Monthly Archives: October 2017

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Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

 

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Halloween and is origins remain a bit of a mystery. Opinions vary but mostly the Celts are given credit for establishing the festival. Originally marking the end of the year, Samhain was a pagan festival marking the onset of winter and hard times. Winter used to be an uncertain time, the short dark days frightening, and representing death for many. Food was vastly more important to people then than it is now. In such days if you had not stored your harvest for the winter by this time, it was likely you would not survive until spring. This crossing over period also applied to the worlds of the living and the dead. Spirits of the departed were supposed to walk free at this time. Similar festivals can be found in other parts of the world.

Rather than ban pagan festivals, the early Christians absorbed them into their calendar and adapted them as necessary. Thus Samhain (still the Irish word for November) became the feast of All Hallows, a celebration of the saints and martyrs. This was followed by All Souls when the souls of the dead were prayed for, so everyone was accounted for. The day before, All Hallows Eve, quickly got shortened to Halloween.

The bonfires of Halloween were intended to ward off evil spirits and disguises were supposed to confuse them. Nowadays we don’t worry so much about the dark or the evil spirits but we love the bonfires, dressing up and other traditions like bobbing for apples and eating barmbrack. Originally fermented with barm, or ale yeast, barmbrack is a sweet yeast bread, normally filled with dried fruit, mixed peel and spices.

Different objects, all which had significance, were concealed within the brack. They ranged from pieces of cloth to coins, a pea and of course a ring. The last is the only one that has really survived and remains a favourite. Having the slice that contained the ring meant you would be married within the year. A shared ritual that everyone in a family could enjoy, it remains popular to this day, particularly in Ireland.  It annoys me that barmbrack is available all year, rather than being a special part of the Halloween holiday. I look forward to our fresh bracks –  sweet yeast dough packed with dried fruit – a delicious breakfast for witches and wizards toasted and slathered in butter.

William Despard


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Bretzel Gold at Blas na hEireann

Bronze_2017_-_circleGold_2017_-_circleAs the Blas na hEireann Awards are the one of the only serious food standards in Ireland, we can’t help but feel delighted that Bretzel products scooped two gold and one bronze at the awards in Dingle this year. The new d’Espard baguette and the San Francisco-style sourdough were the gold winners and our delicious pain au chocolat attained a bronze award. More than two thousand products were entered in a total of 120 different categories. The competition was fierce and we are thrilled with the result. It is always rewarding to be recognised for doing something you love.

Now in its tenth year, Blas na hEireann (Taste of Ireland) was founded as a touchstone for quality in Irish food and the accreditation has the highest recognition among Irish consumers. Running concurrently with the Dingle Food Festival it is a great opportunity for producers to meet others, to attract buyers and generally exhibit their products to a large audience of food-lovers.

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And it was great craic. The Dingle Food Festival brings together producers from all over the country and there are markets, workshops, cookery demonstrations and lots of different tastings. Something in the region of 30,000 visitors descend on the town for the weekend and the streets are filled with tantalising food aromas. And no shortage of great craft beers and local gin to wash it all down.

Particular thanks go to the Bretzel baker team who made this happen.

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#bretzelbakery  #blas2017