Mabon marks the fall equinox and the second of the harvest festivals. An equinox is all about the balance of day and night. This particular equinox is about taking in but also letting go. Mabon is a great time to clear out the closets of those summer things you couldn’t let go of when we house cleaned at Candlemas, buuuut, you never actually wore them this season. So what are you holding onto them for? Like the trees dropping their leaves, it is the season to let go of what no longer serves you, to prepare for the coming time of darkness and introspection. It is a time for gathering. This coming weekend, I will overhaul my altars and set the house for fall. I will get out my “winter work” basket. It is here that I will put that book I haven’t had the time to read, those recipes I wanted to try but didn’t, that craft idea, those socks that needed mending. Into the basket it goes, ready for those cold days and evenings when snuggling under the blankets is where I reside.
In my kitchen, it is a time for changing out the spices. Away to the back of my spice cabinet go the dried thyme, basil, lemon balm, and mint. Up to the front come the fennel, the sage, the savory, the nutmeg and cinnamon. The pantry and refrigerator look different too. Not as many lettuces, cucumbers, and fresh herbs reside there now. The mantel is filling with squashes, the shelves have real cocoa for the coming cool weather, the baskets are less full of grab and go type breakfast things and are replaced with hearty grits, steel cut oats, and muesli to be made hot and sprinkled with brown sugar. I love when the change in staples occurs at any time of the year, it is exciting and my palette is ready for something new.
So let’s talk Mabon recipes. These are yummy, flavorful, earthy creations, packed with the fruits of the season. This year, Mabon will be a bit tricky as the children are adults with jobs and there is school and getting ready to stay in the hospital with the youngest for a week-long EEG. But we will still try to sit down as a family and celebrate before dispersing like leaves in the fall breeze.
Let's start with appetizers and starters. I am actually making a lovely charcuterie board covered with apple slices, dried apricots, dried cranberries, prunes, figs cheeses (we found a to die for 5 year aged gouda at a little cheese shop at the beach plus honeyed goat cheese, Havarti, and cheddar), a variety of meats (German ham, Hungarian sausages, and Spanish chorizo), crackers, nuts, and good local honey.
You may be hosting a dinner to celebrate Mabon. This board will serve for any meal you are having. Be creative and make it to your family's tastes. Another wonderful starter is mini tartlets made with apples and cheese. This recipe is for a full size tart, but you could simply cut the pastry in pieces and press into cupcake pans to make mini tartlets.
Apple & Cheese Tarts
1 prepared pie pastry
1 (21 ounce) can apple pie filling
7 ½ ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, softened
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Roll out pie crust lengthwise to fit into the bottom a 13x9-inch baking dish with a good 1/2-inch of the crust up all sides.
Mix apple pie filling, ricotta cheese, egg, and shredded Cheddar cheese together in a bowl; pour over the pastry and flatten into a smooth layer.
Mix flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon together in a separate bowl. Mash butter into the flour mixture with a fork or pastry cutter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over the apple pie mixture in the pan.
Bake in preheated oven until crust is a good caramel-brown color, 15 to 20 minutes.
Another yummy beginning to your meal, regardless of the time of day is Acorn squash and apple soup. NOTE: where any of my recipes say milk or cream, I use homemade cashew cream because we have dairy allergies.
Acorn Squash and Apple Soup
1 medium acorn squash (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 medium tart cooking apples (Granny Smith, Greening or Haralson), peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon dried basil leaves
2 cans (14 ounces each) chicken broth (4 cups)
½ cup half-and-half (cashew cream made with ½ C cashews and ¾ C water)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white or black pepper
Heat oven to 350°. Cut squash in half; remove seeds and fibers. Place squash, cut sides up, in rectangular pan, 13 x 9 x 2 inches. Pour water into pan until 1/4 inch deep. Bake uncovered about 40 minutes or until tender. Cool; remove pulp from rind and set aside.
Melt butter in heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion in butter 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender. Stir in apples, thyme and basil. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in broth. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.
