Slumgullion, Irish Salt Blessing & Whit Sunday Traditions

Old Irish Salt Blessing for Protection

Slumgullion, Irish Salt Blessing & Whit Sunday Traditions

Photo Kindly Submitted by Johanna

Hi all,

Is it just me or does that newspaper clipping just stop you in your tracks? It was send to me by Johanna who found it inserted in an old home economics cookbook. Even though World War 2 ended in 1945 it was another six years before rationing came to an end in Ireland on December 17th 1951, right before Christmas and almost 100 years after the end of the Great Irish Famine. However rationing started in 1939, that’s almost 12 years of rationing. It wasn’t just Ireland though. Ration books were issued in America, Canada, Australia and the UK. In today’s newsletter, Kelly asked me to feature the recipe for slumgullion, the Irish version and I thought it would be cool (or dull) to see just how far out the ingredient’’ could be stretched in other recipes. I hope you like it.

Every week I say I am going to write a shorter newsletter and if just never happens. Is circa 4,000 words too much? I loved writing this weeks but I say that every week. Lots of stories starting to come in, some of you have mentioned in the poll that you have a story but I think my reply emails are going into your spam folders. Can you check for “Old Irish Recipes” or “Roisin Hynes” and see if there’s a follow up one there from me. Otherwise please message in your story through any of the social media channels or you can email me.

If you are enjoying this newsletter and want to support Old Irish Recipes to continue, you can view our upgrade offer on the Great Irish Famine or buy me a tea if this newsletter helped you in any way. Or take a peak at some of the new links I am posting for our sponsors. Thank you all.

In today’s newsletter there is…

  • Irish Stewed Steak (Slumgullion) Recipe, from the movie “It Happened on 5th Avenue” 1947

  • Oxtail Stew Recipe

  • How to Clarify Beet Suet or Beef Fat & Why You Need to Know

  • How to Clarify Beef Dripping

  • Old Irish Tradition Reminder: Whit Sunday on 19th of May

  • Whit Sunday Old Irish Traditions and Beliefs

  • Donegal Ghost and Irish Fairy Story

  • The Evil Eye / The Wicked Hand Belief and Cure

  • Old Irish Salt Blessing for Protection

  • The Great Irish Famine Letters Update

  • Róisín’s Shout Out’s

Irish Stewed Steak (Slumgullion) Recipe

A great recipe requested by Kelly. Irish stewed steak is a delicious, cheap recipe and it is one of my husband’s favourite meals. It is made from beef chuck, that is the area of beef below a cows neck, above the shoulder. This part of the beef is cheaper to buy because it has a lot of connective tissue and fat. This recipe is cheap not only for using the beef chuck but also because it uses up all the vegetables peelings or trimmings that would normally be thrown out. Do not be fooled by the frugal nature of this recipe, I have seen this very recently on the menu of a private Dublin hospital when visiting a friend and everyone in the lunchtime canteen queue was asking for a serving of it.

  • 1lb. of chuck beefsteak

  • ¾ pf a pint of stock or water

  • 1 oz of butter

  • 1 oz of flour

  • 1 onion

  • 1 carrot

  • ½ a turnip

  • 6 large potatoes

  • Salt and pepper

Remove the fat from the steak and put it aside until wanted. Divide the remaining steak into 5 or 6 steak pieces. Wash and peel the vegetables and keep the trimmings. Chop the carrot and turnip into small even pieces the size of dice and place them in a saucepan of water until needed. Add the peeled potatoes to another saucepan of water and set aside. Heat the butter in a stewpan and fry the steak quickly until browned on both sides. Once browned, remove it from the stewpan and again set aside. Now add the vegetable trimmings and the flour to the stewpan, fry until brown, then add the stock or water and stir until boiling. Add the meat back in, season to your preference and cover with a lid. Gently cook on the hob for about 2 hours. Thirty minutes before it is ready, boil the vegetables until tender in salted water, strain and set aside to be ready alongside the stew. You can also fry the fat of the meat that you had set aside until browned to serve with the stew on the side, or you can keep this to clarify as outlined in the next recipes. Once everything is ready, lift out the steaks and place each on a hot dish, strain the meat sauce over it, place the fried fat on top if using and serve with boiled carrots, parsnips and mashed potatoes.

In the movie “It Happened on 5th Avenue” 1947 in this clip here at 0:24 seconds in, you can see the three saucepans beside the big stewpot. One hold’s peeled potatoes in salted water, one holds diced carrots and turnip in salted water and the third holds the off cuts of beef fat in water, ready to render. The smell at 0:09 is the meat frying in the butter. Salted butter is best.

