Time of Harvest – With a Recipe

With the corn (and I mean here the old English term for wheat, barley, rye etc.) ripening on the fields, farmers in the Northern Hemisphere prepare for the harvest. (Unless they used Monsanto seed, which probably ripens whenever and who knows what that really is in those fields.)
But those still farming the old way, with seeds from last year’s crops and such, are doing something their forbearers have already done for millennia before them. They are getting ready to cut the first sheaf and celebrate this time of the year. The time that spells abundance – or doom – over the coming winter.

The old Celts the British Isles called these festivities Lughnasadh or similarly, depending on the area. The name suggests a connection with the God Lugh, but is supposedly a festival in honor and memory of his foster mother, who died of exhaustion after clearing a part of Ireland so it can be farmed.

There is an abundance of activities connected with this corner stone of the eight-spoked wheel of the Celtic and Pagan, and if you are interested in the folklore and customs around this festival, I recommend the book Lughnasa (The Eight Festivals) by Anna Franklin with Paul Mason.

In the Eastern Alps, where continental Celts inhabited the Kingdom of Noricum, we can still find quite a number of customs related to games and contests to find the strongest lad or the best singer.

But what I would like to give you on your way today is a recipe for a rye-sourdough-bread, which is traditionally served to the corn-cutters for the second breakfast (with salty smoked bacon and hearty cheese)  and would be a great item/gift for your Lughnasadh celebration.

The sour dough needs a little bit of lead time, but if you start soon it should be ready in time to bake bread for your Lughnasadh celebration, may that be on August 1st, or this coming weekend, or the next New Moon on Aug. 6th, or the sixth day after the New Moon, Aug. 12.

For a very simple and fast sour dough (there are also more complicated versions) mix 3 Tbsp flour with 3 Tbsp warm water, 1 Tsp sugar, and 20g of yeast, and let rest over night until it forms bubbles. Sour dough rises first, and then starts bubbling, which is when it’s actually sour.

For the bread you’ll need:

  • 1 kg rye flour
  • 500 g wheat flour
  • 750 ml lukewarm water
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp aniseed
  • 1 Tbsp cumin (whole)
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seed (whole)
  • Your sour dough

Mix rye and wheat flour in a bowl and form a crater. Mix the sour dough with a little lukewarm water and put into the crater. Carefully sprinkle a bit of flour on top and let rest over night on a warm place.
Next day, add the spices and mix in the rest of the lukewarm water with a wooden spoon. Then knead the dough thoroughly until it doesn’t stick on the hands any longer.

Cut the dough into four pieces and knead them again. Sprinkle a sheet with flower (best would actually be four little baskets,) put the dough on (in) it (them) and let rise for about 45 minutes until it doubled its size.

Put the dough pieces upside down on a baking sheet and bake in the pre-heated oven at 190° C or 375°F.
To check if it’s ready knock with your finger on the bread. If it sounds hollow, it’s done.

Good luck and enjoy.

Yours under the starry Sky


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