Hallowe’en baking

Part of my Year of Living Seasonally project is to cook ritual foods. Some people are spooked (how appropriate for today!) by the word ritual. Just stop and think for a minute though about the foods we only eat at certain times. I’m not talking eating that food which is in season, but rather those recipes, dishes that we usually only have on certain dates or occasions. Like Christmas pudding. Or hot cross buns. Or simnel cake. Or brack – barmbrack to give it the full name. These are dishes that for various reasons have become synonymous with these feast days and celebrations. The history and symbolism of ritual foods fascinates me and I thought it would be interesting to incorporate it into the project.

Barmbrack (in Irish bairín breac) would traditionally have some items hidden in it which if you found them were meant to signify something that would happen to you over the coming year. The items and their meanings vary from region to region and over time, but the best known one was a ring, which mean the finder would be married within the year. Other items that I have heard or read of being included were a rag, a holy medal, a thimble, a pea and a coin. The meanings of these vary considerably and I could probably write a thesis on that alone.

In my local supermarket today there were piles of round bracks selling at €1 each. I don’t know if people don’t eat brack anymore or if people still make their own but I did notice that there were very few of the packets of ‘Hallowe’en cupcakes’ and ‘Toffee Terror Treats’ left. I do have a sweet tooth, but honestly cupcakes with orange and black icing say precisely nothing about Hallowe’en and Samhain. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy middle aged woman, I think it would be a shame if we lost these food traditions.

I made two bracks today, one a traditional Irish recipe and the other is an apricot and orange brack. My lovely stepdaughter gave me a recipe for apricot and orange brack last year which was utterly gorgeous but I can’t find it now (sorry R!) so I followed this recipe here from Crafty Mums and the other one is from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking. Its the Irish Tea Barmbrack recipe rather than her Hallowe’en Barmbrack one which is a yeast recipe (I might make that one next year!) We’ve only tasted one yet but they both look and smell good! Apricot and orange brack on left; traditional Irish brack on right

Jack O Lanterns in Ireland and Scotland were traditionally made from turnips (pumpkins not being a native crop to either country). I haven’t made one this year, although I did buy a pumpkin…… I’ll make something from it on Sunday. Maybe. It looks gorgeous sitting on my table though! pumpkins nuts apples

Oh and if anyone has any ritual food recipes they’d like to share, please do get in touch 🙂

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About museandchat

Busy woman, 45, feminist, married, one daughter, wannabe PhD, discovering new sides to myself all the time! Proud mum of a daughter with Dandy Walker Syndrome, community activist, passionate about history, love to read, write, cook, garden and craft.

Posted on October 31, 2014, in A Year of Living Seasonally, Pootling in the kitchen (foodie musings) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. It’s not a ritual thing, but given that you only find pumpkins in the shops at this time of year, it’s definitely a seasonal thing …

    This week, I scooped out the middle (discarding the seeds) of a pumpkin and cooked it up with some bacon, onion, celery and stock and some sage leaves from the garden.

    I let it bubble for a while, then I puréed it until sort of smooth and added a tin of canellini beans – my own ‘recipe’ (shove stuff in a pot is pretty much the way I like to cook) – I gave it a name … Bumpkin soup (conflating the words bacon and pumpkin – you see what I did there?!!!).

    It was very yummy!

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