Showing posts with label Kerrygold. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kerrygold. Show all posts

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thanksgiving Irish Cranberry Bread

Once again the American holiday of Thanksgiving rolls around and finds me out of the country, in Ireland. Having two very separate main branches to my family tree gets confusing: on my mother’s side, I can go back to the Mayflower, and one great-great-whatever managed the first grist mill in Plymouth; on my father’s side, it’s almost all dairy farmers in Cork and Carlow.

This year I’ve become the proud owner of a small Irish cottage in West Cork, in sight of where generations of my ancestors lived. It’s not ancient—probably built in the mid 20th century—but it still has a cast iron cook stove, which originally doubled as heating for the main sitting area. I’m guessing it’s still functional and it burns solid fuel: coal, wood, peat, and for all I know, household trash. Looking at it, I can understand why the Irish bake so much soda bread, both light and dark. I think it’s a safe bet that the temperature of the oven is a bit inconsistent, but soda bread is very forgiving. I’m looking forward to trying the oven out, after a good scrubbing.

Traditional Irish soda bread contains raisins or currants. As a nod to my American side, I’m swapping those for dried cranberries. After all, the corporate HQ of Ocean Spray is literally right down the road where I live, and I believe in buying local.

Cranberry Soda Bread


1-1/2 cups dried cranberries
4 cups unbleached flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 Tblsp granulated sugar
6 Tblsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2 egg yolks
1 Tblsp Irish whiskey (optional, but this one comes from West Cork!))

2 Tblsp. crystallized sugar for sprinkling


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Put the cranberries into a bowl and pour boiling water over them to soften for a few minutes. Drain.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 6 Tblsp. sugar.

Blend in the butter with pastry blender, a pair of knives, or your fingers, until pea-sized bits form.

In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg yolks and whiskey if you’re using it (you could substitute vanilla extract if you like). Pour the liquids over the flour mixture and scatter the cranberries on top. With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture to form a moist dough. Knead the dough lightly in the bowl for 15 seconds.

On a lightly floured counter or board, divide the dough in half. Form each half into a rounded half-ball measuring 5-5 1/2 inches in diameter. 

Place each ball on the lined baking sheet, 5" apart. With a small sharp knife, slash the top with a cross. Sprinkle the top of each loaf with crystallized sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the loaves are golden. Transfer to wire racks and let cool for 30 minutes. Serve with plenty of good Irish butter (try Kerrygold—I may have met some of the cows that contributed to that butter).

You Can Celebrate Thanksgiving Anywhere!

Coming in March 2017: Cruel Winter, the fifth book in the County Cork mystery series. There is a lot of new snow on the ground in West Cork, and an old crime to solve . . .

Friday, March 11, 2016

Saint Patrick's Day Pork Chops

I had written a nice post about pretty spring food and then I remembered: Saint Patrick’s Day is next Thursday, and I won’t be posting until the day after. Sure, you could make it a very long weekend, but I didn't want to miss the day, plus I found a new and tasty Irish dish (that doesn’t involve fish! Or cookies!).

Do you know, I’ve never been in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day? So I can’t say whether the towns actually celebrate it (apart from Dublin, where the tourists are), or if it’s just another day, and it’s only the exiles who have made a big thing of it, with parades and turning a river green and the like. I'll be checking in with "my" pub to see how they handle things.

Cows in an Irish meadow (they're everywhere)
You might notice there’s a lot of cream and butter in this recipe. That shouldn’t be a surprise, since the dairy business is big in Ireland, particularly in West Cork (over 4,000 herds of cattle), and Kerrygold is one of the country’s largest exporters. I will not comment upon the rate of heart disease in Ireland. Why spoil the fun?

The pork? Well, back when people there were just scraping by with their small dairy herd and their potato hills, they kept a pig to sell for cash, which was hard to come by. There’s now a large piggery up the hill from where my grandfather was born (and a lot of empty houses around it, because a piggery is rather aromatic).

Saint Patrick's Day Pork Chops with Honey Whiskey Green Peppercorn Sauce(Inspired by The New Irish Table by Margaret Johnson)

[Note: This recipe serves four. Since there are only two of us at home, I cut it in half, which is what you see in the pictures.]


4 pork chops (abt 1/2 lb each)
Forgive the mess: I'm doing a bit of
spring cleaning in my pantry closet
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for cooking


3/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into
small pieces
1 Tblsp green peppercorns (preserved in liquid)
1/2 cup Irish whiskey
1/2 cup honey

Pat the pork chops dry, and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and saute the chops. Remove them while they=re still a bit springy (they will continue to cook from their own heat). Place on a plate and cover, then keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

[Note: a lot of recipes call for cooking liquid to reduce it by some percentage. I can=t just eyeball that, and every pan is different anyway. The bottom line is, cook until the liquid thickens a bit. Use the time estimate if you want.]

Wine in the pan (if this was French, it would
be called deglazing)
In the same pan, cook the wine over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, or until reduced by half.

Add the chicken stock and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by one-third.

Add the cream and cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until reduced again by one-third.

All liquids in the pan
Slightly mash up the green peppercorns with the back of a spoon, then stir into the sauce.

Whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until thickened.

Stir in 2 Tblsp of the whiskey and 2 Tblsp of the honey, and cook for 3-5 minutes until smooth. Taste it and add more of either or both if you want. Ditto with the salt and pepper.

The finished sauce
Place a generous spoonful of sauce on each warm plate and set a pork chop on it. Surround with boiled new potatoes. Serve with the remaining sauce on the side.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh

Yes, that's Ireland--Glandore Harbour in West Cork. No, it's not March in this picture. (Nor in the book coming next year. Hmm, maybe the one after that?)

Find it at Barnes and Noble or Amazon