The Harvest Moon

This weekend brings the beautiful Harvest Moon!

The Harvest Moon is the name for the full moon that is closest to the autumnal equinox, which came on Sept. 22 this year.

Here’s what that means for the non-astronomers among us.

On average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. But when the full moon occurs near the fall equinox, the gaps between moonrises are shorter. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the moon rises about 30 minutes later each night. This happens before and after the full moon, resulting in three consecutive days of the moon appearing at nearly the same time.

The early evening moonrises means the Moon shines brightly during early evening for several extra days running — traditionally providing welcome light just when busy farmers needed the extra work hours to get in their crops.

The Harvest Moon may look bigger and seem closer, but it’s not. It’s just another Celestial Grand Illusion!

I love this post….

Romancing the Bee

Until the late 19th century, beekeeping was almost exclusively a family affair.  It was common for households to keep at least two or three hives, and bees were considered valuable members of the family.

It was a common belief that bees could understand what was said and done around them, and they were often treated as having human emotions. As a result, families were careful to inform the bees of important  family events such as marriages, births and deaths. This custom became known as  “telling the bees.”

“Telling the bees” was done in various ways,  including tapping the hive with a key, whispering the news to the bees, and leaving an appropriate gift – a piece of wedding cake or some other refreshment – at the entrance of the hive. It was also customary to drape the hives with black crepe or wool.

It was feared that if the bees…

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This is a good recipe to reblog for this time of the year!!

Romancing the Bee

The bees gave us one of the earliest alcoholic beverages known, mead.  Mead predates wine and distilled spirits by many thousands of years.

This recipe is quite different from mead, but satisfying just the same. Vodka may be substituted for whiskey for a lighter tasting drink.

Ingredients


  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped, fresh ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 1/2 cups bourbon whiskey (or vodka)

How to make it


  • Bring honey and water to boil, boiling for approx. 3 – 5 minutes. Ensure to skim any foam off surface (this is residual beeswax).
  • Add ginger and lemon and boil for additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stand until just warm, strain out solids with fine seive.
  • Transfer liquid to clean dry container and add whiskey or vodka.
  • Store in cool, dark place for 4 weeks.

Enjoy!

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The Autumnal Equinox

The Science of the Equinox:

Two days a year, the Northern and Southern hemispheres receive the same amount of sunlight. Not only that, each receives the same amount of light as they do dark — this is because the earth is tilted at a right angle to the sun, and the sun is directly over the equator. In Latin, the word equinox translates to “equal night.” The autumn equinox takes place on or near September 21, and its spring counterpart falls around March 21. If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, the days will begin getting shorter after the autumn equinox and the nights will grow longer — in the Southern hemisphere, the reverse is true.

Global Traditions:

The idea of a harvest festival is nothing new. In fact, people have celebrated it for millennia, all around the world. In ancient Greece, Oschophoria was a festival held in the fall to celebrate the harvesting of grapes for wine. In the 1700’s, the Bavarians came up with Oktoberfest, which actually begins in the last week of September, and it was a time of great feasting and merriment, still in existence today. China’s Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated on the night of the Harvest Moon, and is a festival of honoring family unity.

Giving Thanks:

Although the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving falls in November, many cultures see the second harvest time of the fall equinox as a time of giving thanks. After all, it’s when you figure out how well your crops did, how fat your animals have gotten, and whether or not your family will be able to eat during the coming winter. However, by the end of November, there’s not a whole lot left to harvest. Originally, the American Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated on October 3, which makes a lot more sense agriculturally.

Thanksgiving was originally celebrated on October 3. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued his “Thanksgiving Proclamation”, which changed the date to the last Thursday in November. In 1939, Franklin Delano Roosevelent adjusted it yet again, making it the second-to-last Thursday, in the hopes of boosting post-Depression holiday sales. Unfortunately, all this did was confuse people. Two years later, Congress finalized it, saying that the fourth Thursday of November would be Thanksgiving, each year.

