Emma, Hattie, Briley, and Clara are the women of Crooked Creek, and boy have they taught me a lot. Next year I will be spending a lot of time with these remarkable women and the men and friends who entered their lives in the individual stories. Until then, it's nice to revisit them from time to time. I was craving Irish Soda Bread the other day and immediately thought of Briley, the Irish lass who came to Montana thinking she'd meet her new husband, only to find herself alone.
Classic Irish Soda Bread has a nice, crisp crust and a light center, and while I tend to prefer mine with a little dab of Kerrygold butter, it is also delicious with a nice jam. Briley likely would have enjoyed hers plain, perhaps with a bit of soup or stew.
Did you know: "Though soda bread is now most commonly attributed to Ireland, the first people to use soda to leaven their bread was the American Indians. These indigenous Americans were the first to be documented using pearl ash—a natural form of soda created from the ashes of wood—to leaven their breads without the presence of yeast. However, it wasn’t until this process was later discovered and replicated by the Irish that it earned a reputation worldwide." (Inside the Origin of Irish Soda Bread)
I should have already know this, but alas, I did not. There is always something new to learn.
Enjoy an Excerpt from "Briley of Crooked Creek"
Peyton Sawyer considered himself a patient and understanding man most of the time. This was not one of those times. “You’ll stay in there until I see fit, and if you ask again, I’ll guarantee you don’t get out of there until spring.” Peyton swung the door closed and stepped into his office. The door to the office opened from the outside and in swept Clete Foster and a gust of frigid air.
Clete brushed the snow off his coat. “Beggin’ pardon, Sheriff.”
“Don’t beg for anything, Clete.” Peyton rubbed a hand over his dark beard. “Coffee?”
Clete nodded. “Don’t mind if I do, thank you.”
Peyton poured a stream of steaming dark liquid into a clean mug and handed it to his visitor. He forced himself not to return to the back cell when the yelling began. Instead, he ignored the shouts and focused on Clete. “Weren’t you just in town yesterday?”
“I was at that. You see, Sheriff, I came to tell you—”
The racket became a chorus of screams and rattling of the bars. “Ignore it,” Peyton said. “What did you want to tell me?”
Clete grinned. “You got them Teeter brothers in there again?”
“The bane of my existence.” Peyton excused himself for a minute and when he returned, silence followed with him. “They care more about their supper than their indignation.”
“I reckon they would, seeing as how ain’t no two bigger men in these parts. Exceptin’ you, of course, and I reckon Mr. Latimer.”
Peyton raised a brow and settled himself in the chair behind his desk, his long legs crossed beneath the desk. “Now, what’s on your mind, Clete?”
“You see, a lady hired me at the stage stop yesterday to drive her home.”
Peyton waited for whatever Clete had felt necessary to rush over in a storm and tell him. “You hire out all of the time.”
“I do, Sheriff, that I do, but you see this lady was alone. We got to the cabin, and I reckon she was expectin’ someone to be there.”
Peyton rose, catching on to Clete’s concern. “No one was there.”
“Not a soul. She had it all written out on a paper where she was supposed to go. I didn’t feel right leaving her there, but she said she was staying. She has a nice way about speaking like old Mr. Sweeney did, but she’s real music-like. I done what I could, but it ain’t proper or right for a nice lady like her to be alone. I promised I’d check up on her again, but I figure you ought to know. And, she needs a horse, Sheriff. If I was a speculating man, I’d say she didn’t—”
Peyton’s hand rose, effectively cutting off Clete’s rambling. “Where did you drive her?”
“That old cabin west of town before you get to the big meadow. It’s right there on Crooked Creek. Her name is Miss Donaghue . . . how about that, I didn’t get her Christian name.”
Peyton glanced at the clock. It was late enough in the morning to make an unexpected visit. “I appreciate you bringing me this information. You did right by Miss Donaghue. Would you do something else for me?”
“I sure will.”
“Find Casey Latimer—you might look first at Doc Hawkins’s clinic—and ask him to check in on the brothers while I ride out.”
“Right away, Sheriff.” Clete smashed his hat back on his head of thin brown hair, pulled the collar up on his thick coat, and stepped back into the cold.
Excerpt from "Briley of Crooked Creek" copyright © MK McClintock
I hope you make time every now and then to escape into a good book and relax with a pot of tea, or your beverage of choice, and a tasty treat.
The Beverage: Gypsy Cold Care tea by Traditional Medicinals (it's a favorite)
*Traditional Irish Soda Bread doesn't have variations, so I gave you a link to a nice, simple recipe that is like the one I use in terms of ingredient measurements. It's such an easy bread to make, and with only four ingredients it's also inexpensive and doesn't time much time.According to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, "Anything else added makes it a 'Tea Cake!'"