After a long sabbatical, I plan to post new snippets with some holiday recipes from around the world. May your upcoming holiday preparations be interesting and fun. Stay happy and healthy until I write again.
About 2000 years ago in what is now the green lands of Ireland, the nation of France, and the United Kingdom, the new year was celebrated on November 1st. It was the beginning of the cold, dark weather in those lands. The winter season was synonymous with death. The Celts lived in those lands and they held the belief that on October 31st, the night of Samhain, that the ghosts of all the dead came back to life. n that night, the spirits played pranks and tricks, causing problems by damaging the harvest and reeking havoc in many other ways. Celtic priests believed that these spirits had come back to earth to ease the Druids’ attempts to predict the future.
To solve this, the Druids built large bonfires to burn sacrifices. The populace observed this day of the dead by wearing costumes in the form of animal skins or animal heads. Fortune telling was also done on this night. When the celebration was done the hearths were relit from the bonfires to usher in a mild winter season.
When the Romans conquer most of the territory in the year 43 A.D., they held rule for over 400 years. During this time two holidays were merged into one creating the Celtic celebration called Samhain. One holiday was Feratia, held in late October and the other was name after the goddess Pomona, goddess of trees and fruit. It is believed that apple bobbing originated with this goddess because she was symbolized by the apple. Today, children at Halloween parties held throughout the world bob for apples. The custom more than likely originated in those ancient times.
By the seventeenth century, Christianity had spread to Celt lands. Pope Benedict IV, in the 1600’s, deemed November 1st as All Saints Day, trying to replace the practice of the pagan festival of the dead with a Christian replacement. This day of All Saints was also known as All-hallowmas or, alternately, All-hallows. The night before it, which once was known as Samhein began to be know as All Hallows Eve. and, as the years went by the night became known as Halloween.
To this day bonfire are lit, in some places, on Halloween night. Children and adults alike dress in devilish costumes as ghosts, goblins, favorite characters and all manner of ghoulish, frightening dress. The populace in many nations delight in door to door trick-or-treating and festive, spooky parties. Little know the true meaning of Halloween night, but all delight in the ghastly activities.
Below is my recipe for Druid Stew. No one knows from whence this stew came from, but it could have come from the burning hearths somewhere in the land of the Celts.
2 pounds stewing beef, cut in cubes
5 potatoes, skin on, chopped into one inch cubes
1 1/2 cups cut up celery, slice diagonally
5 Tbsp. quick cooking tapioca
6 carrots, cut diagonally
1/2 cup beans (northern, pea bean, kidney) – canned
1 package onion soup mix
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 cups tomato juice
4 cups water
two bay leafs
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
In layers with beef at bottom, place all ingredients except tapioca , juice and water, one on top of another (in layers) into a deep oven-proof pot with lid. Pour liquid on top of dry ingredients and then sprinkle with tapioca. Put lid on tightly or use tin foil.
Bake at 350 degree for 4 hours. Do not open the oven door or take lid off pot. Do not stir the stew – leave the lid on.
Serve with puff pastry pumpkins, witches and ghosts made from Halloween cookie cutters and frozen puff pastry sheets, or with your favorite ghostly bread. (Puff pastry can be found in your supermarkets’ frozen department).
- Top ten Irish traditions for Halloween – SEE PHOTOS (irishcentral.com)
My Auntie Annie’s busiest times of the year were most major holidays. Not only was she busy during American holidays, but during most of the major international ones, as well. You see, she was a worker at one of the larger U.S. candy factories that made famous brand novelty and boxed fancy assortments. She had been working at the factory as a line worker and then a fancy chocolates dipper since the turn of the 20th century. She would trek off to the chocolate factory every morning for over fifty years, having started her job, in those very emancipated days, at a young and tender age. Her salary was well received by her struggling family, who also enjoyed the fruits of her labors – having access to chocolate bars, candy wafers, turtle clusters, caramel, and a full product line of tooth decaying, fattening goodies.
During the holidays , before Halloween, Auntie Annie would have us for a visit and when she was making candy gifts for Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, Hanukkah and Christmas, she would often teach me how to make one of the famous candies that she worked to turn out on a daily basis at the factory. She would have huge pans of bubbling, boiling caramel. Chocolate would be melting at the front of the stove. Her idea of a double boiler was a spaghetti cooking pan with a very large bowl sitting on top. There were several of these crowding her old fashioned stove. She taught me how to make her famous Chocolate turtle clusters when I was about fifteen years old. During that visit, she also tried to teach me how to put the swirls on those fancy chocolates with creme centers, but I was a dismal failure and my attempts looked more like puckery little blobs. Those were fun and unique Autumn days and we, as little children (and all of our young friends, too), looked forward to our holiday boxes and tins of these delicious, sinful, ultimately perfect treats. I hope you like them as much as my family does.
ANNIE’S CHOCOLATE TURTLE CANDY
Equipment needed – large baking sheets, metal spoons, wooden spoons, measuring spoons, waxed paper, large metal bowls, double boiler, candy tins and boxes.
Cover baking sheets with waxed paper and grease lightly grease waxed paper with margarine.
42 candy caramel squares
3 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups dry roasted peanuts, unsalted (may use toasted walnuts, unsalted almonds, macadamia nuts or hazelnuts)
1 cup milk chocolate morsels or chopped milk chocolate bars
Arrange several nuts, in cluster, on baking sheet. You may use the amount you would like. Place nuts one inch apart or more from each other. Put caramel squares in the double boiler with butter and put over boiling water until completely melted, stirring constantly. When caramels are melted, remove from stove and stir in vanilla. Drop melted caramel in spoonfuls onto nuts until they are thoroughly covered. Let nut clusters cool to a firm, cool stage. Melt the chocolate and butter in double boiler over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Pour melted chocolate over nut clusters and cool them on the tray until they are firm. Do not chill in refrigerator as this may discolor the candy clusters. Put in metal tins between squares of wax paper and store in a cool, dry place.