Symbols of the Season:

The harvest is a time of thanks, and also a time of balance — after all, there are equal hours of daylight and darkness. While we celebrate the gifts of the earth, we also accept that the soil is dying. We have food to eat, but the crops are brown and going dormant. Warmth is behind us, cold lies ahead.

Some symbols of Mabon include:

  • Mid-autumn vegetables, like squashes and gourds
  • Apples and anything made from them, such as cider or pies
  • Seeds and seed pods
  • Baskets, symbolizing the gathering of crops
  • Sickles and scythes
  • Grapes, vines, wine

You can use any of these to decorate your home or your altar at Mabon.

Feasting and Friends:

Early agricultural societies understood the importance of hospitality — it was crucial to develop a relationship with your neighbors, because they might be the ones to help you when your family ran out of food. Many people, particularly in rural villages, celebrated the harvest with great deals of feasting, drinking, and eating. After all, the grain had been made into bread, beer and wine had been made, and the cattle were brought down from the summer pastures for the coming winter. Celebrate Mabon yourself with a feast — and the bigger, the better!

Magic and Mythology:

Nearly all of the myths and legends popular at this time of the year focus on the themes of life, death, and rebirth. Not much of a surprise, when you consider that this is the time at which the earth begins to die before winter sets in!

Demeter and Her Daughter

Perhaps the best known of all the harvest mythologies is the story of Demeter and Persephone. Demeter was a goddess of grain and of the harvest in ancient Greece. Her daughter, Persephone, caught the eye of Hades, god of the underworld. When Hades abducted Persephone and took her back to the underworld, Demeter’s grief caused the crops on earth to die and go dormant. By the time she finally recovered her daughter, Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, and so was doomed to spend six months of the year in the underworld. These six months are the time when the earth dies, beginning at the time of the autumn equinox.

Inanna Takes on the Underworld

The Sumerian goddess Inanna is the incarnation of fertility and abundance. Inanna descended into the underworld where her sister, Ereshkigal, ruled. Erishkigal decreed that Inanna could only enter her world in the traditional ways — stripping herself of her clothing and earthly posessions. By the time Inanna got there, Erishkigal had unleashed a series of plagues upon her sister, killing Inanna. While Inanna was visiting the underworld, the earth ceased to grow and produce. A vizier restored Inanna to life, and sent her back to earth. As she journeyed home, the earth was restored to its former glory.

Modern Celebrations

For contemporary Druids, this is the celebration of Alban Elfed, which is a time of balance between the light and the dark. Many Asatru groups honor the fall equinox as Winter Nights, a festival sacred to Freyr.

For most Wiccans and NeoPagans, this is a time of community and kinship. It’s not uncommon to find a Pagan Pride Day celebration tied in with Mabon. Often, PPD organizers include a food drive as part of the festivities, to celebrate the bounty of the harvest and to share with the less fortunate.

If you choose to celebrate Mabon, give thanks for the things you have, and take time to reflect on the balance within your own life, honoring both the darkness and the light. Invite your friends and family over for a feast, and count the blessings that you have among kin and community.

Spaghetti Bolognese

With the weather turning cooler, hot spaghetti sounds appetizing again!  This is one of my favorite recipes, improved with the addition of a little honey…

Makes 2 heaping cups sauce; 4 to 6 servings

– 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

– 4 tablespoons butter, divided

– ½ cup chopped onion

– 2/3 cup chopped celery

– 2/3 cup chopped carrot

– ¾ pound ground beef chuck

– Salt

– Fresh ground black pepper

– 1 cup whole milk

– Whole nutmeg

– 1 cup dry white wine

– 1-½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, torn into pieces, with juice

– 1 tablespoon honey

– 1-¼ to 1-½ pounds spaghetti, cooked al dente and drained

– Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table

1. Put oil, 3 tablespoons butter and chopped onion in a heavy 3-½-quart pot and turn heat to medium. Cook and stir onion until it has become translucent, then add chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat well.

2. Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble meat with a fork, stir well and cook until beef has lost its raw, red color.

3. Add milk and let simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating, about 1/8 teaspoon, fresh nutmeg and stir.

4. Add wine and let it simmer until it has evaporated. Add honey and tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When tomatoes begin to bubble, turn heat down so that sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through the surface.

5. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it will begin to dry out and the fat will separate from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add ½ cup water as necessary. At the end of cooking, however, the water should be completely evaporated and the fat should separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

6. Add remaining tablespoon butter to the hot pasta and toss with the sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.

Honey Pumpkin Creme Brulee

I love creme brulee, and honey and pumpkin just make it better!  What better way to celebrate the arrival of Fall!!

makes 6 servings

1 cup cream
1 cup whole milk or half/half
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of 1/2 lemon
3 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Fine white sugar

Heat the oven to 325º F. Prepare a baking pan, filling it halfway up with hot water. Set 6 ramekins or baking cups in the pan.

Whisk cream, milk, pumpkin, sugar, honey, vanilla and zest together in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk the eggs with the spices and salt in a separate bowl. Add a little of the warmed cream to the eggs and whisk together, then add it all back into the pan. Heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until the custard reaches coats the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil or it will curdle the eggs.

Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl and pour into the ramekins. Carefully set the pan in the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. They will still be a little jiggly when you pull them out. As long as they are firm to the touch and don’t have liquid sloshing out of the cups, they are done. They will firm up as they chill. Let cool then put in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, sprinkle a thin layer of fine white sugar on top of each ramekin, spread as evenly as you can, then brown with a kitchen torch.

Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli With Honey Sage Brown Butter Sauce

I love butternut squash, and this recipe just says Fall to me.  It’s a little work, but definitely worth the effort. Everything except the sauce can be made ahead of time.

Ingredients

1 small to medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons dark molasses
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Ravioli dough or 3/4 pound sheet pasta
Flour, for dusting board
4 tablespoons sweet butter and 1 teaspoon honey
8 fresh sage leaves
2 ounces Parmesan, for grating

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut squash in 1/2 and scrape out seeds. Spread 1 tablespoon molasses in the cavity. Season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a roasting pan. Cook in the oven until very soft, about 1 hour.

Let cool to room temperature and scoop out flesh into the work bowl of a food processor.

Puree squash until smooth, then spread on a baking sheet and return to the 375 degree oven to dry, about 10 minutes. The consistency will be like mashed potatoes. Scrape into a large mixing bowl.

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to brown. Immediately remove from heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon molasses and all the vinegar. Add to squash with mascarpone, Parmesan, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper and mix well. The recipe can be made ahead to this point (makes 2 cups filling,) Cover well and refrigerate 4 hours or up to 2 days.

To fill the raviolis: Lay out a sheet of pasta dough on a lightly floured board. Cut into circles with a 3 1/2 inch pastry cutter. Put 1 tablespoon squash filling in the center of 1/2 the rounds using either a pastry bag or a small spoon. Leave a 1/2-inch border all around the filling. Moisten borders with water and top with remaining rounds of dough. Press all the air out and seal firmly by pressing all around with fingertips. Lay raviolis out to dry on a lightly floured board or baking sheet and lightly flour the tops. Repeat until you run out of dough and/or filling. To cook, boil in lightly salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Reserve 2 ounces of the cooking water.

Uncooked, filled raviolis may be used immediately or frozen for 2 months. Lay them out on sheet pans and place in freezer until frozen. Transfer to plastic bag.

For the Honey Sage Brown Butter: While raviolis are cooking, in a large saute pan, melt the butter with the sage and a pinch of salt until it foams and becomes light brown. Add honey. Reserve.

On medium heat toss the cooked raviolis in the sage butter then transfer to a serving platter or dishes. Add 2 ounces of the cooking water to the pan and swirl with any residual butter. Spoon the butter sauce over the raviolis, then finish with a generous grating of Parmesan.