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Kitchen Witchery for Imbolc

Updated: Feb 1, 2023



The wheel has turned again. The sunlight that was reborn at Yule is just becoming noticeable as it stays daylight just a tad bit longer each day. Perhaps there is a day here and there that the winds blows warmer. If you have livestock or live near a farm, you will notice that the ewes have full bellies with lambs on the way. Perhaps in the cold new little ones were already born and the milk of their mothers is flowing.


Under the cold and frozen earth, the seeds are stirring, though we cannot feel any difference. It is just something we “know” in our bones.


Here in my kitchen, I have been in a flurry of cleaning. The self cleaning stove is shiny. The windows are sparkling, the floors have been scrubbed, and though the fireplace will continue to burn, the hearth is swept and scrubbed clean. All our altars are cleaned, purified, and protection spells laid on them before their new altar cloths were put on. And on the warmest day closest to the new moon closest to Imbolc, I open every window, leave each door ajar, and proceed to sweep out the old, banish any negative energies lingering in the corners, and welcome the sun. This also allows a practical cleaning of letting out the stale air and germs that take up residence in a winter home and letting in fresh air.


Along with this cleaning has been the urge to purge and simplify. This time of year finds me cleaning out closets and giving away that which doesn’t serve me anymore. After the clutter and glitz of the holiday season, I need barren, simple, austere. With the exception of family photos and candles, the decorations are mostly put away, the Yule creche stands empty except one Goddess figure and her growing son, and my house is once again a blank slate with only white decorations with a splash of red here and there.


And now to the joyful work of honoring the Goddess and the season with cooking and baking.


Imbolc foods are traditionally that which our ancestors had stored for winter, that which lasted and were still good. Nuts and seeds, dried meats and fruit. Spiced wines and herbal tea made with dried herbs. Spices that honor the returning sun, the “hot” spices like cinnamon and ginger. And milk that is flowing now for the first round of baby animals. Milk made into cheeses and cream sauces and just by itself with fresh baked cookies dunked

into it.


In my home, Imbolc is usually kept simple. When the children were young, we would venture out to a friend's farm and look in on the newest lambs that had just been born. Then home

once more to make candles. Our favorite were ice candles, made by filling small milk cartons with chopped ice and then after putting a wick in among the ice, pouring hot paraffin over it all. As the ice melted and the wax cooled, it created beautiful lacy designs in the candles. That night, we would consecrate them on our Imbolc altar, dressed in snowy white and bright red. And then we would feast!


This year, it will be a bit different as my older two children are having unresolved stomach issues presumably tied to their psoriatic arthritis. Regardless of why, both have issues with dairy so we try and keep it to a minimum, but I will post things here as if there was nothing amiss and milk would be plentiful and invited.


NOTE: I will still be still be making recipes that call for cow's milk, but where able, I will be replacing it with cashew cream or almond and oat milks.


Now, lets get down to the business of food. We shall start with starters of course! Here is my all time favorite, once found in an Italian restaurant and recreated by my darling husband for

times at home:


Honeyed Goat Cheese with Figs

1 honey goat cheese log

1 cup of dried figs, halved

1 cup of balsamic vinegar

½ cup fig preserves

½ cup sliced almonds

  • Really this is quite simple. Put your balsamic in a small pot on the stove and reduce it down to about ½. It will begin to thicken slightly. Add in the fig preserves and dried figs and heat through.

  • Place the cheese log on a plate and pour the reduction over the log. Then carefully pack the sliced almonds all around the log.

Serve with whole wheat crackers and slices of good smoked hard sausage. We use a Hungarian sausage, but Spanish sliced chorizo or even pepperoni will do. The combination of flavors will be amazing!


Here is another starter, or if you are having a lunch, it could serve at the entrée.


Baked Feta

(2) 8oz blocks of Sheep (goat is fine too) milk Feta, drained and stacked one on

top of the other 

5 cherry tomatoes (halved)

2 sprigs of oregano

½ small yellow onion (finely sliced)

2 cloves of garlic (crushed)

A splash of olive oil

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

  • Place your feta onto 2 sheets of aluminum foil large enough to wrap around both blocks

  • Top the feta with the crushed garlic, sliced onion, and cherry tomato halves. Rip the sprigs of oregano (with stems is fine) and place on top of the other ingredients.

  • Top all this with a generous splash of olive oil. Season to your taste. Keep in mind that feta is usually pretty salty so you may not need to add extra salt. Freshly ground pepper is a delicious addition though!

  • Firmly wrap the feta in the foil. While you could use just 1 layer of foil, I’ve had mine split open due to the weight of the feta before which was very irritating as you lose all your delicious ingredients!

  • Bake the feta for approx. 15 minutes. 

  • Serve warm and with crusty bread as a delicious entrée.


