Irish Potato Ham Soup

Cooking Irish can also be found at Pinterest and PETITCHEF.

This is the other soup we had in County Longford that I wrote about a few posts back. I want to dedicate this entry to the demise of the once proud Waterford Crystal™ factory. I still find it difficult to believe the factory has made its last glass, pitcher, vase, or decanter. It is unfathomable to me that I will never complete a pattern made in Ireland or be able to visit the blowers working at their craft. It was a wonderful experience to be guided through the tour of the glassworks.

Irish Waterford Crystal™ is still produced in other locations throughout Europe, notably Germany and the Czech Republic, by the company WWRD Holdings Ltd. but is no longer made in Ireland.  This is a lament to the Waterford factory in Kilbarry, Irleand and all its talented, proud, and gracious craftsmen.
The Waterford Crystal™ visitors center tour gave one an opportunity to witness how the beautiful crystal was produced, from molten crystal through to finished masterpieces.  Nothing compared with the atmosphere of the furnace room.  The first surprise was the noise and the air; then one felt the heat and sensed the activity of a factory that was truly alive.  Watching the master blowers, jug makers, cutters, and engravers was so interesting.  It was a magical tour of the making of beautiful art.  

A crystal business was originally founded in the city of Waterford in 1783 by George and William Penrose; it produced extremely fine crystal that became world-renowned.  However, their company later closed, reportedly due to excessive taxation of the product.  In 1947, Czech immigrant Charles Bacik, grandfather of Irish senator Ivana Bacik, established a glass works in the city, due to the superb reputation of the original glassware.  Aided by fellow countryman and designer Miroslav Havel, the company started operations in a depressed Ireland.  By the early 1950s, it had been taken over as a subsidiary of the Irish Glass Bottle Company™.  Waterford Crystal Limited™ is currently a subsidiary of Waterford Wedgwood plc, itself formed through the acquisition by the then Waterford Glass Group of the famous pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood in 1986.  The current chairman is Tony O’Reilly, and the CEO John Foley.  The leading shareholders are billionnaire O’Reilly and his family, joined in the last decade by O’Reilly’s brother-in-law, Greek shipping heir Peter Goulandris.  That company was forced into receivership in early 2009.

Under the receivership, ownership of most of Waterford Wedgwood plc‘s assets was tranfered to KPS Capital in March 2009.  Waterford Crystal™, along with Wedgwood™, Royal Doulton, and other brands was transferred to the new company WWRD Holdings Ltd.  The sale did not include the factory or visitor center in Kilbarry, Ireland.  Thus it is now regrettably closed, and hundreds of Irishmen have lost their ability to work at their craft.  It is difficult to think that Waterford Crystal™ is no longer lovingly and proudly made at all by Irish hands.

The end was in sight when in May 2005, Waterford Wedgwood announced the closure of its factory in Dungarvan, Ireland in order to consolidate all operations into the main factory in Kilbarry, Waterford City where 1,000 people were employed by the company.  The move resulted in nearly 500 Dungarvan workers losing their jobs.

The Kilbarry operation featured the tourist center that offered in addition to the guided tours of the factory, a gift shop, café, and gallery.  After the closure of that factory on Jan 30, 2009, former employees and their families staged a sit in, hoping to prevail upon receiver Deloitte to retain those jobs.  The sit in ended in March of 2009 after workers agreed on split payment of €10 million.  The worker’s fight to keep the factory open is chronicled in a PBS online documentary.

Waterford Crystal™ produces many patterns of lead crystal stemware, including lines such as Adare, Alana, Colleen, Kincora, Lismore, Maeve, Tramore, and many others, but none will now be made in Ireland.

Waterford‘s chandeliers hang in well-known buildings like Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, and the Kennedy Center, and they have made the crystals for the famous New Year’s Eve Ball that is dropped each year in New York City’s Times Square.  The ball is a 1,070 pound geodesic orb, six feet in diameter and is lit by 600 clear and colored high-intensity halogen bulbs and 96 halogen strobe lights. Sporting trophies are also crafted by Waterford, such as the Masters Series crystal shield trophies that are awarded to the winner of each of the nine men’s professional tennis Masters Series tournaments and the AFCA National Championship Trophy that is awarded to the US college football team which finishes the season at the top of the Coaches Poll.

Also crafted by Waterford are the winning trophies for the French and German Grand Prix in Formula One and a bat and ball trophy presented at the final game at the old Yankee Stadium to Derek Jeter as a gift from Hal Steinbrenner for achieving the most hits of any player at the stadium.  I have been a rabid Yankee fan for 52 seasons, and Jeter is my favorite current Yankee player.  I remember that day last year very well. [As I’m writing this for the new blog, I might add Jeter was presented again by Hal Steinbrenner another Waterford piece for his 3000 hits and yet another Waterford piece commemorating Derek Jeter Day at the stadium on 7 September 2014 in honor of his last season.]

 My son Eli, yours truly, and daughter Erin in front of the now defunct Waterford Crystal™ factory in April of 1985 [Love the 80s hair style in the wind!!]

Erin and a new friend at the zoo in Phoenix Park, Dublin on 29 September 1984

Irish Potato Ham Soup  [Serves 6]


3 tbsp. of butter
3 large leeks, finely chopped, white sections only
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups diced)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of cream
1 egg yolk
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup of cooked ham, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp. of butter
Fresh chive, chopped for garnish
Crumbled bacon, for garnish
Mild cheddar cheese, shredded for garnish


Melt 3 tbsp. of butter in a large skillet; sauté chopped leeks just until tender.  Put leeks in a large saucepan with diced potatoes; add just enough water to cover.  Cover and cook on medium-low until potatoes and leeks are soft.  Reserve some of the chunks of potato. Put the vegetable mixture with liquid into a food processor or blender in batches and purée.  Pour back into the large saucepan, and stir in the milk adding more water [or chicken broth] until desired consistency is reached.  Add in the cheese, stirring until the cheese melts.  Add the ham and reserved potato chunks.  Bring the potato soup to the boiling point; remove from heat.  In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolk.  Add about ½ cup of potato soup mixture to the egg yolk, stirring constantly.  Return mixture to potato soup in pot and mix to blend well.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Ladle the potato soup into individual bowls or into a soup tureen.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter for each bowl, and garnish with chive, bacon, and cheese set in a mound in the center of each individual bowl or the tureen. 

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