Oxtail Stew

I tried to buy this recently at my butchers and couldn’t. Apparently, it flies off the fridge shelf and I need to come in before lunch on Mondays to get it. I grew up eating this and loved it.

  • 1 ox tail

  • 2 ounces of butter

  • 1½ ounces of flour

  • 1 pint of stock or water

  • A bouquet of parsley, thyme or bay-leaf

  • 2 cloves (optional)

  • 1 sliced onion

  • Salt and pepper

Wash the tail and cut it into pieces about 1½ inches long and divide the thick parts in half. Heat up the butter in a stewpan, dry the pieces of tail thoroughly and fry them until brown in the butter. Remove them from the stewpan and leave aside. Add the sliced onion and the flour and fry until browned, then add the stock, bouquet of herbs, cloves salt and pepper and stir until boiling. Return the pieces of tail, then cover the stewpan and simmer gently for 2½ to 3 hours. When done, arrange the pieces of tail on a hot dish, season the sauce as you like with salt and pepper and then strain the sauce over the tail. Serve with brown soda bread or mashed turnip, carrots and potatoes. Feeds up to six people.

How to Clarify Beet Suet or Beef Fat & Why You Need to Know

You can ask your butcher for suet or muscle fat or a mixture of both or if buying a chuck beefsteak, you can cut away the fat to use in this recipe. Suet has a higher melting point and congealing point than regular fat so is better for cooking at a higher heat, such as using it for roast potatoes or frying. Pure suet is specifically the soft fat from around the kidneys and is very high in vitamins and essential fatty acids. Muscle fat is better for low and slow roasting meat. Beef fat trimmings are left over after butchering and are a mix of subcutaneous fat, muscle fat and cavity fat and is better for slow to medium cooking temperatures, such as slow roasts.

  • 6 lb. of beef fat

  • 1 pint of cold water

Cut away both the skin and sinews of the fat and discard. By sinews, I mean the tendons and ligaments. Cut the fat into small pieces and add them with the water to an old iron saucepan. Boil until all the water has evaporated, the liquid becomes clear and the fat becomes light-brown in colour and shriveled in appearance. You must stir frequently to prevent the fat from sticking to the pan. Allow to cool, then strain. This amount of fat will produce around 4 lbs. of clarified fat. The fat can be cooked or uncooked. If using a smaller quantity of fat, it is more convenient to clarify this in a jar in the oven. This makes about 6 lb. of suet or fat will yield 4 lb. of clarified fat.

How to Clarify Beef Dripping

If you like to dip bread in oil as I do, then this is the old version of that. In old Ireland, dripping was served as a spread and 'bread and dripping' was considered to be a real treat. It is used also as a high cooking fat for shallow frying meats such as steak or as a roasting fat for potatoes or to dot over a joint of beef to keep it moist while cooking.

Beef dripping is made from the fat that drips into the roasting pan when roasting meat. The next time you are roasting beef, the fat juices that melt off into the roasting pan and that are usually discarded can be used up.

Put the dripping into an old iron saucepan and cover it with boiling water. Boil without a lid for ½ an hour. Allow to cool slightly, then pour the liquid into an earthenware container and as soon as it is cold and firm, use a spoon scrape off the impurities from the under surface and re-heat, in order to evaporate all the water. If the fat is left on the water after it is set, it will absorb some of the water, so do not skip this step. Place in a jar for use.

Old Irish Tradition Reminder: Whit Sunday on 19th of May

This coming Sunday the 19th of May will be the 7th Sunday after Easter and is known as Whit Sunday. In Old Ireland this day was considered the unluckiest and most fatal day of the year. In comparison to Halloween (Samhain) which was a ghostly time of the year, Whit Sunday was believed to be a day when true evil was present on earth. It’s an easy one to remember. It is the day that your living wits could be scared out of you.

To explain this best, I am first going to share the very old protection traditions that the Old Irish used in the present tense, as though we are right there with them. Reading them in the present tense and imagining being with your ancestors at the kitchen table learning these at age 7 is our own little time portal. I will also explain how I like to enjoy some of these traditions with my little family today that you might also like.

Old Ireland Whit Sunday Traditions and Beliefs

The first thing you need to know about Whit Sunday is that it is believed that evil spirits are close behind the veil, waiting to take away defenseless people. Not only this, but the Sidhe (the Irish fairies) are also highly active and are actively trying to steal cows, horses, children or anyone that crossed their path back to Tír na nÓg, meaning “Land of Youth”. This is otherwise known as the Celtic otherworld.