Remove 1 cup apples with slotted spoon; set aside. Place one-third of the remaining apple mixture and squash in blender or food processor. Cover and blend on medium speed about 1 minute or until smooth; pour into bowl. Continue to blend in small batches until all the soup is pureed.
Return blended mixture and 1 cup reserved apples to saucepan. Stir in half-and- half, nutmeg, salt and pepper; heat until hot.
Let's now move onto our entrees. Fall foods tend to be on the heavy side. Everything about fall is heavy, from the multi layers of clothes we don to the laden boughs of apple trees, gravity from the great mother is pulling us inward, preparing us for the coming cold.
For brunch, I am going to make savory hand pies. I'll make a chicken and sage version for our meat eaters and a veggie version with gold potatoes and mushrooms for our vegetarians.
My Pastry recipe
1 ¼ cups flour
1/3 cup frozen butter cut into pieces (tip, cut up your butter BEFORE freezing it)
4 to 5 tbs ice water
In a food processor, pulse to combine flour and butter. When evenly combined, add water 1TBS at a time. You know you have added enough when dough appears choppy and when pressed between your fingers and thumb it sticks together.
Gather dough into two balls and chill for 5 minutes. Remove one of the balls and on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough. Cut out circles using a butter knife or large glass (I use a small bowl pressed into the dough like a cookie cutter) set aside a circle and gather dough, reroll and cut some more. Then do this with the second ball of dough you have in the refrigerator.
For the fillings: (Makes 18 hand pies)
1lb chicken thigh filets chopped into bite size pieces
1 yellow onion finely sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 tsp ground sage
16oz sliced mushroom
1 leek white part only
For the veggie version, I take out the chicken (duh!) and sage and sub in Potatoes, diced small, and I like to season these with fennel or caraway, depending on my mood. Make sure when you cook potatoes, they are fork tender. You can also sub in mashed potatoes if you are in a rush.
Pre-heat oven to 300
Heat oil in fry pan until it shimmers
Add onion, garlic and sage.
Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and until onion is soft and translucent
Add chicken and cook until browned
Allow mixture to cool
Crack egg into a cup and lightly beat
Spoon cooled mixture onto half of the pastry rounds
Fold and crimp the edges to encase the pastry so that filling doesn’t leak
With cooking scissors, snip a tiny hole into each to allow steam to escape
Using a pastry brush, brush each with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds
Turn up oven to 350
Heat in oven for 30 mins or until golden
A perfect Mabon main dish for those who do eat meat is a whole roasted chicken. Rinse and pat dry your bird and stuff it with fresh rosemary and thyme and lemon balm sprigs, plus a quartered lemon or apple, and tie the legs together. Then rub the skin with salt and pepper and when your bird (depending on size) is about 30 minutes from being done, pour 3 TBSP of melted butter over the whole thing and baste with the juices in the pan every 10 minutes.
I would serve this with smashed cauliflower (my family doesn’t do potatoes unless super disguised like in the previous hand pies), and roasted Brussel sprouts, and maybe wild rice. For those who DO like potatoes, I have included a recipe that I think sounds yummy.
1 head of cauliflower
1 head of garlic (minced)
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs butter or vegan butter
2 Tbs cream cheese or vegan cream cheese substitute
½ Tbs chicken bullion (or 1 large cube)
Break up cauliflower and boil in a large pot of water until very soft.
Meanwhile, peel head of garlic and mice all the cloves. Heat olive oil in pan and roast the minced garlic until just browning.
Add, browned garlic, butter, cream cheese, and chicken bullion to food processor.
When cauliflower is soft, drain and add to food processor. Process or high until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.
Wild Rice with Apples and Walnuts
1 cup wild rice 2 cups water 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil Cook rice and oil in water for 50 minutes.
1 cup walnuts 1 rib of celery, chopped 4 chopped scallions 1 cup raisins 1 red apple, peeled and chopped, set aside in lemon water 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
Directions: Combine nuts, celery, onions, raisins, drained apple and lemon rind and set aside.
