Dr Joy’s Joyful Pleasures: Traditional Halloween Foods 

 October 30, 2020

By  Dr. Joy Lasseter

With all holidays there are certain foods that are always enjoyed and associated with that particular celebration.

The foods we associate with Halloween today have little to do with the traditional foods of our ancestors.

In Celtic times the foods were from the harvest. Corn, apples, turnips, rutabagas, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, dark leafy greens, oats, wheat and barley. See my recipe for Barm Brack below.

When the Christian church changed the Samhain celebration to All Saints Day, the festival focus changed from scary spirits to avoid, to concern for lost souls. A practice of “Souling” began. Poor people who could not afford extra food to honor the saints and their deceased relatives would go from door to door singing, praying for souls and asking for food. “Soul cakes” became popular. The church gave these “Soulers” little cakes with a cross on top (usually with dried currants) to mark them as alms for the Saints. Many songs and prayers were offered during this holiday. See my recipe for Soul Cakes below.

In America the pumpkin is the most common association with our modern Halloween as well as the ever-present commercial candies.

Remember that sugar can suppress your immune system! So limit daily intake to 2 pieces after a meal. I give children small toys instead of sugar.


Irish Barm Brack for Samhain (Sow-een)

Make ahead: Brew strong cup (1 ¼ cup) black tea. Let it cool. Pour over 1 1/2 cups raisins. Refrigerate.

Next day: Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine dry ingredients in bowl: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose or gluten free flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar or Monks Fruit sweetener, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon.

Combine wet ingredients: 1 medium egg, raisins and tea mixture.

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Pour batter into pan. Bake 1 hour. Use toothpick test for doneness in center. Cool and serve with tea.


Irish Soul Cakes for All Saints Day

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine dry Ingredients in bowl and mix well with fork:

2 cups all-purpose flour, ¼ tsp. cardamom, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. fresh ground nutmeg, ½ tsp. salt.

Prepare wet ingredients: Gently warm ½ cup whole milk or dairy free milk. Add 1 pinch of Turmeric. Use submersible blender to eliminate lumps. Remove from heat.

Cream 8 Tbsp. softened butter and ½ cup sugar or monk fruit sweetener together with back of large serving spoon.

Add 2 egg yolks to milk and blend thoroughly.

Combine dry and wet ingredients: Add spiced flour and milk. Blend thoroughly. It will be crumbly.

Begin adding warm milk 1 Tbsp. at a time to get a good dough consistency. (Not too wet!)

Blend with spoon until you have soft dough.

Turn dough out onto floured board. Kneed gently with floured hands until dough is uniform.

Roll gently to thickness of ½ inch. Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter start cutting out cookies.

Decorate with currents in a cross pattern. Brush liberally with beaten egg yolk.

Bake on ungreased baking sheet for 15 minutes.

Store leftovers in an airtight tin for no more than 3 days.

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