Marking St. Patrick’s Day, kids will be making Irish Soda Bread. Soda bread was introduced in the early 1800’s in England, rapidly became popular in Ireland, and then in America. According to the Society for the Preservation of Soda Bread, “All recipes for traditional soda bread contain flour, baking soda, sour milk (buttermilk) and salt. That’s it!!!” — which makes a plain daily bread. Museum Educator Lola Chen will be showing the children how to make a more festive version, which includes raisins and butter, in individual loaves. She will also be talking about the cross on soda bread which has several explanations. Legend has it that folks did it to “let the devil out” while it’s baking for good luck, and others say that it made it easy to divide into 4 pieces. It was also a symbol for a cross during Christian holidays.
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Did You Know?
“Bread soda was introduced in the early 1800s and it suddenly meant that people who didn’t have an oven — and virtually nobody had an oven then — could make soda bread. They cooked the bread in what’s called a bastible — a big cast-iron pot with a lid on it that would have been put right onto the coals or onto the turf fire. The great thing about soda is that it was not so perishable and it would have been relatively inexpensive. And they would have had buttermilk from the cows [old-fashioned buttermilk is a by-product of making butter] and they would have been growing wheat, so they would have had flour.” Rory O ‘Connell, Irish food expert, co-founder of the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School. Interview with Megan O. Steintrager, Epicurious