Native American Irish

irish-soda-breadWith St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, it’s time for Irish Soda Bread, an international favorite. Although it hasn’t been around for thousands of years – only from about the 1840s – many believe that the Irish soda bread has been a part of Ireland forever.

Soda bread wasn’t invented by the Irish. Credit has to go to the Native Americans who were using soda ash to leaven their bread well before the Irish discovered the chemical properties of what we call baking soda. .

Irish soda bread was one of the easiest and cheapest breads to put on the table and Ireland was a poor country, having suffered through the potato famine and other man-made and natural calamities. The use of baking soda made a unique chemical reaction that made for an inexpensive but moist and filling bread.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread was made with the most basic of ingredients – flour, baking soda, soured milk and salt. A cross was cut into the top with a knife so as to ward off the devil and protect the household.

Bread baking was an important part of daily life in almost every home in Ireland. Living in isolated farmhouses with only open hearths and no ovens, bread-making was an integral part of daily life in almost every home. Because of the open hearths, the breads, consequently were tender and dense, eaten with the main meal and the bread baked every  two to three days because of its perishable nature.

In Ireland, soda bread is often shaped in different ways based on where in the country the loaf is made.

Our Irish Soda Bread here at Farm to Market takes a few extra ingredients, adding a bit of sweetness to the traditional loaf. Using sugar, butter, flour, baking soda and powder, butter and buttermilk, our soda bread takes on a mild sweetness and almost scone like quality.  We are proud to add our unique bread to a long tradition of  Irish Soda Bread and are grateful to the Native Americans who made it all possible with the discovery of the use of soda in baking.

A Valentine Legend



And when you combine them just for a limited time between the last week in January and Valentine’s Day on February 14th, you get Chocolate Cherry Bread, a bread Valentine would love.

Did you know there are at least three Valentines?

The Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named Valentine and all of them were martyred. One Valentine defied the Romans when the leaders decided that single men made better soldiers. This Valentine continued to perform marriages, realizing the injustice of the decree. He was killed for his belief in true love.

Another tells the story of a Valentine who helped people escape the harsh Roman prisons. It was this Valentine who supposedly sent the first valentine when he fell in love with a young woman while he performed his escape work. He sent her a note signed “from your Valentine.”

The truth behind all these stories is shady but they all tell of a sympathetic, heroic and romantic person.

There are also the festivities around Lupercalia, the goddess of fertility. All would gather and after sacrifices, the hides of the animals would be cut into strips, dipped in the blood and taken to the streets where women and crop fields would be gently slapped. It was believed that this ritual made the women more fertile. Later, all the women would put their names in a large container and bachelors would choose who would be their love, a match often ending in marriage.

So go out and celebrate this Valentine’s Day with those you love. Perhaps give them a card, flowers, or help with a chore. And maybe our delicious Chocolate Cherry Bread……it’s special….after February 14 you won’t see it for 48 more weeks and that’s a long time away from a bread you love.

A Little Wafer Goes a Long Way

There’s no sourdough starter in it.  There’s no mysterious bake time.  Still it says “I love you.” Oplatek is a piece of a thin, flat tasteless wafer and every Christmas Polish American families share it with family members and friends and anyone who comes to the door.  Oplatek carries all the goodness of the season. And this is not a tradition that is isolated; rather, it takes place at Christmas Eve dinner  in families with roots in Poland and many Eastern European countries, a tradition that dates back hundreds of years.

“For us, Polish Americans, the oplatek, that wafer, is Christmas Eve,” says Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, author of the book Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore. “It defines people’s heritage.”

Poles had the tradition of a meal on Christmas Eve that traditionally had 12 foods, representative of the 12 apostles.  The meal would include fish dishes as well as soups and boiled and stewed fruits and vegetables.  Usually before this meal came a small ceremony which followed the grace prayer.  The head of the house would take the wafer and would express a hope for the new year and perhaps give wishes to someone for good health.  This exchange was repeated again and again with those present.

The sharing of this unleavened bread with another person is sharing all that is good with life,” says Knab. “It’s a time to tell each other, ‘I love you, I care about you.’ And you do it in an open area, where everyone else can see you.”

The wafer is made of flour and water and is pressed between two flat or engraved piece of metal.  Its taste and texture is similar to the Holy Communion wafer used in churches.  It is often sold in ethnic churches but is also available on line.

oplatek Bread in the Middle Ages was hard to come by and sharing anything to do with bread was a caring kind of exchange.  Families would often make flatbread from the leftover flour blended with water to share with those around them.  During World War II, with families scattered all over the world, people would send pieces of oplatek to remind family members that they were thinking and praying for them.

