Filed under: Community Gardens, fall gardening, Food Storage, Seasonal Eating | Tags: bannocks, growing food, homemade vegetable broth, Imbolc, root crops, Seeds
A little history lesson today dear readers: February 2nd was an important day in the Celtic calendar. This ancient holiday earmarked the midpoint of winter. As winter stores of food began to be used up, Imbolc rituals were performed to ensure sufficient food supplies until the harvest six months later. Imbolc was a feast of purification for the farmers, and the name oímelc (“ewe’s milk”) is likely in reference to the beginning of the lambing season, when the ewes came into milk. Imbolc celebrations were marked by bonfires, special foods, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens~ perhaps a precursor to the North American Groundhog Day. One of the special foods that was prepared for the feast was bannocks, or bannock bread. A blogger that I like to follow posted a recipe for these last summer and today was the day I finally tried my hand at it. These little breads were quite good!
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
- 3/4 cup water
Measure dry ingredients into a large bowl. Stir to mix. Pour oil (or melted butter) and water and stir to make a ball.
Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead gently about 10 times. Cut the dough ball into 4 equal balls and pat into a flat circles ~ 3/4 to 1 inch thick.
Cook in a greased frying pan over medium heat, allowing about 5-10 minutes for each side. Best when served hot.
This is a perfect recipe to round out a meal that may be a bit on the lean side, and has ingredients that most of us have already on hand. (Other recipes suggest adding a bit of sugar or blueberries to the dough) They were more biscuit like than I imagined them to be, so next time I’m going to flatten them more, cook in less time and I imagine it will make more than four that way too. I’m going to try making them over a fire the next time we go camping! Imagine-hot bread when you’re camping!
To go with our bannocks, I made a stew of sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage and tomatoes simmered in a quart of home-made veggie broth, all of which we’d produced ourselves, so the only thing store-bought was the peanut butter, soy sauce and spices that made this recipe from my favorite old Moosewood cookbook perfect for the affair!
As we ate this ‘root crop’ feast, we were reminded of how concerned over their stored food supplies the ancient Celts must have been at this time of year, hoping the rituals they performed during Imbolc would protect their food and their farmers and see them through ’til spring. We were also very thankful that we live in a time when food supplies are available year ’round.
To ensure my own crops were ‘sufficient to last until spring’, I decided today was the day I’d go back to my plot at the community garden and dig those parsnips that I’d deliberately left behind, so I could see how they would fare with the minus zero temps we were expecting at the time. The parsnips were crunchy and in good shape! They had actually begun to sprout new green growth underneath that 2″ layer of leaves I’d piled on!
I found one more Imbolc-like reason to celebrate today: Our annual seed order arrived in the mail AND a local nursery donated lots of seeds to our community garden, so there’s PLENTY to celebrate and look forward to!
To everything there is a season… and for every purpose under heaven. During these dismal final weeks of winter, I sometimes have to look really hard for those signs, but they’re there! The sun was out just long enough this morning that when Phil the groundhog poked his head out, he saw his own shadow, so, according to the legend, spring will arrive early this year. If that’s not something to celebrate, nothing is! Join me next year for the SECOND ANNUAL IMBOLC FESTIVAL-you’re all invited!
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