The Tradition of Colcannon

The Tradition of Colcannon
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Colcannon is an Irish dish that is rich in tradition and history. It's also a perfect recipe to make with the kids while sharing it's interesting history! It's traditionally made on All Saints Day or Halloween and some families would leave out a plate of it, with a lump of butter in the center for the fairies and the ghosts. There is even a traditional Irish song that was written long ago about colcannon that you can sing while preparing it!
Did you ever eat colcannon

When 'twas made with yellow cream

And the kale and praties blended

Like the picture in a dream?

Did you ever take a forkful

And dip it in the lake

Of heather-flavored butter

That your mother used to make?

Oh, you did, yes you did!

So did he and so did I,

And the more I think about it

Sure, the more I want to cry.

God be with the happy times

When trouble we had not,

And our mothers made Colcannon

In the little three-legged pot.

(The little pot was known as a Bastable oven, which looked a little like a cauldron with a lid that was put over a fire and used as an oven to bake bread and other dishes. )

Traditional charms were put in the colcannon that symbolized different things. A button meant you would remain a bachelor and a thimble meant you would remain a spinster for the coming year. A ring meant you would get married and a coin meant you would come into wealth. Gather the family together and make this simple, but fun recipe for dinner!

The Colcannon Recipe


1 pound cabbage

2 pounds russet or yukon gold potatoes

2 small leeks, green onions or scallions

1 cup milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons butter

dash of nutmeg or mace

Core, quarter and shred the cabbage and place in a pan, covering with boiled salted water til tender-about 15 minutes. Peel and cut the potatoes into 2 inch pieces and cook those too in salted water for about 15 minutes in another pan. (Assign duties to different family members!) Drain the cabbage and chop into very small pieces. Drain the potatoes and mash by hand. Do not use a processor or mixer! Meanwhile, wash and chop the onion-use what is available to you, using the middle parts-not the root end or rough ends of the green part. In a pan large enough to hold the cooked potatoes and cabbage, combine the onions and milk and cook over medium heat until they are tender, about 8 to10 minutes.

Add the potatoes, salt, pepper, and mace to the onions and milk and stir over low heat until well-blended. Add the cabbage and 1/2 cup of butter and stir again to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Mound the mixture in the middle of a platter and make an indentation. Add the remainder of the butter. Serves 4 to 6.


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About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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