The Irish Dessert Made With Local Seaweed

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When St. Patrick's Day rolls around each year on March 17, an estimated 54% of Americans will likely want to celebrate (per Statista). The celebration comes in many forms, but often, Irish food and Irish-American food and drink play a big part. Soda bread, corned beef with cabbage, Guinness, and colcannon — these are all hallmarks of the holiday. But there are some Irish delicacies that haven't seemed to make their way across the pond, or even to the rest of the United Kingdom.

There's Poitin, a distilled alcohol that's basically Irish moonshine, per The Culture Trip. Then there are all of the recipes made with seaweed. Ireland is an island, and like many other ocean-bordering cultures around the world (like Japan, China, and Korea, according to the BBC), seaweed is a traditional food there. There are even entire books dedicated to Irish seaweed cookery (via Amazon). But did you imagine a dessert made out of seaweed? There's one traditional sweet treat in Ireland that's made with a seaweed called Irish moss, or carrageen, and if the name carrageen sounds strangely familiar to you, you're not just imagining it.

Carrageenan comes from carrageen

Read the back of any low-fat or processed dairy product, and you just might see an ingredient on the label called carrageenan. Carrageenan is a thickening agent that's used in many commercial food products (it's a surprising ingredient in McDonald's ice cream), and it's an extract of seaweed. Extracted from carrageen, or Irish moss seaweed, in the 19th century, it has been used as an ingredient and health remedy in Ireland for hundreds of years thanks to those same thickening properties (via Maine Coast Sea Vegetables).

Carrageen pudding, according to the Irish restaurant Ballymaloe House, is made with dried, re-hydrated carrageen moss (if you don't live on the Irish seaside, you can try using dried Irish moss flakes). Traditionally, it's simply simmered together with milk, egg, a little sugar, and sometimes flavoring like vanilla or lemon. This mild version is said to be restorative and was once even used as food for children and the ill (via Irish Times).

Though it's called a pudding, one Instagrammer reported that it's more of a "cross between a jelly and a cheesecake." According to the British Food History blog, it might be friendlier to modern palates with the addition of whipped cream — they also suggest elderflower as a flavoring, though we think pandan or ube might be a fun twist on traditional Irish moss pudding too. It's a blank canvas for flavor and could be a tasty new addition to your St. Patrick's Day celebration.