KITCHEN WIT AND WISDOM: Time for wearing of the green

Columnist Cathi Litzenberger provides some recipes for St. Patrick's Day

An Old Irish Blessing: May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home. May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam. May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures. May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!

Being of Irish descent, I grew up with all the myths, superstitions and stories of the Emerald Isle. For me there were fairies and leprechauns, shamrocks, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, stories of the Blarney Stone, St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland.

In fact, there were never snakes in Ireland, along with all the shamrocks, and good luck in limericks, poems and blessings, quoted by my dad. On St. Patrick’s Day we all were sure to be wearing the green.

St. Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17, (this Saturday) wherever Irish or their descendants live. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is an official holiday and a holy day which is foremost celebrated with solemnity and church first. In North America it is a fun day and a celebration of Ireland itself and is celebrated with parades, green foods and drink, parties, and of course, lots of drink and merriment. As for the “wearing of the green,” it originates from the ancient Celtic practice of wearing green during the Vernal Equinox to celebrate the rebirth of the earth. When Christianity invaded Ireland, many of the Irish traditions were adopted into practice, to make conversion easier. Saint Patrick included using bonfires and adopted the symbol of the sun onto the cross, creating what is now known as the Celtic Cross.

Both recipes today are popular Irish dishes. The first is colcannon, a dish definitely associated with St. Patrick’s Day; the combination of potatoes, cabbage, onion and bacon are a favourite for many all through the cooler months of fall and winter, and it’s the perfect dish to bring to a St. Paddy’s Day pot luck! The second is a corn beef and cabbage dish which is a long-standing dish of Ireland.

Favourite Irish Colcannon

2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 slices bacon

1/2 small head cabbage, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup butter, melted

Place potatoes in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender.

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, reserving drippings, crumble and set aside. In the reserved drippings, sauté the cabbage and onion until soft and translucent. Putting a lid on the pan helps the vegetables cook faster.

Drain the cooked potatoes, mash with milk and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the bacon, cabbage and onions, then transfer the mixture to a large serving bowl. Make a well in the centre, and pour in the melted butter. Serve immediately.

Slow-Cooker Irish

Corned Beef and Cabbage

1 (4 pound) lean raw corned beef brisket

3 tablespoons pickling spice

2 stalks celery, cut into halves

1 pound carrots, cut into 4-inch pieces

1-1/4 pounds red potatoes, quartered

1 onion, sliced

1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle Irish stout beer

1 head Savoy cabbage, cut into 6 wedges

Hot water, as needed

1/3 cup grated horseradish, drained

1/3 cup sour cream

Place the corned beef into the bottom of a large slow cooker. Scatter the pickling spice over the brisket.

Layer the celery, carrots, potatoes and onion atop the brisket, respectively. Pour the stout beer into the slow cooker. Add enough hot water to the slow cooker to cover the brisket by at least 1 inch. Cook on High until the brisket reaches the desired consistency, 7 to 8 hours.

Remove the brisket and vegetables from the slow cooker to a large bowl; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Remove 1 cup of the liquid in the slow cooker; pour into a small pot over medium heat. Cook the liquid until the volume is reduced by about half, about 10 minutes. Transfer the reduced liquid to a small bowl; stir the horseradish and sour cream into the liquid to make a sauce.

Submerge the cabbage wedges in the liquid remaining in the slow cooker; cook until the cabbage softens yet retains some crispiness, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the cabbage to a platter. Ladle remaining liquid from the slow cooker into a bowl. Slice the brisket across the grain. Serve with the vegetable mixture, cabbage, horseradish sauce and liquid from the slow cooker.