  1. You will need to take special care of the young, sick and vulnerable on this day, not leave them alone and not leave them in the dark either, as the old people say there is a great danger of death.

  2. Make two bonfires and pass your livestock between them as a protection ritual. Sprinkle blood on the livestock and property to protect it.

  3. Avoid rivers, tides and all water activities such as swimming, fishing or boating in particular on Whit Sunday. This is because water normally considered so pure, was believed to hold evil spirits during this time and the risk of drowning was high. The people of Old Ireland said that those that had died in water rose up on Whit Sunday to force the living to join them beneath the surface. Even bathing in water is avoided, as a person who bathed on this day could catch a chill, get ill and not recover.

  4. Avoid potentially dangerous situations such as setting out on long journeys or starting dangerous work. Outdoor games are also discouraged such as hurling or horse-riding in case of accidents.

  5. If a person falls ill on Whit Sunday its believed they will remain sick or the entire year. Bathing in water is avoided, as a person who bathed on this day could catch a chill, get ill and not recover.

  6. You must not sleep outside or camp outside in Ireland on the eve of Whit Sunday or you risk going insane.

  7. To protect yourself you need to sprinkle blessed well water or holy water heavily in the home and on the farm and land, including all people within the house and the animals, especially the children. Add salt to the water for extra protection.

These Whit Sunday old Irish traditions are a great excuse for a family day at home and avoiding getting in and out of the car. Instead, it can be a lovely day for spoiling your loved ones with extra special attention and keeping cosy night lights on all night in bedrooms. To represent bonfires you can light two candles either side of a room or better still, in jam jars in the garden and walk in between them as you sit to enjoy a glass of something nice in the evening. Meanwhile if you have bigger kids or teenagers and really want to enjoy this tradition, it’s a great time to introduce the more unsettling Irish folklore stories without waiting until Halloween. I have one belwo for you now kindly given to me this week by Susan via Facebook.

Donegal Ghost and Fairy Story

“Something similar happened to my granny when she was young in 1908. In Donegal she fell down in her family doorway after she had met someone already dead, she had a fever and had to have her hair cut off. She got better but her hair grew back a different colour. She had walked a long way from Belleek to Cashelard in Donegal”.

Susan speaking about her granny when young being stopped at the threshold of the house by something not of this world blocking her after she had already seen a ghost. This story was confirmed by different people in Susan’s family and is one of their family heritage stories and was given in response to another well known Irish story about seeing Irish faeries and a ghost together in one place.

In a previous newsletter about the Irish fairie story I got in return for a jam recipe if you remember the aunt could not get off the bicycle. This is similar. In this story, Susan’s granny had at first seen a ghost or someone she knew, then quickly made her way home but could not pass through the door because something not of this world was at the threshold blocking her. According to Irish lore, it wasn’t death blocking the threshold because she survived and ghosts cannot block entrances, which leaves us to consider it may have been the fairies blocking her, waiting to take her to their underworld. Today we would say she was hallucinating. I wonder what Susan’s grandmother would have said about it.

The Evil Eye / The Wicked Hand Belief and Cure

A child or animal such as a foal or calf born on Whit Sunday was cursed with the evil eye and thought to be proved dangerous over time.  It was believed that they would kill or injure something or someone quite seriously before they grew old and died. A bite from an animal born on this day was believed to become septic, potentially leading to death, or take a very long time to heal. In fact anything born on Whit Sunday day is called "cingcise". 

In very Old Ireland, to “cure” a baby born on Whit Sunday and break the “curse” you would need to help them crush and kill something small in their hand, such as a worm, or they would be laid down with some earth sprinkled on their head.  But what mother would really allow that to happen? For the most part, they were just let be themselves and were thought to grow up to be “difficult” and contrary in nature. They are believed to be born with specials gifts such as the ability to strike anything that they aimed at, in sport, in life goals and including cutting you down with just a look.

To “cure” animals born on Whit Sunday again a sprinkling or a sod of earth would be placed on the infant animal's head for a few moments and then once old enough, the farmer would try to sell the animal off as soon as possible.

