By Dawn Hunt
Autumn in New England; what could be more beautiful? The trees turn deep crimson and burnt orange as the squirrels and chipmunks gather food for the harsh winter a head. We pile leaves into huge mounds and put away the garden tools for the season. Somewhere in the distance a fire burns in a wood burning stove and the scent dances on the cool breeze.
Somewhere in all of the summer craziness we may have forgotten that we are whizzing right by the Celebration of Lammas (which literally translates to Loaf Mass) in August. When Mabon, the Autumn Equinox comes we are usually so busy with back to school that we don’t take time to acknowledge this is Pagan Thanksgiving and the second of the three harvest Sabbats on the Wheel of the Year. But there is no mistaking Samhain. Thank Gods the last harvest of the season is rung in with Halloween and all the revelry the holiday has become accustomed to or we might let it pass us by too!
These three Harvest holidays are a Kitchen Witch’s dream!!! The Earth is giving so much during these first cool months here in New England. Everywhere you go pumpkins sit outside store fronts, from your local big name chain grocery store to your local farm stand. Apple picking is a big autumn tradition for Pagans and Non Pagans alike. I can remember it being such a big deal in my family that every October my family would travel 4 hours into the Catskill Mountains in NY to spend the day picking and nibbling on the freshest Cortland’s, Gala, Granny Smiths, and Macintoshes. Gourds, pumpkins and hay bales were strapped to our station wagon and set out in the yard when we got home to make sure the house had on its proper fall attire.
As I grew up and found the path of Kitchen Witchery these simple Fall traditions took on an all new meaning for me. Now I am not just decorating the home for the season, but I invite the autumn spirits in. The thrill of apple picking is not just a day out in nature collecting apples and creating memories, but it is a gathering of Magickal tools and ingredients. Now I ponder the recipes that will come from these wonderful things Mother Earth is providing. I imagine the smell of the apple pie as it bakes in my oven, the taste of the pumpkin spice bread as the butter melts into a slice right from the toaster, the warmth of the cider when it trickles over my taste buds after mulling all day with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Samhain, although the last of the blessed harvest celebrations, also marks the beginning of the dark time. Most witches and neo pagans consider it the end of the year, and the beginning of the next. Similarly to Beltane the veils between the worlds are thinnest at Samhain. In the spring we are more deeply connected with the spirits of life and the fey world whereas at Samhain we connect more with the underworld, and those spirits who have passed from this world to the next. It is the time to celebrate, reconnect and remember our loved ones.
Almost all of us have a recipe that has been in the family for years and years that has been passed from one cook to the next within the family. These recipes tell the stories of our families. Where did we come from and how we have changed? The ingredients keep us connected to the past and sharing them with our families and friends help us push those traditions into the future. This is the idea I like to call Heirloom Food Magick. In a sense it is all about those recipes and flavors our childhood memories would not be complete without. My grandmother, for example, had this bread she would make whenever the family gathered. It was commonly called “Grandma Bread” in our house. Although it was such a simple dish, stuffed Stromboli bread with spinach, cheese and a ton of garlic, every person in the family looked forward to a slice with anticipation from the children to the grownups. This recipe holds the spirit of Grandma. Although no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to get it exactly the same as her bread mine is pretty tasty if I do say so myself and I continue on the tradition of my family by sharing this with people I love.
In my opinion, the Harvest festivals are the time when Kitchen Witches come alive. I feel truly magickal at this time of year. Those of us who are in tune with the seasons can feel the change deep in the core of our beings. And Samhain is the time to do many magickal works in the Kitchen. Of course, gathering in a large Ritual circle with friends and family or local community is important. But for me a smaller more intimate ritual holds even more power. Samhain is a time for us to connect with our ancestors and what better way to do so then to prepare a meal in their honor and invite them to join us!
Invite the ancestors in with pictures set about the kitchen. Place the photographs of your passed relatives where you can see them as you cook. If you happen to have something of your ancestors bring that into the kitchen as well. Ideally cook with kitchen tools that have been handed down but if you don’t have that maybe you have a piece of jewelry or plate that has been passed down for generations, bring these items in to the kitchen. Enjoy the energy and guidance they bring into your cooking space. Make a meal that was a favorite of the person you are celebrating, a recipe that has been handed down for years, or even a meal that is indigenous to your national heritage. For me this is an easy one, because my family comes from Italy, but maybe your great uncle came from Poland and you make some nice porgies to celebrate him! I like to set a place at the table with photographs of the ancestors (all friends and family that I miss and want to celebrate at Samhain) and set a place for them. Pour a drink leave and pile the plate high with your feast. At the end of the meal you can offer the food to the nature spirits though the night!
This is a recipe that is perfect for your Samhain celebration. It is a variation on a traditional pumpkin pie and simply wonderful! It makes a fancy dessert with very little time and people will be so very impressed. It is a vegetarian dessert and if you have a gluten allergy like me, be sure to use a pre-made gluten free crust.
Pumpkin pie is a tradition for many family celebrations, Pagan or otherwise. But pumpkin actually has magical attributes of healing. Its round shape is also symbolic of the Mother Goddess. When you assemble this sweet and decedent pie, notice how the cream cheese layer looks like the full moon. Lightly trace the shape of the pentacle in it with your finger to bless this treat and all who eat it. Then you will layer the pumpkin on top sealing in all the protective energy of the blessing with the nurturing power of Mother Goddess energy from the Pumpkin. Also, using the cut outs for the crust can have magical energy too. As with all food magic intention is the key. Be mindful of your ingredients and put only your positive thoughts and intentions into this new twist on a traditional dessert. Invite the spirits of your ancestors to partake in the baking of this pie with you and start a new tradition for Samhain.
Pumpkin Cheese Cake Pie
1 package (2 crusts) refrigerated ready to roll pie crust
Cheese cake layer
1 8oz package reduced fat cream cheese softened
1/3 cup organic evaporated cane juice or sugar in the raw
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Fit one piecrust into a 9” pie plate and set aside. Roll out second crust onto lightly floured surface. Using a small cookie cutter, no bigger than 1” cut out shapes of stars, holly leaves, or oak leaves. Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Make 40 to 50 cut outs and place in refrigerator until ready to use. Make the cheese cake layer. In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, almond extract, and egg until smooth. Spread evenly into pie crust. Set aside. Make the pumpkin layer. In a large bowl, beat pumpkin puree, milk, brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until smooth. Gently ladle or pour mixture over cream cheese layer. Brush edge of crust with beaten egg. Place cut out crust shapes overlapping around the edge. Brush lightly with egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cover edge. Reduce heat to 350 and continue baking 45 minutes. Cool completely before serving. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if you like.
Dawn Hunt is the owner/president of Cucina Aurora Kitchen Witchery. Her products include everything from Herb and Energy infused olive oils to cooking tools. Her self-published cookbook has sold more than 250 copies in 6 months. She is currently working on a compilation Cookbook with Christopher Penczak and the Temple of Witchcraft called “Tastes of the Temple” due out in 2011. She teaches classes on Kitchen Witchery, Food Magic, and Seasonal Cooking on the East Coast. To find out more information, to purchase products, or for booking visit www.CucinaAurora.com.