Enjoy These Iconic Irish Foods on St. Patrick's Day or Any Day of the Year
What comes to mind when you think of Irish foods? Your answer may depend on where you were raised. Many Americans cite corned beef and cabbage as the most iconic Irish meal, primarily on St. Patrick's Day, although it turns out to be not quite authentically Irish. Others who are better versed in Irish cuisine mention colcannon, brown bread, boxty, bangers (Irish sausages), and the drinks for which Ireland is best known, such as whiskey, stout, and Irish coffee. Ask an expat, however, and you'll likely hear the names of a number of store-bought specialties made in Ireland. These, they'll tell you, are the real taste of their home country, and the ones they miss the most. Below are a half dozen of Ireland's most iconic food exports. Any one of them might help make your St. Patrick's day festivities feel more authentically Irish, no matter where you or how you celebrate. Luckily, many are sold in supermarkets and larger groceries, and all are available online.
Diehard fans of Ireland's number one export butter claim you can taste the nation's famously green grass in every bite. Since the company began exporting its butter and other dairy products (including award-winning cheeses) in the late 20th century, that singular taste has became beloved around the world as well (it's now the second most popular butter in the United States, following Land O'Lakes). There may be no truer taste of Ireland than a slice of brown bread generously slathered in salted Kerrygold Butter ($3.84, walmart.com) and topped with sliced smoked salmon. The butter is also wonderful when baked into treats like shortbread and blondies.
For generations of Irish citizens, teatime has meant a cup of Barry's. The company's slogans over the years attest to its prominence at the table ("If it's not Barry's, it's not tea," for example). The company was founded in County Cork, in the west of Ireland, in 1901 by James J. Barry, and is currently owned and operated by his descendants. The original blend is still made from a mix of tea leaves sourced in India and Kenya, and the company now boasts three additional black tea blends—gold, master, and decaffeinated—as well as a few specialty blends and green teas. Steep a cup of Barry's Tea (from $8.95, amazon.com) and see for yourself. As another of the tea company's slogans goes, "Save your milk for something important."
Jacob's Cream Crackers
Cream crackers are uniquely Irish. Though they may sound rich and decadent, the name "cream" comes from the method in which the dough is made ("creaming") rather than the ingredients themselves (there's no cream included). The square, somewhat plain-tasting crackers make the perfect base for cheeses, savory spreads (think pâté and smoked-fish salads), and simply a smear of Kerrygold's salted butter. Jacob's Cream Crackers (from $1.89, instacart.com) were originally created by Dubliner Joseph Haughton and later manufactured by William Jacob. Today, more than a half billion of the beloved Irish crackers are sold each year.
No afternoon tea service in Ireland would be complete without a pot of jam or marmalade. Among the best-loved fruit spreads are those from Follain, a West Cork company that produces grapefruit marmalade from a 100 year-old recipe. Since 1984, Follain has produced more than two dozen other jams and sauces, both savory and sweet (including one distinctly Irish marmalade flavored with whiskey). The company's name comes from the Irish word for wholesome, signaling its commitment to using the purest ingredients. As often as possible, those ingredients are Irish-grown (the exceptions being citrus and other tropical fruits). Follain's fruit spreads ($9.20, amazon.com) are especially delicious on scones and toasted bread.
You may know that a typical breakfast in Ireland features a hearty measure of eggs and rashers (bacon), but you may be less familiar with an equally important component of the "full Irish:" a side of baked beans. Those beans most often come from a can, and that can probably says Batchelors on the label. The company has been producing savory baked beans since 1935 in a factory in Dublin, with a well-guarded recipe that includes tomatoes, vinegar, salt, three kinds of ground pepper (black, white, and cayenne), and other natural flavors. Not just for breakfast, Batchelors Beans ($1.99, instacart.com) are enjoyed throughout the day for lunch, dinner, or just for a snack, as a favorite topping for toast.
A full Irish breakfast may get all the attention, but porridge is just as prevalent on breakfast tables throughout Ireland on any given morning. The most-well known porridge is made with Flahavan's Oats (from $9.73, amazon.com). The country's oldest family business, Flahavan's has processed oats from a mill on the banks of the River Mahon, in Waterford, since the 1780s. The company boasts a loyal base of porridge lovers that enjoys more than three million servings per week. Beyond the breakfast bowl, Flahavan's rolled oats are especially tasty when baked into all kinds of cakes, cookies, and cookie-like cakes.