3 T. lemon juice 2 garlic cloves, minced 1/2 t. salt 1/3 cup olive oil pepper, to taste Whisk together juice, salt and pepper, garlic and oil and add to cooked rice. Add fruit mixture to the rice (to which has been added oil, spices and juice) and mix well. May be served cold or heated.
Garlic Roasted Potatoes & Greens
2 pounds Red-Skinned Potatoes, sliced 6 large Cloves Garlic, sliced lengthwise 1/3 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil 3 Tablespoons Wine Vinegar Salt Pepper 4 cups Watercress Sprigs, rinsed 2 Tablespoons Chives, chopped
Mix potatoes, garlic and oil in a 10 x 15" rimmed pan. Bake at 450 degrees until well browned, about 1 1/4 hours. Turn vegetables with a wide spatula every 10-15 minutes. Pour vinegar into pan, scraping with spatula to release browned bits and to mix with potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour potatoes into a wide, shallow bowl. Chop half the watercress and mix with potatoes. Tuck remaining watercress around potatoes and sprinkle with chives.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1-2 lbs fresh brussel sprouts
2Tbs olive oil
3-6 Tbs water
½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (or vegan substitute)
Cut ends off of sprouts and cut in half. Discard any leaves that fall off. Heat olive oil in skillet. Put halves in a large skillet with lid. Add 3 Tbs water and cover. Heat for 10 minutes on medium high. Take off lid and toss about. If water has completely evaporated, add 3 tbs more and replace lid. Cook another 5-7 minutes until fork tender. Remove lid and continue to cook until sprouts start to brown.
Place in large bowl, salt and pepper to taste and toss with parmesan cheese
For those who are game meat lovers, Mabon is a good holiday to make wild boar as it ties into the myths and stories of the season. Briefly, the tale of Mabon is that of an infant child stolen away from his mother and imprisoned. His release becomes the object of the mythic hero Culhwch, who must seek out Mabon to help him hunt down a wild boar that was previously a king in order to win the hand of Olwen in marriage.
There are many fine boar recipes online. Just remember, wild boar, unlike domestic pig, is a RED meat and should be treated as such. One of my favorite marinates for boar is a simple mix of fine chopped garlic, sesame oil (a couple Tbs depending on the size and cut of your boar), a ¼ cup GOOD balsamic vinegar, and a pinch or two of brown sugar. Marinate the meat at room temp for an hour or so before grilling or baking. Serve with wild rice and a sautéed combination of mushrooms. I use portabella or baby bellas, oyster mushrooms, white, and shitake. Sauté in a little olive oil or butter and add a ¼ cup of white wine or white cooking wine to deglaze the pan before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.
Ok, moving onto dessert. I try and use fruits of the season so the recipes I am including are apple and pear. And for some reason, I don’t think of Mabon desserts as having chocolate involved. I don’t know why as chocolate is really its own food group but feel free to add some to yours. I will be making apple fritters to complete our Mabon brunch.
A few of my favorites are ginger apple pie, apple fritters, and healthy baked pears (you can sub in apples for pears in this, too.)
Ginger Apple Pie
2-1/3 cups (about 12 ounces) all-purpose unbleached flour (measure by dipping cup into the flour sack and then sweeping off any excess with a flat knife blade)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, each cut into 4 or 5 pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
5 to 7 tablespoons (2-1/2 to 3-1/2 ounces) ice water or iced apple juice
6 large (about 4 pounds), tart, firm Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and sliced about 1/2-inch thick (Don't use Golden Delicious; they will ruin the pie.)
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 to 2/3 tightly packed cup dark brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 rounded teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons sugar
1. To make the pie crust; take a large plastic bag and put the flour, sugar, and salt into it. Add the butter to the bag, seal it, and toss the bag around to blend everything. Freeze 30 minutes, or up to a couple of months.
2. When you're ready to make the crust, turn everything into a food processor. Pulse until the butter is in about 1-1/2-inch pieces. Sprinkle the vinegar and 5 tablespoons ice water over the dough.
Pulse just long enough for the dough to form ragged clumps. If it seems dry, sprinkle another 2 tablespoons of water over the dough and pulse again.