Old Irish Salt Blessing for Protection

This is a beautiful blessing that I carry out once a year in May. My husband rolls his eyes kindly but always goes along with me. I think he secretly loves it. Sprinkling salt on the threshold of the house was an old tradition that I had always grown up knowing and didn’t consider particularly Irish. I just considered it a bit too messy. Who wants salt spilled on the floor?  However, in 2023 my daughter was preparing for her Holy Communion and to support her I had to attend a lot of mass that year. In one of these masses, I was surprised to witness a very well-liked and respected Irish priest, stop the usual Sunday mass, and say, “due to all the war in the world…” which he then listed out, “I am going to do something a little different today.” He then carried out a salt blessing and blessed everyone in the church. Hand on heart, it really seemed to give everyone a lift.

I mentioned this blessing before, it is updated here to reflect the addition of salt and the reason why. Through conversations this blessing has expanded. The stairs part was added by a relative of mine who explained that it was significant to ward off falls on stairs. The attic door and concealed door part was added by a local healer and now for May, the salt part was added first by a friend and now recently improved upon by an Irish priest.

Open all internal doors of your home. Take the blessed well water or holy water that you have gathered and pour it into a bowl. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and begin to stir the water clockwise three times. The salt represents evil which is now being dissolved in the blessed water. The blessed water becomes stronger as a result. Standing facing your front door, you are going to bless the door by sprinkling the salted water in a cross shape while saying, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Enter through the door and walking around the entire house, you are going to repeat this at every internal door threshold, every corner and any trap door such as to the attic or any hidden doors such as priest holes. (A little word on priest holes; My children’s great grandparents old farmhouse has a priest hole concealed to the side of the fireplace. The homeowners would hide the local priest here during the penal law period when the house was being checked).

You are going to bless the foot of the stairs, the middle of the stairs and the top step of the stairs also. You will bless all floors in your house the same way. Bless the back door in the same way, then continue out to your garden. You are going to repeat this on your animals, pets, land, crops and the boundaries of your home. Finally, you bless everyone in your family, from the youngest to the oldest and finally yourself.

The Great Irish Famine Letters Update

“The information you are sharing is vitally important to our Irish history. Thank you”. Ann, May 2024

Thank you Ann, I love to organise this information into a letter series as it is to massive in its entirety to really understand in other ways. If you are new here, Ann is referring to our additional Old Irish Letters, The Great Irish Famine newsletter….

On September 13, 1845, Death and his sister Misery swept over Ireland closely following one single crop failure, a potato blight, which came to be known as the Great Famine, the Great Hunger, the Famine, the Irish Potato Famine, an Gorta Mór, meaning the Great Hunger and an Drochshaol, meaning the bad life.

This gripping miniseries tells the powerful and instinctual story of the worst man-made exodus from a single island in history, following the tragedy from the moment of the first alarming report through the disease, starvation and loss of life for over 1 million people and emigration by coffin ship for a further 2.1 million, during the ensuing days, weeks and months, lasting seven years. Receive one letter each Thursday for 12 months. That is 52 letters for only 5 euro per month or get a 10% discount for our annual offer. Our subscriptions have been growing with over 90% of readers choosing "Great" in our poll. Cancel easily anytime. Letters are based on real events, people and timelines.

Róisín’s Shout Out’s (I don’t know what to call this. Any suggestions?

Travel: Caroline at Ireland Solo Ladies Travel has a full menu of amazing trips this summer. If you have always wanted to see Ireland but don’t have travel friends available right now, get in touch directly with her.

Beauty: Club Gigi is a multi-award winning women’s razor and blades subscription service delivered straight to your door, saving you time and money. My husband uses an old fashioned men’s turn of the century blade, but its far too scary for me. This product though is worth the hype.

Food: I recently tried Glenstal Irish butter simply because I loved the parchment packaging and it was a big hit all round in my house. My littlest daughter says, “can I have the award winning butter mammy?” Seriously this tastes so good on everything.

Home: Kilkenny Design are currently holding a 50% sale right now. My Irish grandmother would buy the most gorgeous birthday and Christmas gifts throughout the year and store them in different family members houses. It’s no wonder she was able to run a busy business with six kids… she’s excellent at planning and organising. This cake plate in particular caught my eye. Imagine the Christmas cake and every adult birthday cake sitting on that. Beautiful.

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Slán go fóill,

Róisín Hynes


The Old Irish Recipes Project is a project to collect and record old Irish recipes and their associated traditions in Ireland. The historical recipes, remedies and traditions provided herein are for informational purposes only. While they may offer insights into traditional practices, it is important to note that they have not been tested for efficacy or safety in modern contexts. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional or physician before attempting any old remedies, particularly if you have underlying health conditions or concerns. Some of the highlighted links may be sponsored.

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