We always loved making these with my Aunt Annie and no holiday was complete without them. I plan to get started on mine in a few days for future gift giving. I wonder if my aunt haunts the old site of the candy factory these days, wandering the halls, checking on equipment, chocolate mixtures, and trekking into the factory to check on the efficiency of present day laborers.
If they hear the sound of her shoes tapping around the chocolate vats, then they know that she’s on the lookout this Halloween season.
- Properly Preparing and Melting Chocolate (berries.com)
Salem, Massachusetts lies just north of my home in the vicinity of Boston, Massachusetts on the northeastern coast of the United States. The town is steeped in early colonial history being the location of the famed Salem witch trials. To this day, the infamy of trials remains strong in the minds of New Englanders, and to the thousands of American tourists and foreign visitors who flock to Salem throughout the fall season and Halloween night on October 31st. During this time, many venues are open to visitors who come dressed in all manner of costume to visit restaurants, plays, museums, local merchants, ghost houses, and historical attractions. If you have a chance to come to Salem for a attraction or tour, don’t be surprised if you see revelers dressed as ghosts, goblins or ghoulies, witches, monsters, and vampires. You might even meet up on their fog ridden, supposedly haunted sidewalks or graveyards, the ghosts of hung trial victims or, perhaps, a wandering brain-eating zombie. Revelers abound and children and, adults as well, all enjoy the festivities that are, in thanks, mostly to the witch trials that took place there. Here is a brief, capsulized explanation of the events that took place in those harsh, superstitious times.
In 1692 at what is now Salem, 20 people were put to death and 200 were accused of practicing witchcraft. Hysteria reined in the town and the surrounding area, spreading throughout Massachusetts. It was during those early years of the colony that it was believed that the devil granted those loyal to him the power to cast spells and to bewitch the inhabitants.
In 1628, Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded through a charter with King Charles II of England. The Puritans, through this charter, were given rights to colonize in that area of Massachusetts. The charter was revoked later because of violations, including discriminating against Anglicans and running a mint, among other infractions.
In 1691, resentment ran high among the colonists. Families argued with neighbors over minor disputes, smallpox ran rampant, and problems arose with the local Native American tribes. Add to that harsh New England weather and the populace was ripe for tension.
In the early Winter of 1692, young girls – Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams began having fits (contortions, shaking, screaming and gibbering in what appeared to be some devilish throes of spasms). Soon, other girls in the town also started showing signs of what the local physician deemed to be bewitchment by the devil. Arrest warrants were issued the following month for Sarah Good, an elderly woman, and Sarah Osborn, a beggar, who the girls accused of witchcraft. As time went on more girls joined the hysteria and they too began having uncontrollable devilish fits, with the addition of feeling as if they were being bitten and pinched.
Mary Shelby, a neighboring matron, proposed a counter black magic in the form of requesting that her slave, Tituba, bake a rye cake cooked with the urine of a victim. The cake was to be fed to a dog (a witches agent). Tituba was also being suspected of witchcraft and bewitching of her neighbors. Her baking of the witch-cake made her even more suspect. On February 29th warrants were issued for Tituba and two other woman. Some victims, at this point claimed they saw “witches flying through the mist”. Tituba, in the end, after a trial in a court of ‘oyer’ and ‘terminer’ admitted to being a witch to shift blame from herself and cast doubts on others.
Eventually, when the trials ended nineteen people had been executed, most hung at the Salem Gallows and others pressed by stone until their death. Four of the victims of the witchcraft hysteria perished in prison. Overall, 200 people were accused of witchcraft. At a later date all of the people accused of witchery were exonerated, but the memory still lingers among New Englanders. Today, what remains of the accused and victims are the, perhaps, imagined spirits that roam the streets and byways of modern Salem, Massachusetts.
I am including a recipe that I found locally that is very close to the original used in the early years at Salem and the surrounding locale. This recipe dates from the 1800’s, but I do not know how close in ingredients it is to the original. Fat and calorie content have not been adjusted. It would not do justice to this original to change it. The flavor would just not be the same.
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup molasses
1 cup whole milk
1 cup salt pork, chopped very fine
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Sift together the flour and spices. Add in the chopped salt pork and raisins. Mix thoroughly. Dissolve the baking soda in the molasses and then add it to the milk. Mix well until molasses is incorporated. Gradually add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, beating well with electric mixer until well blended. The mixture should be smoother at this point. Pour into large pudding mold of your choosing. A Halloween themed mold would be a good choice. Steam the pudding for 4 hours. Cool the pudding and unmold on fancy ceramic plate. Serve with sauce of your choosing.
(To steam pudding – 1. Find a large pan with tight fitting lid to fit your mold 2. Lightly bunch a large wad of aluminum foil and place in bott m of pan 3. Wrap pudding mold in cheesecloth and place of foil without mold touching pan bottoms or sides 4. Add water up side of pudding mold halfway 5. Cover pan tightly using fitted lid and steam on low heat for 4 hours on low heat or until tester comes out clean 6. Unmold from pan after gently loosening by turning upside down onto platter or plate.)
This can be served with some whipped cream. This is a nice dish for a cold Halloween night dinner.