27 October 2011

The Foods of Hallowe'en

Hallowe'en cometh shortly, followed by the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls, so herein are some traditional dishes with which to celebrate.

APPLES and NUTS are still being harvested and are in plentiful supply, so naturally they take pride of place in all sorts of ways, including the superstitions of Hallowe'en, which will be posted on that day.

Since pumpkins are the gourd of choice at this time of year, make PUMPKIN SEEDS when you carve your jack o' lanterns.  This article has an easy recipe, and do scroll down to read the comments and tips by people who have made them, for different flavors and techniques.

A traditional dish for Hallowe'en is COLCANNON (also called Kailkenny or Rumbledethumps), in which are mashed together 6-8 cooked potatoes, and 1 head of shredded, boiled cabbage.  Stir in 1-1/2 cups of milk and 6-8 tablespoons of butter, and salt and pepper to taste. (Alternatively, you can chop up two leeks, cook them in the milk, then add leeks and milk together to the potatoes/cabbage, and mash away). Heat immediately and serve in a warm dish.  Make a well in the middle of the Colcannon and pour in a little melted butter.

Like plum puddings and Twelfth Night Cakes, a ring, a thimble, a button, a china pig, a doll, and a coin were stirred into the Colcannon, and when it was served the one who found the ring would be married within the year; the finder of the doll would have children; the finders of the thimble and the button would be a spinster and a bachelor, respectively; the one who found the pig would have good luck; and the one who found the coin would have wealth.

If cabbage is not to your taste, make CHAMP instead:  Cook and mash 6 - 8 potatoes.  Chop up enough spring onions to make 1 cup and cook them in 1-1/2 cups of milk.  Mix together the potatoes, onions, and milk, with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of butter, and season to taste.  Put the same charms in the Champ and serve hot.

A variation on this was to bake a ring and a nut in a cake such as BARM BRACK.  The one who found the ring would marry; so too, would the finder of the nut, but his or her future spouse would be a widow or widower.

Mix 1/2 ounce of fresh yeast with 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Add 1-1/4 cup of warm water and set aside.  Sieve together 3-1/2 cups of flour, a dash of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (or a half teaspoon of cinnamon and a half teaspoon of nutmeg). Stir in the yeast mixture and mix to a stiff dough.  Turn out onto a floured board and knead about 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and springy. Return dough to the bowl, cover with a cloth, and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Now mix together 6 tablespoons of melted butter, 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 cup of sugar, 3/4 cup EACH of currants, raisins, and sultanas, and 2 tablespoons of candied peel.  Stir into dough and beat well.

Fill 2 greased bread tins halfway-up with mixture; cover with a cloth, and let rise again in a warm place for about an hour or until dough has risen above the tops of the bread tins.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for about 50 minutes.  Glaze while hot.
GLAZE: 2 tablespoons of sugar mixed with 4 teaspoons of water, boil for half a minute.

If you are going to bake the ring in the cake, make sure it is metal and wrap it in a piece of waxed paper before dropping it in the batter. And remind your guests to be on the lookout for it and the nut.

If this is for a party, you can make sure that every person gets a charm of some kind by baking cupcakes.  Using the end of a wooden spoon, carefully make a small opening to about halfway down.  Wrap the small charms, such as those used in Colcannon above, in waxed paper and insert them in the hole.  Cover the evidence with frosting.  This also works with regular cakes, and since they aren’t being baked inside, the charms can be plastic.  The waxed paper wrap just helps people to find the charm before they swallow them.

APPLE BRACK is another good cake:

Peel, core, and slice 2 large apples or 4-5 small ones (about 2 pounds of apples).  Place slices in a saucepan with a tablespoon of water and cook over low heat until soft, stirring often. Cool.

Sift 4 cups of flour with 2 teaspoons of baking soda.  Rub 1 cup of butter into flour.  Add 1 cup EACH of sultanas and raisins; mix well.  Stir in 1-1/3 cups of the cooked apple.  Beat 1 egg with a little milk (I used 2 teaspoons); add to flour mixture and mix well.  Pour into round cake tin and bake in a 375 degree F oven for about 1-1/2 hours.

FADGE is a flat cake made of mashed potatoes and flour:

Mix 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 pounds of mashed potatoes (4 medium or 2 large potatoes). Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Work in 4 tablespoons of flour and mix well (add more flour if needed to make a non-sticky dough).  Roll out dough on a floured surface to 1/2 inch thick; cut into circles (about 4 inches across).  Prick on both sides with a fork and cook either in bacon fat or on a non-stick griddle until brown on both sides.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar for a sweet treat.

And to drink?
LAMBS-WOOL was a traditional drink made by bruising roasted, hot apples and mixing them with ale or wine (or sometimes milk).   "Lamb's-wool is thus etymologized by Vallancey:—"The first day of November was dedicated to the angel presiding over fruits, seeds, & etc., and was therefore named La Mas Ubhal, that is, the day of the apple fruit, and being pronounced lamasool, the English have corrupted the name to lamb's-wool."   

On the other hand, it could be from the appearance of the apples bobbing on top of the liquid.

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place 4 - 6 cored apples in a baking pan and roast in hot oven for about an hour or until they are very soft.

Heat 1 quart of ale or cider in a pot.  Stir in any of the hot spices: ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves, ground cardamom, ground allspice (and depending on how many spices you use, don't let the total be more than 1 to 2 teaspoons.  1/4 teaspoon EACH of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves is good; more or less according to taste).  Add brown sugar by tablespoonsful - up to 1/2 cup - tasting after each addition for desired sweetness.  Bring the mixture to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Place the roasted apples in a warmed punchbowl and pour the hot liquid over them.  Serve hot.

This recipe from Historic Foods adds eggs and cream, while this one from The Foody is less complicated.

Go thou and enjoy.