Tomorrow night, October 31st, is Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), also called All Hallows Eve or All Saints’ Eve, and what we know as Halloween. I’ve probably described it here before (since it comes around every year!). If you’re of a superstitious turn of mind, it’s the night where the barrier between the living and the souls of the dead is at its thinnest, so if you fear spirits, you might want to stay out of your local cemeteries. (Or go out with a crowd of people and beg for candy!) But this may not help, if the dead want to return to their former homes. To welcome them, light a few candles to guide their way, and put out some food and drink for them.
The celebration of the event goes back to medieval times and possibly earlier, and—no surprise—apples have played a part. But I’m not going to talk about apples! I’m talking about Irish cookies.
|Rosemary for remembrance|
A lot of the traditional Irish Samhain recipes are pretty much like ordinary year-round recipes. I debated about offering you Fairy Spice Cakes, but I don’t think October 31st is a night for fairies, but rather for darker creatures. But I did find a rather unusual cookie recipe that most people label Remembrance Cookies. I’ve read that you should eat the cookies while telling stories about your ancestors (the Irish are great story-tellers, and they have very long memories where people are concerned), and if there are any cookies left, add them to a bonfire outside.
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened (particularly appropriate for County Cork, where there are over 4,000 herd of dairy cows)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1-1/2 Tblsp chopped rosemary (for remembrance, of course)
In a large bowl, beat the sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, almond extract and rosemary until creamy. (BTW, I used my own home-grown rosemary.)
|Includes butter from Co. Cork cows|
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Fold the flour mixture into the sugar mixture, then beat until the dough comes together. Refrigerate for three hours. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for longer, but in that case let it warm up a little before you try to roll it out.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Divide the dough into halves. On a floured surface, roll out one half to just under a quarter-inch thickness.
If you have them, use gingerbread women or men to cut out shapes (these are the ones that you’ll use to celebrate your dead), and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet (or you could use parchment paper). Do the same with the second portion.
Bake in the preheated oven for 5 to 7 minutes (don’t let them burn!). Remove from the baking sheet and let cool.
I will confess I was a bit skeptical about how well rosemary would work in a sweet cookie, and one with almond extract, no less, but the combination was surprisingly pleasant.
|My Irish family: the four Lawless sisters, their|
only brother (Patrick), and my grandparents,
Margaret Lawless and John Connolly
Pour yourself a bit of Irish whiskey and share the old family stories around a nice fire.
And in the spirit of the day, a sneak preview of the next County Cork Mystery, A Turn for the Bad, coming February 2016.
Available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
There will be smugglers! And a daring rescue! And whiskey!