These have the stories to back them up


When I asked a colleague for his wife’s Irish Soda Bread recipe – I had had it once at a staff meal and it was shockingly good – he said he was not sure you can give it away.

“She said it was her mom’s recipe and she should check with her before sharing it so widely,” he wrote on Microsoft Teams (ah, the times we live in).

Maybe that sense of belonging is why my recent call for readers to share their family’s recipes was a bit of a flop. Only three responded. Three!

No matter. There are more Irish soda bread recipes online than you can throw in a cup of raisins. Google away and you’re sure to find one.

But what you won’t find on a search engine are the stories behind the recipes.

Joseph Lenda of Paramus does not have a generations-old history. But his is still pretty awesome. One St. Patrick’s Day, his mother ran out of white sugar. She substituted brown, liked the taste, and has done it that way ever since.

Jim O’Neill, editor of The Record and, explained how his grandmother’s bread was shared at WNEW by his father, an employee, and his praises were sung on the airwaves each Saint’s Day -Patrick in the 60s and 70s. . (Jim’s story is also very touching. After the death of his grandmother, his father undertook the annual ritual of baking, always a little heavy with the raisins. Then, when his father died, his mother opened the oven to cook supper one night. There were raisins in the bottom of the oven, probably from the last bread he had made. She didn’t have the heart to clean them.)

Avenel’s Stephanie Kurowsky has a story that stems from curiosity.

“Having grown up in a household where you mostly eat cultural foods, namely Hungarian cuisine, which is great. I wanted to expose myself and my family to other delicacies,” she says.

And Linda Rasimowicz of Woodbridge has a similar story. She tasted Irish soda bread for the first time at a teachers’ breakfast at her school. “I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me and I had never tasted homemade soda bread. Once I tasted that, I was hooked!” she says. “Now whenever I do it (not just for St. Patrick’s Day), I do enough to share it.”

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The story behind the recipe by Catherine Burke of County Kerry, a good friend’s grandmother, comes not from Ireland, but rather from Nyack – where my husband and I have forged a happy and lasting friendship with several neighbors who share our love of food.

We take turns cooking for each other on different holidays and holidays, including Thanksgiving, Passover, and even the Super Bowl. Kris and Tom Burns always take on St. Patrick’s Day, when they serve whiskey cocktails and Guinness and plates full of corned beef and cabbage. No matter how full we are, there’s always room for another piece of bread from Tom’s grandmother, served warm and covered in room temperature Kerrygold. (During the pandemic, Tom delivered loaves to friends; mine was left on the porch tied up in white butcher paper.)

So this St. Patrick’s Day, think about the stories behind the recipes you cook. And if you want to share them, do not hesitate to contact us.

There’s always next year.

The Lenda Family’s Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread made by Joseph Lenda of Paramus.

Reader Joseph Lenda submitted his mother’s recipe, saying that “the little story is that my mother always made this bread for St Patrick’s Day. One year she didn’t have enough white sugar, so she substituted the She decided she liked the taste of brown sugar, and I kept it in the recipe.”

  • 3 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups seedless raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Grease a 9 inch round pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sift together all the dry ingredients, including the raisins and caraway seeds to coat. In a bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk and butter. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix gently. Place in the mold. Bake for 55 minutes.

Stephanie Kurowsky’s Irish Soda Bread

Stephanie Kurowsky's Irish Soda Bread.

Stephanie started making this recipe for her family, and now the grandkids love it too.

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 cup raisins

Preheat to 325. Grease two 8-inch by 4-inch pans. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, sour cream and raisins and mix until just combined. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for one hour.

Linda Rasimowicz Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread from Linda Rasimowicz.

Linda thanks her friend Kathy Murray for sharing this recipe and says it makes a very soft loaf with a nice crust.

  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons caraway seeds, to taste
  • 1 stick of butter (divided)
  • 1 can (12 ounces) raisins
  • 3 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together the first six ingredients. Add the caraway seeds, spreading them with the dry ingredients. Add the raisins, using your fingers to break them apart and coat them evenly in the flour. Add half of the softened butter to the mixture. Again, it’s easiest to use your fingers to incorporate the butter into the moist flour. When everything is well mixed, resembling cornmeal, make a well in the center of the mixture and add three cups of buttermilk. I use a wooden spoon to stir the buttermilk into the dry ingredients (it will be quite sticky) until there are no more dry specks of flour. At this point you decide if you want to make one large loaf or two small loaves. Use one large cookie sheet for one loaf, two smaller sheets for two. Lightly grease the molds and roll out the dough into an even circular mound. One loaf will spread slightly, during baking, to the size of a pizza – two will each spread to about the size of a dinner plate. Bake, uncovered, on the middle rack of the oven for one hour, until golden brown. Melt the other half of the stick of butter and when the loaves are done, remove them from the oven and brush them evenly with butter while they are still warm.

Julia O’Neill’s Irish Soda Bread

This recipe comes from the grandmother of USA TODAY Network editor Jim O’Neill. Julia and her soda bread were famous throughout the tri-state area each St. Patrick’s Day. Jim’s father, Nicholas, worked at WNEW and brought loaves of his bread to staffers, including WNEW host Gene Klavan, who spoke about it on air in front of a crowd of listeners. It has been passed down from generation to generation.

Another successful loaf of Julia O'Neill's Irish Soda Bread.
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups seedless raisins
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl. Add raisins and softened butter. Mix in the buttermilk. Mix until well blended. The dough will be stiff.

Place on a hard surface dusted with flour. Knead for five minutes. Shape the dough into an oval loaf about seven inches long. Using a serrated knife, score the top of the bread in the shape of a cross. Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about an hour, more or less.

Catherine Burke’s Irish Soda Bread

Expert baker Tom Burns of Nyack, New York, bakes his grandmother’s recipe every March. He coats it in Kerrygold butter and serves it with corned beef and cabbage and a plethora of mustards.

Catherine Burke's Irish Soda Bread.
  • 4 cups sifted flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Add caraway seeds and raisins.

In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, butter and eggs. Add to dry ingredients.

Stir to combine. Then knead to shape on a lightly floured board. Cut a cross at the top. Place in a cast iron skillet or whatever you choose to use.

Bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes. When done, wrap it in a linen towel and lean against the wall to cool.

Liz Johnson is regional feature editor for the USA TODAY Network’s Atlantic group, which includes The Record and and other Northeast newspapers, including The Journal News and The Asbury Park Press. Previously, she was a food editor, for which she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. Contact her at [email protected]


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