When I married Ned, I inherited his grandmother’s iron skillet and her recipe for Irish Soda Bread. Agnes Bustards’ parents were “straight off the boat” from Ireland, and carried with them the strong name of Strudwick. In my mind, I imagined that this recipe had traveled with them straight across the Atlantic Ocean. Agnes was married to Edwin Bustard, later called Dr. B by everyone who met him; where he was lovable, she was a force to be reckoned with. A solid Bible teacher, evangelist, writer, and spiritual mentor, for years she also ran a month long Summer Bible School event where children memorized chapters of the Bible… just for the sticker prizes. She loved the Bible, she loved to teach the Bible, she laughed a lot, but she was a tough cookie who did what she wanted. Although hats were not expected to be worn by our wedding guests, she wore one, anyway, and delighted in showing it off.
When I asked her about the recipe, I thought I would hear a story of family food traditions. Instead, I learned that this family favorite came from a recipe cut out from a newspaper and given to her by a friend. I’m still grateful for it; it has made 3 generations of Bustards, our family included, very happy. I do admit, I upped the sugar to sweeten it and swapped out the dark raisins for golden ones. I think my father-in-law approves.
Irish Soda Bread (Grandmama’s Recipe, with Leslie’s tweaks)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. baking powder
¾ cup granulated sugar
8 oz. raisins (or more!)
2 cups buttermilk
Heat oven to 400, 15 minutes before putting the soda bread in the oven. Grease and flour an iron skillet. (I think the iron skillet is key to its success…)
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients well. Pour batter into the skillet.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400 then turn the oven down to 375 and bake for the rest of an hour. (This is what the original recipe says, but I usually bake it for 30-35 more minutes to keep it from getting too brown on the top and from drying out.)
Butter the whole thing while it is hot. Enjoy that first warm piece! It is still delicious cold, but that first slice is wonderful, warm.
The featured image is courtesy of Leslie Bustard and used with her gracious permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Leslie Anne Bustard takes great joy in loving people and places, whether at church, around her kitchen table, in a classroom, or traveling around. She delights in words and the way poets and storytellers put them together, and marvels at the beauty found in the details of ordinary life. Reading, writing, teaching literature, baking, producing high school theater, and museum-ing are some of Leslie’s favorite things. Leslie is the host of The Square Halo, a podcast for Square Halo Books (https://www.squarehalobooks.com/podcasts) and is developing a book titled Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to the Best Children’s Books. She and her husband Ned have been married for 30 years and live in a century-old row house in Lancaster City, where they raised their three daughters.