“…By and by the harvest and the labour ended, we shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves…” If you have a Protestant connection somewhere in your past you will likely find these words familiar. They come from a hymn by Knowles Shaw.
Mabon, named for the son/sun of Modron, Welsh goddess of Motherhood is the second of three harvest festivals celebrated in pagan faiths. It takes place on the autumnal equinox. At this time of the year when agrarian cultures are gathering the grain crops, they are very literally bringing in the sheaves or bundles of grain for grinding and storage.
So it comes as no surprise that grain of some variety would hold a place of honour on a Mabon celebration table.
The next three posts will cover a light and fluffy cornbread just right for a lazy morning breakfast, served warm with butter and honey or maple syrup; a cornmeal loaf with added fresh corn, old cheddar cheese, bell peppers and heat to complement a big pot of chili and lastly a selection of dried fruits for Mabon Sunday brunch or afternoon tea. All made from the same recipe which can also be easily modified to be gluten free.
You will need:
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup fine cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour (or a good gluten free all purpose flour & 1/2 tsp. xantham gum if not in your mix)
Gratitude is a continual theme around the wheel. Thankfulness for a good planting, for growth, for harvest, for stores to last through the winter. While we may now be able to drive to the local grocer to stock up on anything we are running low in, the underlying understanding of an appreciation for access to life sustaining nutrients remains the same. Deep breath in and hold……release. Find your focus and invite the compassionate spirits to join you in the kitchen. Welcome inspiration and creativity, letting go of anything that holds you from being present…..begin.
In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix well.
Mix together the dry ingredients ( flour cornmeal, salt and baking soda ). Sprinkle in half of the flour and cornmeal mixture and mix before incorporating the buttermilk and finishing up with the second half of the dry ingredients. Mix only until the dry ingredients are moist. I find I don’t even need to turn on the hand mixer. I can use it to combine the ingredients or switch to my Kitchen Wand. Transfer to the pan, cleaning out the bowl with a spatula. Smooth out the batter until even and bake 25 – 30 minutes until the center is firm and the edges arelightly browned.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes and cut into squares for serving.
When making the change to gluten free, use a good quality all purpose gluten free flour. Remember to check the label and see if xanthan gum has already been added to the mix. If not you will need to include 1/2 teaspoon in the recipe. Additionally check the label of the cornmeal to see if it was processed in a gluten free environment. A mill that grinds oats and corn may also grind flour and the gluten in the air can get into the cornmeal. Buttermilk is usually considered gluten free in North America but it is still a good idea to read the label as some varieties, in some places, can contain a wheat based thickener.
I wanted to show you what the final product looks like before I start adding the additional bits and pieces tomorrow. As you can see by the pieces of cornbread in the picture below, it did not come from an 8 x 8 inch pan but rather a 4 inch spring form. Making full recipes for each variation was going to give my small household way too many, in my mind, tasty nibblies. This recipe freezes well, however, it brings back powerful memories of trying times around World War Two to a member of my family. It is a impressive reminder of the hard wired connection taste and smell have to feelings and memories and the reason I turned one batch in three tasty treats.
Mabon is more than an astronomical shifting from a season of light to one with more darkness. It is also a withdrawing from a time of active growth to focus on things more internal. The kernels of truth learned over the past season that become in-grained as we assimilate new wisdoms, waiting like Mabon, in Modron’s womb to be born anew in spring.
Cornbread for Mabon – Part One from My Kitchen Wand
Tomorrow, Cornbread for Mabon Part Two, Fiesta Style!