3. Divide the dough into 2 balls (one slightly larger than the other). Wrap it up in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or freeze up to 6 months if you'd like.
4. When you're ready to make the pie, pre-bake the bottom crust so it will stay crisp. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Butter a 10-inch shiny metal pie plate (not dark metal or glass). Roll out the bigger piece of dough on a well-floured board into a big circle about 1/8-inch thick.
Lightly flour the top of the dough to keep it from sticking. Fit it into the pie pan, leaving the rim completely covered by the dough. Save scraps for decorating the pie, if desired. Chill 30 minutes or more.
5. Spread a piece of foil over a cookie sheet. Roll out remaining dough on a floured board to a circle that's about 16 inches in diameter. Set the dough circle on the foil and chill.
6. Line the dough in the pie plate with foil and fill it with raw rice or beans. Bake 10 minutes, and then take the pan out of the oven. Carefully pull back the foil to check that the crust is looking dry and partially baked, (if not dry bake another 5 minutes).
Once it is partially baked, carefully remove the foil and rice, prick the crust with a fork and bake another 5 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool.
7. To make the filling: In a large bowl, toss together the apples and lemon juice. Add the remaining filling ingredients, tasting for sweetness and adding more sugar if needed. Turn the apples into a sieve set over a bowl. Allow them to drain for 30 minutes to an hour.
8. Turn the drained juices from the bowl into a saucepan and boil until a thick syrup forms. Scrape the syrup back into the apples.
9. Heat the oven again to 400ºF. Fill the bottom of the pie shell with the apples, mounding them high and pressing out any pockets. Brush the rim of the baked bottom crust with the beaten egg. Cover the filling with the remaining pastry round.
10. Seal the raw pastry dough to the cooked one by pressing it into the rim of the pie plate. Or you could double over the top crust on the rim and crimp or pinch it into a high rim around the pie.
11. Brush the beaten egg over the top of the pie. Cut out a few steam holes. Cut out stars or leaves from the dough scraps if desired and arrange them on the crust, brushing them with more egg. Sprinkle the crust with the 3 tablespoons sugar.
12. Set the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until apples are tender when you pierce them through one of the steam holes. You should see caramelized juices bubbling on top.
The pie dough holds in the refrigerator for a day, in the freezer 6 months. For the optimum pie, bake it the day you'll serve it.
Apple Fritters (makes about 20 fritters) A candy thermometer is handy for this recipe.
Canola oil (for frying; about 5-7 cups)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 cups cold beer (preferably lager or pilsner)
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 Honeycrisp or other firm sweet-tart apples, peeled, cored, sliced into scant 1/4"-thick rings (8-10 rings per apple)
Fit a wide heavy pot with candy thermometer. Pour in oil to a depth of 2" and heat over medium-high until thermometer registers 375ºF.
Meanwhile, whisk flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 1/4 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Add beer in a slow, steady stream, whisking until smooth.
Whisk pepper, cardamom, 1/8 tsp. salt, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon in a medium bowl.
Working with 4-5 slices at a time, dip apples in batter, shaking off excess. Fry until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Transfer fritters with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Immediately toss in spiced-sugar mixture and serve warm.
Heathy Baked Pears
3 pears ripe
1/2 cup rolled oats or equivalent ground flax seed, quinoa flakes or chia seeds (see notes)
1/4 cup almonds chopped
1 tsp cinnamon ground
1/2 tsp cinnamon sugar
2 oz butter melted or coconut oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.
In a bowl, combine oats, ground cinnamon, sugar, almonds, and salt. Then, pour in half of the melted butter (or coconut oil) and mix.
Cut the pears in half and scoop out some of the center. Then, brush the insides with the remaining butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Spoon the oats and cinnamon mix into the center of the pears.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the pears get soft.
May your equinox indeed be a time of balance. May you be able to embrace the light and dark that is all around, and may the spice and sweet be abundant to flavor your days and nights. Until we meet here in the kitchen at Samhain, merry meet, merry part…. and merry may we meet again! Blessed Be! ~Helliottrope