 

You can keep it super simple by offering various cheeses and crackers and small bowls of pepitas, sunflower seeds, shelled pistachios, or even walnuts. In fact, the foods that serve as an Imbolc feast have become very fashionable: the charcuterie board.


You see them on the internet and in magazines. These heaping platters and boards full of amazing looking, layered tidbits. They don’t have to be super intricate, but I find the making of one a huge part of the fun. If you have children, have them wash their hands and help. It can be a family edible art project.


First off … how do you pronounce charcuterie?  [shahr-koo-tuh–ree].


Charcuterie is the art of preparing meats which are often cured or smoked such as bacon, ham or salami.  A charcutier is a person who prepares charcuterie and while the term is loosely translated in English to “pork butcher”, any kind of meat can be used.


You can create designs or just place things randomly. I suggest you start by placing any small bowls on the board and building out from them. Trying to fit them in later when you have your designs in place is often frustrating. Another thing to keep in mind, this can be an appetizer or a main meal. My family often sits down to a family movie and platters of meats, fresh veggies, and dips. I don’t always go through the trouble of making a charcuterie board

either. Most times each type of food resides on its own platter, but for holidays its fun to have fun with food!


Meat: I estimate about 3-4 slices of meat per person when building a board. I try to include a variety of flavors and textures for example a sliced pepper salami, a rolled prosciutto and

thoughtfully piled ham.


Cheese: Choose a variety of cheeses; about 1 or 2 oz per person as an hors d’oeuvre. Look for various hard and soft cheeses from mellow to sharp. Cheeses are easiest served already sliced.


Bread and Crackers: Again variety is key, I like to include buttery flaky crackers, grain crackers and thinly sliced and toasted baguettes.


Fruit & Nuts: Both dried and fresh fruit will add color and lots of flavor to your charcuterie board! As you are purchasing fruits, keep a variety of colors in mind for a beautiful board.  For Imbolc, choose red fruits or perhaps blackberries.


Pickles, Olives, & Dips: Adding small bowls filled with dill pickles, olives, jellies, mustards and delicious dips is a great way to add some zip and flavor to your board.


For something wonderful and homemade, why not try your hand at making your own butter to serve spread over bread or used in some of the following recipes?


To try your hand at butter making, you will need:

Heavy whipping cream

A pinch of salt

Glass jar with a lid that seals tightly

  • Allow the whipping cream to sit at room temperature overnight to let it ripen. Don't leave it out more than 24 hours, or it will spoil.

  • Pour the whipping cream into the jar, around two thirds of the way full. Tighten the lid so it's sealed - I like to use a Mason jar for this, but you can use any kind you like.

  • Shake the jar for about twenty to thirty minutes. If you have more than one kid, let them take turns so no one gets bored.

Check the jar periodically - if the contents are getting too thick for you to shake easily,

open the jar and use a fork to stir things up a little. Eventually, the cream will start to

form yellow clumps. These clumps are your butter, which means you're done. If you're

not going to eat all of your butter immediately, refrigerate it in the jar. It will last about a week before it begins to spoil.


You can add flavor (and help prevent early spoilage) by adding a bit of salt to your butter. If you like, add herbs or honey. Experiment a little, to see what sorts of flavors you enjoy best. Also, if you allow your butter to chill after mixing it, you can shape it into blocks for easy cutting and spreading.


If you have a stand mixer, you can actually make this in your mixer. Pour the cream into

your mixer's bowl and add the salt. Cover the whole thing with a towel - trust me, this is

important, because it gets really splashy. Put your mixer on the lowest setting and let it

run for about five minutes. The cream will separate so that you end up with not just butter, but buttermilk as well, which you can use in recipes.


You can use as much or as little cream as you want, but just kind of as a guideline, if you're using the jar method above, a cup of cream will give you around half a cup of butter and a half cup of buttermilk. If you're using a stand mixer, a whole quart of cream will yield a pound of butter and about two cups.


If you are NOT having your charcuterie as your main meal, some traditional main courses would be lamb or mutton. (Though I do apologize, I just cannot go there. I have a special place in my heart for these fluffy creatures. I am sure you may find loads of recipes for lamb, but this kitchen witch cannot supply them.)


May I suggest something we call grill packets? They can be done on the broiler just as easily.


Grill Packets

2-3 chicken breasts, cubed

  • OR 1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp

  • OR 3-4 boneless porkchops, cubed

  • OR a combination of all three

A suitable marninade (I put the chicken in zesty Italian dressing, the shrimp in ½ c orange juice with 1 T lemon juice plus 2 tsp soy sauce, and the pork I soak in ½ cup teriyaki sauce,

¼ cup brown sugar, 1 T rice vinegar, 1 T minced garlic)

3 cups of broccoli florets, small

1 large red onion, sliced into half circles

Zucchini or yellow squash, cut into cubes

Potatoes, preferable Yukon gold, cubed small or cut into very thin slices

2 cups baby carrots, each cut into four segments

Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to season

  • Marinate your protein for several hours or overnight.

