Back when Solomon and Celia were little, we used to sneak through the forest searching for leprechauns on March 17. I would hide a few (fake) gold coins along the way as evidence that the little mischief makers were nearby. Of course we never did find any little people in green suits and top hats (although the kids often swore they saw or heard them laughing at us nearby!) but the hunt was always thrilling!
Did you ever wonder why so many of us wear green, eat corned beef and cabbage, tell our children tales about little Irish fairies who hoard gold, and draw pictures of “shamrocks”, or three-leafed clovers, on March 17th? Or why Americans celebrate a holiday named for a Christian missionary who lived in Ireland more than 1,500 years ago?
While not a lot is known about St. Patrick, he is widely credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland after he was captured in Britain and enslaved by Irish raiders. But for more than 300 years, Irish-American immigrants and their friends and neighbors, and now many children in the U.S., have used March 17 (which is also the recorded date of St. Patrick’s death), as an opportunity to celebrate our Irish heritage.
You’ll likely find packages of corned beef down your supermarket aisle from the green candy and shamrock cookies this week. Corned beef, or salt-cured brisket, is often part of meals celebrating this Irish holiday, along with potatoes, cabbage, and other foods that are associated with Irish-American traditions. Many Americans also celebrate this holiday by wearing something green to remind them of the green hills of Ireland. (Don’t forget, or you may get pinched!).
St. Patrick’s’ Day presents a wonderful opportunity to teach our children about Irish foods and symbols that have become part of the American holiday tradition. In addition to the corned beef recipe below, here are a few other edible projects you and your kids can enjoy on or before St. Patrick’s Day.
These St. Patrick’s Day Cookie Pops look like they are almost as much fun to make as they will be to eat.
Who knew a green bell pepper could look just like a shamrock, as in these Shamrock Toasties?
Your kids can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Dr. Seuss with Green Eggs and Ham from the delightful Parent Hacks.
Your kids will hardly be able to resist these healthy little green pearls, if you make these Kicked up a Notch Green Peas.
And finally, I hope you and your family will enjoy my family’s recipe for tender, juicy corned beef.
This recipe, from my mother-in-law Barbara Goldfarb, makes an irresistible family meal. It’s easy to make, but cooks slowly, so it’s best to make it on the weekend or a day you’ll be around the house — or leave all the work to your slow-cooker! Serve it with boiled new or red potatoes and wash it down with green beer or milk!
Recipe: Sweet Glazed Corned Beef and Cabbage
A family recipe for tender, juicy corned beef.
- 1 corned beef or brisket (3 - 4 lbs.)
- 1/2 yellow or white onion (slice the onion thinly crosswise and use 3 of the slices)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 stalk celery, sliced
- 4 – 6 cups shredded green cabbage (optional)
- 5 Tbsp. ketchup
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
- Creamy horseradish sauce or spicy mustard for serving (Optional)
- Put the beef into a Dutch oven or other large pot and cover it with cold water, with about 2 inches of water over the meat. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add the onions, bay leaf and celery to the water, and simmer it gently, partially covered, for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, until the beef is tender (it will pull apart easily). The meat will SHRINK. Check the water level periodically, and if you need to, add boiling water to keep the meat covered.
- After about 2 hours and 15 minutes, add the cabbage to the pot with the meat, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the ketchup, mustard, vinegar, sugar and butter or margarine in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Simmer it for 1-2 minutes, and then remove it from the heat. (Meanwhile, start the potatoes.)
- Drain the meat and vegetables and return them to the pot. Spoon the ketchup mixture evenly over the meat and bake it for about 10 minutes, until the edges turn brown. Slice the meat across the grain into thin slices and serve it with the vegetables in the pot.
- Slow Cooker directions: On the bottom of the slow cooker, scatter 8 small red potatoes (and a bag of baby carrots, if desired). Place the corned beef on top with the onion slices, celery, cabbage and bay leaf. Cover with water as above and cook on High 6 hours or Low 10-12 hours. Remove the corned beef from the crock pot and put it in a baking pan. Finish it as above.