This past weekend I finally made it up to the Adirondacks. It’s been so long, I know but I’ve been so busy! It was really nice to get away, without cell phones, or computers and just take in the beauty that surrounds.
I LOVE camping, hiking, fishing, and just hanging out outdoors. I love cooking over the fire, and reading by its light. I feel like the best stories, songs, and fairytales come out during camping. I remember all the nights’ playing cards with my dad and my grandpa and hearing stories of all the adventures that my grandfather had growing up in the backwoods of northern NY. In fact the camp that my family now owns only feet from the foundation where my grandfather and his three brothers grew up. Though it all looks very different from when he was young.
One of my favorite stories is about my great grandfather and one of his sons, whom we will call Henry. Living so far out in the woods it was not uncommon for most houses to lack running water and electricity. One day in school the teacher asked who in the classroom had running water. Henry raised his hand, thinking that the little creek behind their house counted as running water, since it was in fact running. The poor boy couldn’t have been much older than 8 or 9 and the teacher was not so kind, telling him to put his hand down; laughingly saying that no one as poor as him could possibly afford running water. Feeling bad about himself Henry came home and told the family about what his teacher had said. His father was not pleased hearing that his child was picked on by his own teacher, so he made a resolution to show that teacher a thing or two. Somehow he scraped up all the equipment he needed. It took some time, a few long hours digging a hole in the ground for the pipe, and getting everything to work properly, but he managed to pull the water directly from the small creek into the house and create running water in their little shack. Once everything was in its place, he had his son invite the teacher over for dinner. The teacher came and was shocked to see how very wrong she had been. They were the only house for miles to have running water.
This was the story I told Chuck while we cooked dinner our second night there. Nothing makes me more proud than sharing these stories about my family, except maybe sharing our favorite camping recipes. That night we made Steak on a Stick, and Foil Potatoes. Both are fairly simple and convenient for weekend trips.
Steak on a Stick may be the easiest most convenient camp food ever, plus its way better than hotdogs. Simply buy boneless stewing meat, pop it in a plastic bag with your favorite marinade, and freeze. When spending the whole weekend camping freezing as much of the food as possible is great because then you don’t need to bring ice, and end up with a cooler full of water. If the meat isn’t fully thawed a few hours before dinner, just take it out. Then once the fire is going take the individual pieces, place them on a sharpened stick, and hold them over the fire like you would a hot dog. The cool thing about it is everyone can cook their own to the internal temperature they want.
Upon arrival in Kilkenny we walked around town some and then went to Smithwick’s for a brewery tour. There was a lot to learn about on this tour, which was very different from the one at Guinness. Here there were no displays, and old machinery, this brewery was still brewing beer, albeit not much longer. After gearing up in our safety clothes we entered the 1710 courtyard and viewed the building that the Smithwick family once called home. Next we went to a church, which is actually a national landmark that happens to be confined within the brewery. It was neat to see how after all the years of development the brewery was still able to grow around the ruined church and maintain a place for it. After that we were able to enter the brewery and see a few men at work, as well as how the machines worked. Our guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining which also made the tour enjoyable. Our last stop on the tour was the bar, and basement area where they used to store the beer that was transformed into a modern bar where we were served our complimentary pint. One neat thing that we learned is that in order to taste Smithwick’s at its best it should be poured in stages like Guinness. Who Knew?
Next we headed downtown for dinner. Chuck wasn’t feeling well so we started off with a pot of tea, had dinner, which I will get to in a minute, and another pot of tea. Once it started to cool off outside, we headed inside for a few beers, and a few hours later a side of fries, and some more beers. One of my favorite parts about Ireland is that it’s a regular occurrence to go and hang out at a pub for hours on end, sipping tea or beer. Since they don’t tip they aren’t in a rush to turn tables, and they just assume you sit enjoy yourself, and make their job easy. We spent nearly 6 hours at one place and enjoyed every minute of it. I think more bars in the US should be like that.
Now for the lamb stew! Here is the recipe that I found and followed to a T. I chose to use a crock pot recipe, because with the weather in the 90’s having the stove running in our tiny kitchen did not sound appealing at all. But overall I am happy with how it turned out. The rich broth, fresh vegetables and lamb from the farmers market really pushed it over the top for me. I will be making this again. I daresay it was even better than I remember it. I think starting with the bacon really helped add a little salt, and smokiness that added so much depth. My friend Amy was over and had never had lamb before, she’s not really the type of person I would expect to like it either, but even she said it was delicious!
Irish Lamb Stew
Serves: serves 4 to 6
- 5 sliced of bacon, diced
- 1 lb bone in lamb shank
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 ½ cups beef broth
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 large carrots, chopped
- 2 medium potatoes, chopped
- 2 whole bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ cup frozen peas
- Salt & pepper to taste
- In a large skillet cook the bacon until crispy over medium high heat. Remove and set aside, leaving the grease in the pan.
- Add the lamb to the pan and brown on all sides. Once browned place the lamb in the crock pot.
- Deglaze the pan with the beef broth and white wine, scraping the browned bits form the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the flour until well blended and remove from heat.
- Add the onion, carrots, potatoes, bay leave and thyme to the crock pot. Then pour the broth and flour mixture over the top, scrapping the pan.
- Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. 30 minutes before the stew is finished use tongs to carefully remove the shanks from the crock pot. Separate the meat from the bone with a fork and shred. Return the shredded meat to the pot, and discard the bones.
- Stir in the frozen peas, cover and allow the stew to finish cooking.
- Adjust seasonings and serve immediately.
Waking up bright and early, our host Patrick provided a beautifully large Irish breakfast and chatted us up a bit before we headed up to The Rock. This is the sight of a 13th century cathedral that has a history dating back to before 1100 A.D. It sits up high on a hill which allows you to look out over the town and some of Ireland’s most fertile farm land. It was also the spring board for several smaller churches whose ruins can be seen in the distance as well as in the city. We spent a lot of time here looking at the mammoth buildings, and reading the old grave stones. I was awestruck most of the time at the shear mass of the building, and the craftsmanship that it took for carpenters and stone masons to do all of this by hand. It is amazing what humans were able to build with simple tools. The nerd in me wanted to inspect every alcove, vaulted ceiling, and hidden stair; this was one of those places that you can just imagine the monks roaming around sweeping the floors, and tending the gardens. I truly enjoyed this site, its unique beauty and eventful history. It was easily my favorite historical site on the trip.
While here I finally ordered my own bangers and mash, while Chuck had roast duck in orange sauce. It was all delicious! The bangers, known to most of us as sausages are very different than what most people in the US think of as sausages. They have a much more mild flavor, and there is no definitive difference between breakfast and dinner sausages, meaning there’s really only a few types offered, the most popular being pork and leek.
In my quest to cook as much traditional Irish food as possible I decided to try my hand at making my own bangers. Following this recipe (recipe no longer available), this little experiment actually took a couple hours. I first had to grind the pork loin, then mix it with spices, then stuff the sausage casings, before cooking. I heard somewhere that when you’re making a large batch of burgers, or sausages that you should cook up a small patty to make sure they taste the way that you want them too. And I am so glad I did, they definitely needed an extra leek, as well as round through the fine grinder. I made a few small changes to the recipe, in that I used a pork loin and didn’t add any extra fat, in order to keep them a bit healthier, this may have sacrificed some flavor but I was happy with the way the leak and sage really showed through in the sausages.
What was exciting was that I was able to complete this project with the use of my mother’s kitchen aid and a $30 attachment. Had I known that making sausages was so easy I would have done this forever ago! I think I’m seeing some great experiments in my future.
|My Irish Bangers & Mash|