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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Warmed, Heart & Soul

There was a great deal of family lore about Ireland as I grew up. My father’s family claims some Irish ancestry but my mother’s side is the real source of the green in our blood.  We grew up listening to the Clancy Brothers, The Chieftans and the Dubliners and passed on that tradition to our kids; who more often now are listening to The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly but, Irish is Irish.

 When I got the chance to go to Ireland a few weeks ago, it was literally a dream come true. After a couple of days in Dublin we headed north to Inishowen, in northern Donegal  and then wound our way down the west coast through Counties Sligo, Mayo, & Galway all the way down to Killarney.

You will never believe what that pot of gold at the
end of the rainbow turned out to be...

We stayed in hotels, B&B’s and hostels, simply asking each evening at the local pub for a recommendation. We ended our trip at Dromoland Castle in County Clare (another story to come) and when it finally came time, two weeks later, to fly out of Shannon Airport, I was reminded of a scene in the movie Shirley Valentine where she watches her luggage wind its way up the conveyer belt, turns and walks away from the airport, refusing to leave Greece. If my husband hadn’t been there with me…

One of the many pleasures of Ireland is the food; in particular, the dairy products. Animals raised almost exclusively on rich, emerald green (literally!) grass give milk that is astoundingly rich and flavorful.  

In Killarney National Park

While in the southwest of Ireland, we toured Killarney National Park on a ‘horse and trap’ where we met our driver, Hugh, who in turn introduced us to his mother, Sheila, who ran a B&B on their nearby dairy farm. Of course, we could not resist the opportunity to stay on a working dairy farm (Valley View Farm) where we not only watched the milking but also were treated to a demonstration by the herding dogs that are also raised and trained on the farm.

One of 'the girls' at Valley View Farm

In the US, cream commonly found in stores has lower butterfat content than that found in Ireland making it less rich and thick than its European counterpart. In my opinion, we have taken the low-fat, low calorie craze to such an extreme that we can now rarely find products that have not been overprocessed and ‘dumbed down’ from their original marvelous origins. It’s FAT. Yes. And it tastes fantastic. Can I eat it every day and stay the same weight? Um, no; but I am not willing to give it up entirely.

On the Corrig Princess

On the Corrig Princess, a river cruise boat in Galway, we watched Irish Coffee made and that incredible, thick, rich cream spooned on top. While to whip or not to whip the cream is somewhat controversial among purists, I prefer a softly whipped version (call it a compromise), using high butterfat ‘old fashioned’ heavy whipping cream.  

Other controversies, to garnish with cocoa or nothing; brown sugar, raw sugar or cane sugar; or what brand of Irish Whiskey tastes best, I leave to others. I will listen in with my chilly hands wrapped around my own steaming mug of Irish Coffee.

Sipping at the source

And p.s. – don’t stir in the cream or they will know you are a 'Yank'. Sip through the cream for a delightful melding of hot rich sweetened coffee, Irish Whiskey and cool thick cream on top.


Irish Coffee
A Tasty Tutorial

In a chilled bowl, whip ½ pint of heavy whipping cream
Use the highest butterfat content whipping cream you can find for authentic flavor & thickness

Brew fresh, hot strong coffee

Warm a footed glass Irish Coffee Mug by filling with hot water

When the coffee is ready, discard the water and add 1 teaspoon of raw sugar to the mug, stir to dissolve sugar

Fill the mug 2/3 full with hot coffee

Add 1 ounce of good Irish Whiskey to the coffee
(Jameson, Powers, etc.)

Top with thickened, lightly whipped cream

Sprinkle the top of the whipped cream with unsweetened
cocoa powder, if you wish

Drink without stirring, the heavy blanket of cream holds in the heat of the coffee and the ‘warmth’ of the Irish Whiskey

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