Nature’s Craft – Midwinter Feast for December
In this month’s Nature’s Craft, Tudorbeth shares Midwinter Feast for December
Hello and welcome back to this month’s column on Nature Craft. At this time of year in the northern hemisphere especially, something amazing happens, animals hibernate and nature seems to grind to a stop. We humans however, choose this time to have one of our greatest parties of the year! This is the season of merriment and feasting, good food, good drinking, and good times with loved ones and family. Many people call it Christmas or the Holidays but my kind call it Midwinter or Yule.
Midwinter falls around the time of the Winter Solstice which is roughly December 21st and is the longest night of the year and therefore our longest party! Only kidding – not really. Traditionally the festivities began on this day and lasted the entire Yule period, finishing on the 6th of January! Yep – pagans know how to party!
As this was such a long period of merriment many people would choose this time to get married thus Midwinter weddings became very popular. This month’s column therefore, will be a little different as I like to make things very practical and show you an example of a Midwinter feast menu with some recipe ideas.
A Midwinter feast can also be used as a Midwinter wedding feast. The drinks can be a mulled wine punch. While a non-alcoholic version can be made with red grape juice, add water to this as it can be very sweet.
A typical midwinter feast would have lots of meat and fish dishes with hardy root vegetables such as turnips, potatoes and swedes in. Therefore, a stew, casserole, dumplings, roasted meats such as beef, pork and also pheasants, duck and game can be served. If, however, you are vegan then there are still many choices. A good saying to remember is:
‘There is a salad for every season.’
A winter salad can include cabbage, chicory and celery. Any cooked vegetable such as beetroot, carrots, cauliflower, swedes and turnips can all make an interesting and nutritional rich salad when cubed and mixed with nuts like walnuts and raisins then tossed in olive oil and Worcestershire sauce.
Also do not forget about herbs. A salad of parsley, chickpeas, tomatoes and beetroot is delicious. As is mint, spinach and dairy free yogurt all mashed together. Hummus and couscous are perfect too with roasted sweet potato, parsnip and carrot wedges used as dips. Breads made with peppers; saffron, and pumpkin seeds are also perfect to eat. Along with stuffed mushrooms and peppers are also hearty dishes for a feast.
Desserts can be anything from mini lemon cheesecakes to syllabubs made with whisky and berries, or banana layer cake made with butterscotch and pecans.
Midwinter Feast Menu
Whisky and Cranberry Glazed Goose
Creamed Swede and Carrot with Nutmeg
Vegetarian: Winter Risotto or Vegetable Goose
Winter Mess (apples with meringue)
Freya’s Rhubarb and Banana Amber
Mulled Wine (non-alcoholic made with red grape juice)
Freya’s Chocolate Whisky Fondue
Here are some of the lesser-known recipes of the Midwinter Feast.
A winter salad is very easy to make. Decide the quantity needed and add ingredients accordingly. Here is the basic recipe for winter salad.
1 Stick celery
1 cooked beetroot
4 cooked potatoes
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Salad dressing – olive oil and Worcestershire sauce.
There are two ways to make a winter salad. Traditionally slice the vegetables and shred the celery. Then arrange vegetables in separate layers before adding the salt and pepper. Then cover with salad dressing.
The other way is to slice and dice all vegetables including celery. Place all in a large bowl, add salt and pepper, and pour the salad dressing in and toss all ingredients together. You can add chopped walnuts and raisins if desired. A handful of cranberries make a nice midwinter tradition. The other addition can be raw Brussels sprouts which can be sliced and added to the dish instead of celery. Cooked chestnuts are also a good replacement for walnuts.
The Royal Soup is a basic clear soup with egg and milk added. Clear soup is anything but clear. It is made with brown stock, beef, carrots, onion, celery, peppercorns, allspice, and cloves. So a lovely winter soup though it can be used any time of the year.
The Vegetable Goose is actually quite easy to make. Basically, it is bread which has been soaked in cold water, 1 onion, 1 tablespoon chopped sage, butter, pepper and salt, and chopped walnuts.
