350 degrees. Test oil by sprinkling in few drops of batter. If they immediately rise to surface, oil is ready.
Dry strips of rock shrimp or fish on paper towels; dust with flour, patting well to remove excess. Thoroughly coat shrimp by dipping one at time in batter; fry 5 pieces at time until crisp and golden, about 2-3 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine dipping sauce ingredients in small bowl and set aside.
Remove fish or shrimp with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and dipping sauce. Serves 6.
Gilliland’s Irish Bread Pudding with Caramel-Whiskey Sauce
1 (2 lb.) loaf sliced white bread, crusts removed
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup raisins
1/3 cup Irish Whiskey
2 ½ cups milk
2 ½ cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean, slit
1 cup sugar
Cinnamon-sugar (about ¼ cup)
Spread bread slices with some of soft butter. Toast lightly on 1 side. Cut bread in ½-inch squares. Set aside.
Plump raisins in Irish whiskey. Set aside.
Heat milk and cream with vanilla bean, scraping out seeds from bean. Cool; discard bean. Set milk aside.
Beat eggs with sugar. Add to milk mixture. Stir in bread cubes and raisin mixture. Let stand 15 minutes.
Pour bread mixture into well-buttered 13x9-inch glass baking pan. Dot with remaining butter, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar to taste. Bake at 350 degrees 45-60 minutes or until lightly golden on top.
Serve with Caramel-Whiskey Sauce. Makes 8 servings.
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup water
½ cup butter
¼ cup Irish whiskey
Melt sugar in water over low heat until caramelized. Add butter and 1 ½ cups whipping cream and cook to desired consistency. Cool, then add whiskey and more cream for desired consistency, if necessary.
Makes about 3 cups.
Authentic Irish soda bread
3 cups unbleached flour, plus more for kneading
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, optional
6 tablespoons butter
2 eggs, beaten, optional
1 ¼-2 cups buttermilk
1 cup raisins or mixed raisins and currants, plumped in hot water 5 minutes
Combine unbleached flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon and caraway seeds. Cut butter into dry ingredients by hand or using paddle or hook attachment on mixer at slow speed.
Add eggs and buttermilk to form soft dough; stir in raisins. Turn out onto floured work surface and gently knead 8 times or so, to firm up dough. Let rest 10 minutes.
Shape into an 8- or 9-inch round. Score top with a knife to make cross. Dust with white flour or sprinkle with bran or oatmeal. Place in 9-inch cast-iron pan and bake at 375 degrees until top is brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Remove and cool in pan on rack.
1 lb. ground beef
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
4 cups mashed potatoes, from scratch, using Yukon Golds
2 teaspoons paprika
Brown ground beef in large skillet with onion and green pepper. Add beef stock. In small saucepan, melt butter over low heat and whisk in flour. Add mixture to beef stock to thicken; stir in salt, thyme, and mixed vegetables; simmer for 20 minutes.
Preheat broiler. Spoon mixture into an ovenproof casserole dish. Top it with mashed potatoes, using large pastry bag if desired. Sprinkle paprika on top. Place pie under broiler to brown.
Champ (Green onion mashed potatoes)
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup whipping cream
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 bunch green onions, sliced (about 1 1/3 cups)
Cook potatoes in pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring cream and butter to simmer in heavy small saucepan over me¬di¬um heat, stirring often. Mix in green onions. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep while potatoes cook.
Drain potatoes thoroughly. Return potatoes to same pot and mash. Add cream mixture and stir until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature. Re-warm over low heat, stirring often.) Serves 4.
Ballymaloe Irish stew
2 lbs. shoulder lamb chops, about 1-inch thick
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup Guinness beer or any dark beer
1 pound new potatoes
1 pound baby carrots, peeled
1 pint pearl onions, peeled
4 cups lamb stock
2 tablespoons dark roux
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Season lamb chops with salt and pepper. In large Dutch oven, over medium heat, add oil. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add chops. Sear for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove chops from pan and set aside. Add beer and continue to cook for 1 minute, scraping any brown particles off bottom of pan. Add lamb back to pan.
In mixing bowl, toss vegetables with salt and pepper, and to pan.
Cover with stock, bring liquid to boil, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for about 2 hours or until lamb falls off bone. Stir in roux and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Stir in parsley and spoon into serving bowls. Serves 4.
Beef and Guinness stew
2 pounds stew beef
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato puree, dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
1 ¼ cups Guinness
2 cups largely diced carrots
Sprig of fresh thyme
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Trim meat of any fat or gristle, and cut into 2-inch cubes. Toss beef with 1 tablespoon of oil. In small bowl, season flour with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Toss meat with seasoned flour.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over high heat. Brown meat on all sides. Reduce heat, add onions, crushed garlic and tomato puree to skillet, cover, and cook gently for 5 minutes. Transfer contents to cas¬se¬role and pour half of Guinness into skillet. Bring Guinness to boil and stir to dissolve caramelized meat juices on pan. Pour over meat, along with remaining Guinness. Add carrots and thyme. Stir and adjust season¬ings. Cover casserole and simmer over low heat, or in 300-degree oven until meat is tender, 2-3 hours.
Garnish beef with parsley and serve. Serves 6.
Irish beef stew
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ¼-pounds stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 large garlic cloves, minced
8 cups canned beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons (¼-stick) butter
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
1 large onion, chopped