  • Lay out sheets of tinfoil big enough to hold several ingredients and then be folded into an individual packet.

  • Spoon in about ¼ cup of protein and marinade into each packet sheet

  • Place 1-2 T of potatoes on top of the protein and then add whatever veggies you like on top of that.

  • Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.

  • Fold packet and seal tightly

  • Place on grill or broiling pan and cook for 15 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes to finish cooking.

  • Serve over rice

The last main dish recipe I am offering here, for our vegetarian friends, is...


Mushroom Barley Casserole

½ c butter 

1 c pearl barley 

1 large onion peeled and chopped

2 c veggie broth 

½ c slivered almonds 

1 packet of dry onion soup mix (4-serving size envelope)

(2) 8 oz pkg fresh mushrooms, sliced

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • Melt butter in a large casserole and sauté onion for 2 minutes over medium heat

  • Add mushrooms and sauté 5-7 minutes more.

  • Add barley and cook until lightly brown

  • Add onion soup mix and 2 cups of broth and bring to a boil.

  • Mix in almonds and cover. Bake 45 minutes.


What feast would be complete without a wonderful something sweet? In honor of Brigid, we will be looking at blackberry desserts first. Of course, you can keep it simple and serve fresh berries with whipped cream. But let's go a little further, shall we?


Blackberry Upside Down Cake

Topping:

¼ Cup brown sugar

2 T butter

2 Cups fresh blackberries

¾ Cup white sugar


Cake:

1 Cup white sugar

½ Cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1 ½ cups flour

2 t baking powder

½ t salt

¼ cup milk

1 t vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • Melt brown sugar and 2T butter together in a saucepan over medium heat. Add blackberries to brown sugar mixture: cook and stir until mixture bubbles, 1-3 minutes.

  • Stir ¾ cup sugar into berries, crush berries slightly with a fork, and continue cooking until berries are hot and slightly broken-down, about 5 minutes more.

  • Remove from heat and pour into a 9 inch cake pan.

  • Beat 1 cup white sugar and ½ C butter together in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

  • Beat in eggs

  • Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Alternately stir flour and milk into butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

  • Mix vanilla into batter.

  • Pour batter over blackberry mixture in the 9 inch cake pan.

  • Bake cake in the preheated oven until cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes.

  • Let cake cool in the pan until warm, but not completely cooled, about 30 minutes.

  • Run a knife along the inside edge of the pan to separate cake from the sides, place a cake plate over the top of the pan, and flip the pan. Lift the pan slowly to release the cake from the pan.


Another way to honor the holiday is to use lemon in your dessert for the Sun. Here is a

delicious loaf cake.


Lemon-Poppy Seed Pound Cake

cooking spray

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup butter or stick margarine, softened

2 large egg whites

1 large egg

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/9 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

2/3  cup powdered sugar

4 teaspoons lemon juice

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • Coat an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray; dust with 1 teaspoon flour. Set aside.

  • Beat granulated sugar and butter at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes).

  • Add egg whites and egg, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

  • Beat in lemon rind and vanilla.

  • Lightly spoon 1 2/3 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.

  • Combine 1 2/3 cups flour and next 4 ingredients (flour through salt), stirring well with a whisk.

  • Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

  • Pour batter into prepared pan; bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

  • Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing from pan

  • Poke holes in top of cake using a skewer. Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl; brush over warm cake. Cool completely.

Yield: 12 servings


Two more delights that honor the holiday...


Blessed Bride's Cake

1 cup sugar

1 cup walnut meats, chopped

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup flour

4 eggs

1 tsp. baking powder

  • Mix all the ingredients together until they are wet. Do not over mix.

  • Pour into a greased and floured 9x9x2 square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until knife inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving.


Imbolc Milk and Honey Rice Pudding

Pudding:

3 eggs beaten gently

1c milk

½ c sweetened condensed milk

1/3 c honey

1 tsp vanilla

1 c cooked rice

Sauce:

Equal Parts Sweetened Condensed Milk and Honey

Cinnamon (optional)

  • In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, condensed milk, honey and vanilla. Beat gently by hand until honey is dissolved.

  • Stir in rice.

  • Pour into a 1.5 quart baking dish. Place the baking dish into a larger baking dish and put 1 inch of hot water into the outer dish. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

  • Remove immediately from the hot water bath. Set aside while you make the sauce.

  • In a glass bowl mix equal parts condensed milk and honey. Heat in the microwave in 10 second intervals and stir until well mixed. Stir in cinnamon to taste. Drizzle over individual servings of warm pudding. 


 

I hope your Imbolc brings you sweetness as we watch the sun’s gradual return. May joy and wonder fill your days and rest and restoration fill your nights. May the snows that are still to come show you their beauty and not dampen your hopes and dreams of spring, which shall come at its appropriate time, of course.


Blessed Be!


(Title photo by Annie Spratt)

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