Special Report

20 Irish Foods Explained Just in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

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11. Collared head

This is a colorful name for head cheese, also called brawn. It’s a kind of terrine made with bits of meat from a brined pig’s head, sometimes with bits of pigs’ feet or other meats added. The natural gelatin from the meat holds the terrine together. An old-fashioned dish, it was seldom encountered until recent years, when it has made something of a comeback, especially in restaurants and food shops specializing in traditional Irish fare.

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12. Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned beef (brisket preserved by heavy salting) long-simmered with cabbage is, along with Irish stew, probably the most famous of all Irish dishes in the U.S. It’s common to read, though, that it isn’t really Irish at all, but an Irish-American invention. Not so. According to Darina Allen — who runs the highly respected Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork and is considered one of the leading experts on Irish cuisine — corned beef was once extremely well-liked in Ireland, even though its popularity subsequently waned. Before the advent of refrigeration, the meat would be salted when cattle were slaughtered in the fall, then eaten with spring cabbage on Easter Sunday to break the Lenten fast.

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13. Crubeens

These are pigs’ feet (or pigs’ trotters), once widely popular in Ireland as bar food and street snacks, usually long-cooked into gelatinous tenderness — though full of tiny bones — and then coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Like collared head (see No. 11), pigs’ feet fell out of fashion over the past century, but in recent years have made a comeback, and now appear even on fancy restaurant menus in Ireland — sometimes boned out to make them easier to eat.

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14. Drisheen

Definitely an acquired taste — and usually acquired only by offal-lovers in its home town of Cork (though it has some fans in Limerick and Kerry, too) — drisheen is another form of black pudding. In this case, though, there’s no meat involved, just congealed pig’s or sheep’s blood with milk and seasonings. A writer in the Irish Times described its texture last year as “almost disturbingly smooth, like raw liver, except that it cuts as easily as jelly.” In Cork it is often cooked with tripe, for a dish called packet and tripe.

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15. Dulse

Also called dillisk, dulse is a kind of seaweed, eaten as a snack, put into sandwiches, or used as a seasoning or flavoring for dressings and other foods. The practice of harvesting it from rocks at low tide, called “dulsing,” is said to date back 1,400 years.

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