The ritual is not complicated and not tasty, but the feeling of connection is strong.  Those who have gone before us, those who struggled as we do, those who loved and cared as we do – all those people connected to one another with a tiny wafer called oplatek. 


Lighten Your Loaf

Baking is a serious business.  You have to get the mixing right, the fermentation time down, and the oven just right.  But bakers aren’t serious in everything they do.  At Farm to Market they have fun while they bake and they  still turn out some very serious loaves.  So put your worries aside and enjoy these jokes I’ve picked up along the way  and let them leaven your laughter.    bread-1084016_1280

Q: What did the bag of flour say to the loaf of bread?bread-1084016_1280

A: “I saw you yeasterday”

Q: Why doesn’t bread like warm weather?

A: Things get Toasty!

Q: What did one slice of bread say to the other slice of bread when he saw some butter and jam on the table?

A: We’re toast!

Q: What does bread do after it’s done baking?

A: Loaf around

. Q: What do bakers give women on special occasions?

A: Flours

Q: Have you seen the romantic comedy about bread?

A: Loaf Actually.

Q: What did the yeast say to the bag of flour?

A: Come on we knead to be serious!

Q: Can you make a sandwich with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese?

A: Rye not?

Q: What is a bakers favorite Beatles song?

A: “Loaf is all you knead.”

Q: When does sourdough bread rise?

A: When you yeast expect it.

And now that the groaning is done, give that flour mixture another stir and remember the story of the two biscuits who were walking across the street.  One biscuit got hit by a bus and the other one said, “Oh! Crumbs!”

Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!



The Baker and the Devil

13.jpgWe’ve all heard the phrase “a baker’s dozen” but other than knowing we get 13 bagels instead of 12, we don’t know much else.   Actually the phrase has its roots around bread.

Back in the Middle Ages, bread was sold by the loaf. Because of the difficulty of getting weight differentials equal,  it was hard to make the loaves uniform and as a consequence some were short on the average weight of loaves.  And, of course, you had unscrupulous bakers who tried deliberately to short weigh the bread.  Because of the prevalence of this, laws were passed which regulated the weights of various kinds of breads, muffins and cakes.  Some of those laws are still in existence today.

However, as everyone knows, it is extremely difficult to have each baked item weigh the same. And bakers back in the Middle Ages were dealing with primitive ovens and varying flour weights.  In order to get around this, the practice began of adding an extra loaf to a person’s order to make sure that the baker stayed within the law.  Hence the Baker’s Dozen was born.

And that theory doesn’t compare to the one in which bakers were seen as the devil. People would use baker and devil  interchangeably.  Some history buffs speculate that the baker’s dozen evolves from the devil’s dozen which was thirteen items, thirteen being the number associated with witches and evil.

Next time you bite into bread, remember that the baker had to fight a lot of history to give you that good loaf of bread. Let’s make 13 the baker’s lucky number.

A Sourdough Samich

sandwich-311262_1280.pngSummer. A time for vacations and fun.  And many people find their fun in Wyoming, in a small town called Story.  Not only are there all the outdoor adventures of fishing and hiking and more, there was a small little restaurant called Waldorf A’Story.  Run by a man named Dick Hoover, a gentleman who wanted to escape the heat of Dallas, Texas, and his good wife, Patty, the restaurant was opened and served food to hungry travelers.  The restaurant has since closed but Waldorf A’Story Guest Haus is still operating.

The old restaurant made a very good sandwich called the Moosey Breakfast Samich, made on sourdough bread. Try it on ours.

2 slices sourdough bread


2 eggs

2 slices American Cheese

4 slice cooked bacon, 1 slice fried ham, OR 2 fried pork sausage patties.

Thinly sliced raw purple onion to taste

2 slices fresh tomato.

Butter one side of each slice of bread and brown the slices, buttered side down, in a frying pan or on a grill over low heat. While the bread browns, fry the eggs, scrambling them slightly.  Place cheese on top of the eggs and cover just long enough to melt the cheese.  Place one piece of the bread on a serving plate, add the cooked meat of choice and top with eggs and cheese and onion and tomato.  Cover with the remaining slice of bread.  Cut in half and enjoy.

Many thanks to a little restaurant tucked away in the state of Wyoming.