Diamond Irish Sausages

Diamond’s Sausage Company is a family owned business in Chicago that’s been around since the early 80’s.  John and Barbara Diamond use an old family recipe to make their delicious sausages.

They are famous for their sausages, but they also offer a large selection of Irish meat products: rashers (cured bacon), white and black pudding and of course their Irish bangers which you can get in a larger size like I chose for our menu.

They are available for purchase in the Chicagoland area at O’Connor’s Deli and Market and Gaelic Imports.  Check out Diamond Irish Sausage’s Facebook page to learn more and inquire about availability outside the Chicago area.

 

Irish Cole Slaw

This is a dish my cousin Diane shared with me when I was on a mad search for a summery vegetable side for my Lughnasa feast.

Diane lived in County Mayo a few years back and worked with the locals protesting a pipeline being constructed by Shell Oil.  The name of the group was Shell to Sea .  She said this “slaw” of sorts is something they used to make at the Solidarity Camp out of the available fresh vegetables.  The leftovers they would frequently make into a sandwich with “crisps” or what we would call potato chips, for a little added crunch.

While I have not tried the slaw in this form I did do a side by side comparison using two different types of vinegar.  Since Diane didn’t specify what kind they used at the camp, I assume it was whatever they had on hand, I decided to do a little taste test of my own trying one with apple cider and another with white wine.  I had my dinner guests be the judges and the overwhelming choice was in favor of the white wine vinegar version.  Feel free to try both slaws for yourself and decide.

1 red beet, peeled and grated

1 small head of green cabbage, grated

4 or 5 carrots, peeled and grated

1 turnip, peeled and grated

Olive Oil

White Wine Vinegar

Salt and Pepper

Combine the grated vegetable in a bowl.  Add enough olive oil and white wine vinegar to get to a good slaw consistency, enough to hold it together and soften the cabbage and stir.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cook’s Note:  The vegetable can be grated using the grater attachment on a food processor to cut prep time down considerably.

Brown Bread

Irish brown bread is an essential table item in Ireland.  Period.  Any time of the day: breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner, evening snack, a loaf of brown bread and a pat of butter is always on hand.

And now that I have found a recipe that closely replicates the beautiful loaves I’ve enjoyed in lovely homes across Ireland I am giddy I can now have it stateside any time I like.

My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Cook’s Note: As a last minute change up I omitted the wheat germ and simply added more of the course whole wheat flour.

4 cups whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup toasted wheat germ

·2 teaspoons salt

·¼ cup molasses

·1 teaspoon baking soda

·1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

·1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

·2 cups well-shaken buttermilk

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.

Butter a baking sheet or a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flours, wheat germ, salt, sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a large bowl until combined well. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

Make a well in center and add buttermilk, stirring until a dough forms. Gently knead on a floured surface, adding just enough more flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Transfer dough onto prepared baking sheet or cake pan, flatten to fill pan. With a sharp knife, cut an X (1/2 inch deep) across top of dough (5 inches long). Bake until loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when bottom is tapped, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool, right side up, about 1 hour.

Bread can be served the day it is made, but can be kept wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Fraughan Sunday Cake

Fraughans or bilberries are what the Irish would call wild blueberries.

They are very abundant in parts of Ireland, we here in the State would have the closest comparison would be our Huckleberries.  But with Huckleberries hard to find in parts of the U.S. my recommendation would be to use wild blueberries, which tend to be smaller and sweeter in taste than their non-wild relations.  If in a pinch to find wild, regular blueberries will do.  But if you aren’t opposed to not using fresh berries I highly recommend the frozen wild blueberries Boreal or otherwise, available at Trader Joe’s grocery stores.

Another menu suggestion:

While Ireland in the summer can get hot, they usually don’t experience the extreme high temperatures that we “yanks” do.  So if firing up the oven is just more than you can bear, let me suggest a cooler dessert option for your Lughnasa celebration.  A simple dish of fresh berries served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream can be just as satisfying and traditional as its baked counterpart.

Serves 8-10

2 cups self-rising flour*
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) of unsalted butter, Kerry Gold
1 cup fraughans or wild blueberries or huckleberries
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp milk

Fraughan Cream
6 fl. oz whipping cream
1/2 cup fraughans or wild blueberries or huckleberries
1 tbsp granulated sugar

To Make the Cake:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F

Butter a 7-inch round cake pan, you can use an 8 or 9 inch pan if you don’t have a 7 inch one available, the cake won’t turn out as thick, but otherwise it will be the same.

Cream together the butter, sugar, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding 1 tablespoon of flour with the last of the eggs. Sift the remaining flour and mix, adding enough milk to produce a stiff mixture.  The batter will be VERY thick, but that is as it should be. Gently stir in the berries, ensuring they are evenly distributed through the mixture.  Transfer to the prepared pan and spread the batter around evenly with a spatula being sure to smooth out the surface before placing in the oven. Bake for 1 hour.
Remove from the tin. Allow to cool on a rack for 1-2 hours before serving.

To Make the Cream:
Place the berries in a bowl and mash into a juicy pulp.

In a separate bowl whip the cream and sugar until stiff; fold in the berry pulp and chill before serving.

The cake can be sliced and served with a dollop of the berry cream.