Squeeze bread nearly dry and mash it up along with all the other ingredients chopped small. Bake in a hot oven for about 30 – 45 mins. Serve with the other vegetable dishes on the
menu and the cranberry sauce.
The Snow Pudding is actually a lemon sponge with custard poured over it.
Winter Mess is basically the winter version of Eton Mess just made with apples instead of strawberries. The apples can be cooked then mixed with double cream and crushed meringue. Cinnamon is a nice winter addition to this dish also. You could also make it with vanilla custard with a sprinkle of nutmeg. Make sure you crush the meringue into the custard and do not have the custard too hot as the meringue will simply melt.
Freya’s Rhubarb and Banana Amber
This does not involve eating the stone amber; it just refers to the topping of the pudding. Freya’s Rhubarb and Banana Amber can be a bit fussy to make but once made is a welcome treat. Amber is also the stone of Freya, our Norse goddess of love.
This is what you need:
4 rhubarb stalks
100g of castor sugar
100g of mixed cake crumbs
5 finely crushed macaroons
Wash and cut the rhubarb into inch length. Peel and slice the bananas then using a small amount of water and sugar, stew them both together until tender. Place in a blender for about two minutes. After, stir in the cake crumbs and egg yolks and put mixture in a buttered pie dish and bake in a moderately warm oven for about 20 mins. While that is baking, whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold the sugar in. After the oven mixture is done, cover roughly with the egg white. Then sprinkle the crushed macaroons over it. Return to the oven for another 10 -15 mins until the surface is golden brown like amber.
Serve this dish either hot or cold.
This can be made with gooseberries, peaches or even plums depending on what fruits you have.
If using this recipe for a wedding, bananas and rhubarb are quite appropriate, as they are both regarded as aphrodisiacs.
Another great aphrodisiac is of course chocolate. This last dish is a lovely treat any time of the year and rounds an evening off perfectly.
Freya’s Chocolate Whisky Fondue
Thick double cream
Fruit cut into wedges (nectarines, peaches, cherries)
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Then remove from heat. Fold in 2 tablespoons of double cream. Then gently stir in 4 tablespoons of whisky. Place fruit wedges on wooden toothpicks and allow people to eat and dip at their leisure. The whisky enhances the flavour of the fruit.
Midwinter tea is a mixture of black or green tea with orange peel, cloves, almond pieces, chopped walnuts, and cranberry. Hot water is poured over the mixture and allowed to brew for about 5 minutes before serving hot. Try to avoid an artificial sweetener and use either a slice of lemon or a slice of orange for a complete winter feel.
There you have it, an alternative Midwinter feast that starts on December 21st and lasts till 6th January. The period after Midwinter is then called Yule and came from my Nordic (Viking ancestry). This was incorporated many centuries ago into the Nature Craft of ancestors and many of these weird and wonderful recipes have been passed down into what you can experience here. I hope you enjoy them.
Blessed be and enjoy the season, no matter how you celebrate it.
Keep safe, keep warm and keep happy.
Blessings for 2022.
About the author:
Tudorbeth is a writer of over 40 books on witchcraft with many series on the Craft including the popular Hedgewitch series. Her most recent book in the series is available in Spring 2022, The Hedgewitch’s Little Book of Seasonal Magic, Llewellyn Publishers, March 2022. Plants, trees, wildlife, the environment, and even weather phenomena are sacred to the hedgewitch. This book shares hundreds of recipes, spells, potions, and crafts to help you reconnect with the elemental energies and the turning of the wheel. A Hedgewitch’s Little Book of Seasonal Magic follows the sun around its seasonal year, providing recipes for jams, jellies, chutneys, and syrups as well as seasonal spells, Esbat rituals, and correspondences.
Discover recipes for winter spice marmalade, nettle beer, thyme syrup for coughs and colds, peony jelly, and onion and pineapple chutney. Learn how to create a March storms wand, Mabon apple garland, summer mermaid crystal shells, and a leaf glass mandala. Cast spells for safe travels, luck, preventing floods, increased passion, and many more. Author Tudorbeth has designed this book to help strengthen your magic and spellcraft through a connection to elemental energies and the natural world.