You’ll love Yule log! – A Celtic Christmas tradition

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It’s Christmas again, and with each passing year we enjoy a tradition in our home that I carried form Ireland, namely, the traditional Yule log. Yes, our family loves this, and trust me when you try the combination of chocolate and fresh cream you will too..

…but what is a ‘Yule log’ I hear you ask?

The history of the Yule log cake stretches all the way back to Europe’s Iron Age, before the medieval era. Back then, Celtic peoples would gather to welcome the winter solstice at December’s end. People would feast to celebrate the days finally becoming longer, signaling the end of the winter season, and to cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and to usher in the spring, families would burn logs decorated with holly, pine cones or ivy. Wine and salt were also often used to anoint the logs. Once burned, the log’s ashes were valuable treasures said to have medicinal benefits and to guard against evil.

With the advent of Christianity, the Yule log tradition continued, albeit on a smaller scale. Families may have burned a log on Christmas Eve, but smaller hearths became the norm so huge logs were impractical. Those small hearths, however, were perfect for baking cakes. We don’t know who exactly made the first Yule log cake, but judging from the individual ingredients it could have been as early as the 1600s. Marzipan and meringue decorations, two of the most popular choices for Yule logs, appeared on many a medieval table. Sponge cake, which often constitutes the base of the log, is one of the oldest cakes still made today…however, I make mine with delicious chocolate and fresh cream, so – the tradition continues, but the way we like it!!

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So, from our home to yours, may I wish you a very merry Christmas – filled with the joy of Advent, and the hope of tomorrow, just as those Celtic peoples did so long ago as they gazed into the yule log…

Judie the Irish Foodie,

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Newgrange winter solstice-a 5000 year old puzzle

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In Ireland, December brings many things – frost that coats the ground, cold foggy mornings, hot whiskeys, and all things Advent and Christmas, of course – but an even older tradition happens each December 21st…

5000 years ago, an ancient people in Ireland built a temple dedicated to the sun – or so we think. That temple today stands at Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland, and is a most incredible place. Especially tomorrow, December 21st, which happens to be the Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year, and the point at which the earth is farthest from the sun.

Amazingly, these ancient people knew all this, and they built a temple with a light projector to celebrate!

5000 year old solar alignment

Above the entrance to Newgrange there is a opening called a roof-box. On mornings around the winter solstice a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and travels up the 19 meter passage and into the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the whole chamber is dramatically illuminated. -The opening to this light passage is pictured below.

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Access to the chamber on the Solstice mornings is decided by a lottery that takes place at the end of September each year. So, a handful of lucky people get to witness this beam of light as it travels perfectly down this 5000 year old passage and illuminates the triple spiral in the chamber at the center of the temple…must be a sight to see!!

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But how did they know to do this? How did stone age people align this temple so perfectly to catch sunbeams at 9 in the morning on December 21st.Truth is we really don’t know….but sometimes, mystery can be a good thing! right?

Join me in Ireland, and we can check out Newgrange together- you will be absolutely puzzled and amazed by this incredible place…

www.shamrockandpeach.com

Merry christmas everyone!

Judith xx

Christmas Scones are Gingerbread Heaven

Ginger Scone Recipe

Gingerbread Scones for Christmas Brunch

Certain smells and flavors conjure up the essence of Christmas!  Just like the aromas of the spices baking in the oven of my favorite Gingerbread Scones.  Gingerbread is an Old World recipe that has somehow become synonymous with the Christmas Season around the world including both Ireland and America.  These Gingerbread Scones are perfect for holiday brunch are always a hit especially when served with Lemon Curd and Fresh Whipped Cream.  Enjoy the season and the spices of Christmas..  It’s the time!

Gingerbread Scones with Clotted Lemon Cream

Gingerbread scone ingredients (makes ½ dozen):

  • 1 lb. (4 cups) self-rising flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 oz. (¼ cup) dark brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground powdered ginger
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp. cinnamon
  • 6 oz. (¾ cup) butter (cold and cut into small pieces)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 4 fl. oz. (½ cup) buttermilk
  • 2 fl. oz. (¼ cup) molasses
  • egg wash (1 egg beaten with a little water or milk)

 

How to make them:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425° F.
  2. Sift the flour with the baking powder then combine the remaining dry ingredients together in a food processor or a large mixing bowl.
  3. Cut the cold butter into the mixed dry ingredients then rub the mixture together with your fingertips or add them slowly to a food processor to form a breadcrumb-like texture.
  4. Beat the buttermilk, egg, and molasses together in a small bowl and combine with the dry ingredients, mixing well.
  5. Turn the resulting dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
  6. Knead the dough a few times and then roll it out with a lightly floured rolling pin until it’s about ¾” thick.
  7. Cut the scones out of the flattened dough using a 1” biscuit cutter.
  8. Brush dough scones with egg wash and place onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
  9. Bake 12–15 minutes until well risen and golden brown on top, turning the baking tray halfway through baking time to ensure even baking.
  10. Best served warm. Serve sliced in half and slathered with clotted cream.

Happy Holiday Baking!

Judith the Irish Foodie

 

Lemon Posset is making a come back!

Lemon and Raspberry Posset

The Posset makes a come back

This tangy lemon dessert is perfect for holiday entertaining and fantastic paired with ginger snaps or Irish butter shortbread.  During my Shamrock and Peach Tours last year I was pleasantly surprised to see ‘the Posset’ making a come back in many of our top Irish Chef’s menus.

…and what is a posset I hear you cry? The Posset goes as far back to medieval times where hot milk was flavored with honey, wine or ale. Today, the Posset has evolved to a dessert classic and is simply delicious with passion fruit and citrus. The lemon is perfect for holiday entertaining and I like to serve them in tiny shot glasses for the perfect small indulgent treat….just perfect!

Here is the recipe and what’s not to like about a recipe with 3 simple ingredients?

Lemon Posset:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 lemons (5 Tbsp plus zest)
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup berries (for garnish)

How to make it:

Finely grate the zest of lemons and then juice.

  1. In a small saucepan heat the cream, sugar and lemon zest to a gentle boil stirring for about 5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
  3. Allow the posset to cool slightly before pouring in to containers (4 Martini glasses or 8 shot glasses).
  4. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
  5. Before serving garnish with fresh berries.

Merry Christmas and I hope this graces some holiday parties this season!

Joy in the Journey

Judith the Irish foodie