Colcannon

I recommend using Irish butter in this recipe.  Brands like Kerry Gold can be found at local supermarkets ( I bought mine at Trader Joe’s).  It adds an nice golden hue to the dish.  I prefer to use the unsalted version so I can season for myself, but if you are a salted butter type of cook just note to adjust the seasoning at the end.  For a little table flair, place a large pat of the yummy golden butter on the dish before serving.

3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces

6 cups green cabbage – chopped

1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 stick for saute/1/2 stick for mashing)

2 leeks, white part only – chopped OR 1 yellow onion – chopped

1 cup whole milk, heated

Put potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water by about an inch.  On the stove top over high heat bring the potatoes to a boil.  Boil potatoes for about 15 minutes or until potatoes yield easily to piercing with a knife.

While the potatoes boil, saute the cabbage and leeks (or onions) in half a stick of butter until tender.

Drain potatoes and either mash or put through a ricer, stir in the warm milk, remaining half stick of butter and the cabbage/leek mixture.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

**Colcannon can be made ahead of time and reheated on the stove top under very low heat, covered.

Lughnasa

While the majority of us here in the United States are suffering through one of the year’s worst heat waves, it’s hard to believe there are parts of the world planning a wrap up to summer and a kick off to fall.

One such event is taking place in Ireland.

Lughnasa or Lughnasadh, the ancient Celtic harvest festival gets underway August 1st. There are some conflicting accounts on the exact date the celebration gets underway. Some claim that the start can be either the first Sunday in August or the Sunday closest to August 1st, which would be July 31st this year. Centuries ago, the harvesting festivities got underway in mid July and went through mid-August with the Lughnasa festival falling somewhere in the middle, making it … around August 1st.

The Lughnasa festival marks the beginning of autumn and the harvest season. People gathered to celebrate and ensure a bountiful yield. It was a time of gathering and celebration. It was also a time when young couples could choose to give marriage a try, at least for a year and a day. These newlyweds would return the following year and either choose to continue on as man and wife or go their separate ways. Sounds like a good deal for everyone. Everyone that is, but the modern day divorce attorneys. Sadly this custom faded with the passing of the years, so for the foreseeable future it’s ‘til death do us part.

The harvest festival of Lughnasa does go by other names. Bilberry Sunday, Garland Sunday and Crom Duhn Sunday are just a few. Bilberries (like our wild blueberries here in the states) are gathered at this time. Some believed if the bilberries were plentiful it meant that the rest of the harvest would be as well. Garland Sunday comes from the tradition of laying garland wreaths on Holy Wells to pay tribute to local patron saints. This new tradition shows a shift from the pagan Celtic beliefs to more Christian beliefs prevalent in modern Ireland.

I’ve had the opportunity in the past of being in Ireland during Lughnasa season and it really is great craic (Gaelic for fun). The Irish love a good party and any excuse to throw one. This farewell to summer celebration is just one of many such good times that the Emerald Isle executes beautifully. So if you want to pay tribute to your Irish roots, and as my dearly departed Grandma Cavanaugh would say, “If you go back far enough, everyone’s Irish” here are some pointers on how to show your friends homemade Lughnasa.

A bonfire, campfire or pit fire are a must. Some believe that Lughnasa is one of the 4 Celtic fire festivals. Whether that belief is true or not, it’s a great way to gather people around to share great stories and enjoy a drink or two. Plus there is just something wonderful (maybe it’s the smell or the crackle pop of the logs) about a nice summer’s night fire.

Good story telling. If you’ve got the fire going and the meal is done why not lay some fun Celtic folklore on your friends. Thanks to the internet, good Irish tales of heroes, fairies, banshees and the like are just a Google search away. And if folklore isn’t your thing, you can share great stories of your own. Or pick a guest who you know is GREAT as it (we all have one) and ask them ahead of time if they wouldn’t mind doing the honors. Part of putting on an Irish fete is sharing a tall tale or two.

Finally, food and drink. Can’t have a party without them. I think we are all so accustomed to the heavier St. Patrick’s Day fare that we don’t necessarily think of Irish food as a go-to for a summer barbeque. But hopefully some of the menu items I’ve put together for our Lughnasa feast will demonstrate some of Ireland’s lighter offerings.

As for drink, simple: Guinness. Whether it’s cold winter’s day or a hot summer night, nothing beats a Guinness. Some even think it has medicinal powers. Now I can’t speak to that, but I will say while this stout appears heavy, it is a surprisingly light and refreshing drink. I highly recommend giving it a try. But if you have hard core lager fans in your midst you can always offer a Harp. Or for the amber lover, the absolutely DE-licious Smithwick’s, soooo yummy.

Diamond Big Irish Sausage

Colcannon

Irish Cole Slaw or Diane’s Solidarity Camp Slaw

Brown Bread

Fraughan Sunday Cake with Fraugan Cream

Special Note:  I want to thank our cousin Sarah Amdor who has volunteered her amazing photographic talents to us here at Historic Hostess.  Sarah is responsible for the beautiful photos taken of the Bastille and Lughnasa celebrations.  Without her talent, time and patience this blog would simply be a collection of words.  Thank you for your colorful contribution. 

 

 

Coming Up

Aside

Lughnasa, the Irish Harvest Festival on August 1st is the next event on the Historic Hostess calendar. Look for the post on July 29th.

The Hungarian National Holiday, St. Stephen’s Day (August 20th) will wind up our Summer party season. That post will be published on August 7th, giving you plenty of time to plan your party.