The mother-in-law boiled potatoes in a large pot over the wood stove, drained the potatoes and then returned them to the top of the stove so they could steam in their jackets. She turned them out onto a towel in the the middle of the table. Family members then forked the tender potatoes, mashed them and slathered them in butter.
“The butter in Ireland was gold, and it had a flavor like no other,” Kunz recalled of the month she spent in Ireland with her first husband in 1968. The experiences of spending time with her former husband’s Irish family influenced her cooking.
Although Kunz may be known more for her Oktoberfest and desserts, she enjoys experimenting with other ethnic cuisines such as Irish. She has served a St. Patrick’s Day brunch for years at her restaurants, including the Commonwealth Yacht Club and Sugar and Spice.
“This is another excuse to feature a cuisine that doesn’t get a lot of play in our area,” Kunz said.
Kunz will offer a St. Patrick’s Day brunch from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. March 13 at her restaurant, Sugar and Spice, in Grand Rivers. The menu includes a whole poached salmon, corned beef and cabbage, buttered parsnips, Irish soda bread, a variety of scones, and fresh fruit. The meal costs $15 per person, and reservations are required by calling 270-362-2362.
Many Americans might be familiar with the taste of Irish soda bread because of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The first soda bread recipe was found in a November 1836 edition of Farmer’s Magazine in London, according to the Website for the Society for Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. The newspaper correspondent wrote that a person should “put a pound and a half of good wheaten meal into a large bowl, mix it with two teaspoons of finely powered salt” and then mix it with the soda. The mixture then had to be combined with soured buttermilk and then placed into a pan to cook in the oven.
Although many Irish people like the darker wheat flour for their soda bread, Kunz prefers white bread. “If you had a slice of the wheat bread at breakfast, you didn’t have to eat again until dinner,” she said. “It laid in your stomach like a stone.”
Kunz chose to alter the traditional recipe and use white flower with bits of golden raisin inside and serves it with a spread of strawberry-rhubarb. She got the recipe from her former sister-in-law in Chicago.
“It’s hard to say,” Kunz said of the taste. “It’s nothing like a yeast bread, but it’s very slightly sweet.”
Best ever soda bread
Oven temp: 375
degrees to start, 350 degrees to finish
4 cups flour
1⁄2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
11⁄2 cups buttermilk (or regular milk soured with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice)
1⁄2 cup melted butter or margarine (not whipped)
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.
Combine egg, milk and butter and blend into dry ingredients, stirring until moist.
Place dough onto floured surface. Kneed and fold ten times until smooth and pliable. Form into four round loaves. Place on parchment covered baking sheet. Cut an X onto the top of each loaf and brush with buttermilk.
Reduce oven temperature to 350. Bake 20-25