Saint Patrick’s Day is more than just an excuse to wear green and throw a parade—it’s a celebration of Irish heritage and a day to remember the patron saint of Ireland. But how much do you really know about Irish culture and tradition?
Make this St. Patrick’s Day more than a meal by learning something new about Ireland’s history.
First, test your knowledge by reading the below overview of some of Ireland’s famous recipes and traditions. Then, prepare one of the below sandwiches for your upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebration—just be sure to use…what else? Potato bread!
In the United States, we typically associate “corned beef and cabbage” with Ireland, and therefore enjoy meals made with those ingredients as a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The truth is, corned beef is actually an Irish-American tradition and not as popular in Ireland.
In Ireland, a more popular dish is “bacon and cabbage” which typically uses back bacon from pork, boiled together with cabbage and potatoes or other root vegetables. These ingredients were more readily available as many Irish families traditionally grew their own vegetables and raised their own pigs.
However, with influence from England, Ireland did produce and sell corned beef starting around the 17th century. The British coined the term “corned beef,” which describes the process of curing the meat with large salt crystals (about the size of corn kernels). This type of meat became very popular in Europe and the Americas, and Ireland eventually began supplying it to these regions in large quantities. Ironically, even with this increased beef production in the country, many Irish could not afford beef for their own families and still relied on staples like potatoes, cabbage, and pork.
In the mid-1800s, primarily as a result of the potato famine, many Irish immigrated to the United States and settled in metropolitan areas like New York City. Many found their home near Jewish communities where they frequented kosher delis in which corned beef (now affordable) was often sold. Paired with their traditional foods of cabbage and potatoes, the Irish-Americans adopted this new yet familiar meat into their new culture.
Featured Recipe #1: Classic Irish Reuben
As with many origin stories, the history of the Reuben sandwich is often debated; but it is generally agreed upon that it originated in the United States around the 1920-1930s. The sandwich seems to be tied closely to Jewish delis, which makes sense when considering the popular foods typically sold in these establishments (e.g. corned beef). The famous sandwich is typically made with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and grilled between two slices of rye bread.
While not traditionally Irish, this classic sandwich is a fun and delicious way to enjoy the Irish-American pairing of cabbage with corned beef and learn more about Irish heritage in honor of St. Patricks’s Day.
Try this classic Reuben sandwich recipe: https://potatorolls.com/recipes/classic-irish-reuben
A Ploughman’s Lunch
When many of us picture Ireland, we think of rolling green hills and fields of livestock. And for good reason—because of its climate and geographical makeup, Ireland has relied on agriculture as a way of life for centuries. The raising of livestock and production of crops has been an important industry in Ireland for thousands of years and is still a major economic sector to this day.
A typical meal amongst Irish and English farmworkers consisted primarily of bread and cheese, with other accompaniments such as onions or pickles. Popularized also by traditional public house or “pub” fare, this type of meal has become closely associated with rural farmers or “ploughmen” and coined with the term “ploughman’s lunch.” A ploughman’s lunch typically includes bread, cheese, butter, onions, pickles, and occasionally ham, greens, eggs, apples, or some type of chutney.
Featured Recipe #2: Ploughman’s Sandwich
In honor of all the hardworking Irish laborers from generations past, consider making a “ploughman’s sandwich” for your Paddy’s Day meal. It combines all the typical ingredients of a workingman’s lunch with the fresh flavors of the farm—lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.
Get the recipe at: https://potatorolls.com/recipes/ploughmans-sandwich
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