St. Patrick’s Day is only a few days away, so today we’re taking you through the history of an Irish classic – Irish soda bread! Irish soda bread is a staple in many Irish households and is also often associated with celebrations. Irish soda bread began as an affordable way to make bread after sodium bicarbonate was first introduced to the country in the 1830s. Before that, Native Americans were actually the first to create this type of bread, using pearl ash to leaven their loaves without yeast. Irish soda bread was traditionally made with four main ingredients: soft wheat flour, baking soda, salt, and sour milk (today, buttermilk is usually used). The combination of the acidic milk and baking soda acted as a replacement for yeast and allowed the bread to rise. This combination was also responsible for the bread’s unique texture. Since many Irish families lived on farms, soda bread was traditionally cooked on griddles or in three-legged iron pots over open hearths. This cooking method lent the bread its characteristic hard crust. The shape was also important. Families in the Northern regions of Ireland typically divided their dough into four triangles, while those in the Southern regions baked round loaves with a cross cut on top of the bread in order to ward off evil. Today, many Irish families still enjoy Irish soda bread and use their own unique recipes that have been passed down for generations. This type of bread is especially popular around St. Patrick’s Day, and in mid-March, it can often be found at bakeries throughout the United States. Want to partake? The traditional way to eat Irish soda bread is to break off a piece, split it, and slather it with butter.