This day is the Solstice – the day the sun seems to stand still. In the Northern Hemisphere it is the Summer Solstice, the longest day and shortest night of the year, and in the Southern Hemisphere it is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and the longest night. Since very very ancient times these celestial marks of the turn of the seasons have been celebrated all over the world, and the celebrations have been adapted and appropriated to varying cultures and religions. The classic example is the adoption of the Northern Winter Solstice customs to the Christmas season, so that we now do not associate fires and fruit cake with the movement of the sun at all (and they have an uncomfortable fit at Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere where it is Summer).
It seems to me – us now being global citizens and all – that the celebration of the Solstices is worthy of reviving. Not in the sense of religious worship, but in the sense of acknowledgement of this wonderful planet and the cycle of the seasons. A twice-yearly, truly global, non-sectarian celebration. Does the world need that? Would it be fun?
I would love to hear your own solstice celebration ideas.
Last year I gave you some ‘Snow’ recipes to represent the Winter Solstice here in the Southern hemisphere. This time I give you some recipes inspired by the Summer Solstice, which those of you in the Northern half of the globe are celebrating.
I have chosen some fruit syrups or cordials which may be used to make refreshing drinks. It may be that we will all need more cooling beverages in the future, if we cannot solve the problem of global warming. In the meanwhile, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere and feeling chilly, make the drinks anyway, and add a nip of the warming draft of your choice.
The recipes are from Cassells Dictionary of Cookery (1870’s), and appear under the heading Summer Beverages.
Grate quinces, pass the pulp through a sieve, then set it before the fire for the juice to settle and clarify; strain and add a pound of sugar (boiled down) to every four ounces of juice; remove from the fire , and when cold bottle for use. A table-spoon of this syrup will flavour a pint of water.
Rasberry Vinegar [syrup]
This is made by squeezing the juice of three quarts of raspberries into a quart of vinegar, and then simmering the vinegar for about a quarter of an hour with two pounds of sugar in an earthen pipkin not glazed with lead. When cold it is to be corked; and a small spoonful of water makes it a very cooling and refreshing drink.
Boil six ounces of sugar in a pint of water until it is dissolved. Let it cool, then add a quarter of a pint of lemon-juice and half a drachm of essence of lemon. Mix thoroughly, and bottle for use. Sufficient: two tablespoonfuls of syrup to a tumblerful of cold water.
If your solstice celebrations demand cake, I offer you my recipe for Summer Solstice Cake (originally made for the Southern Hemisphere Christmas).
May Harrods Suggest … ?
Quotation for the Day …
The right food always comes at the right time. Reliance on out-of-season foods makes the gastronomic year an endlessly boring repetition. Roy Andries de Groot.
As a pagan, what we do is to spend a day enjoying the summer; depending on finances and mood, it may be a trip to a pool, to a park to blow bubbles and have a cookout, or a day spent in the cool shade of a large tree fishing in the local river.
Our religious services generally happen after dark, when everyone is happily sunburnt and full of good food.
I'm going to turn into an Old Foodie Groupie if I'm not careful, but "what the hell, Archie?" Raspberry vinegar. When I was a kid in South Lancashire in the late '40's and '50's, the neighbourhood ice-cream van belonged to a family-owned company of N. Italian extraction called Granelli. Only one flavour, vanilla, but exceedingly good, particularly in comparison to the products of Wall's, the premier "commercial company", which even as a child I found disgusting - not that it stopped me from eating their stuff. Looking back, Granellis must have used egg yolks, even in the days of rationing.
So, get to the point. Vanilla only, varied by the (excellent) option of a Cadbury's Flake in the centre of a sandwich, or stuck in the top of a cone, and - now we're getting there - the provision of a vinegar-shaker of raspberry vinegar, that the purchaser could shake on to his or her ice-cream. And, looking back on it, very popular raspberry vinegar was as an ice-cream condiment. Suppose, in retrospect, that it was a very 19th century thing, but it was still very much alive in that corner of the universe. Wonder if it's still used and if it was regularly used for that purpose, at that date, elsewhere in the UK? North Yorkshire, perhaps?
The web indicates that a branch of the Granelli family is still in business in N. Cheshire. "My" branch became, by marriage, the Longinottis. Some fun pictures.
Thanks Alexandra - do you have any particular food that you always eat/serve at your own summer gatherings?
Roger - you are totally unsuitable as a groupie I am afraid, as groupies simply hang around without actually contributing, whereas you most definitely add value! I am totally intrigued by this idea of raspberry vinegar on ice-cream. I have never, ever, come across that before. I dont remember it from my North Yorkshire childhood. I'd love to hear from some other readers out there on this topic.
somewhat related to the raspberry vinegar I guess but just something that we did the other day. We tasted some strawberry dessert wine the other day at a local winery in upstate NY (touted as best in it's class in a recent nationwide wine rating). It was really good, but tasted more like syrup. And since wine and vinegar are essentially the same process, this might fit your discussion. Anyhow, we purchased a bottle, took it home and poured it over vanilla ice cream. It was fabulous.
Re. the date of raspberry vinegar, there is a recipe in the 1829 edition of the "Cook's Oracle, scanned online. Raspberries are on sale hereabouts so I plan to make a batch of r. vinegar over the weekend. Will let you know how it goes.
Hello Roger. Raspberries are never cheap here in this sub-tropical climate. I do make raspberry vinegar, usually at Christmas (not the very sweet syrupy kind) but I use frozen berries. It is still better than the commercial raspberry vinegar though. Let us know how it works out - and how it tastes with ice-cream!
Hello K. I once made some "strawberry liqueur" with vodka (I think) and it was fabulous. It was about 10 years ago and I still have some. I have not tried it on ice-cream, but it sounds like a good idea.
As I am from the American midwest, the pork sparerib, smoked, slowly grilled, rubbed, mopped and finally sauced to falling-off-the bones perfection is THE summer treat par excellence. Coleslaw and applesauce, preferably both homemade, go with it, and quite likely mashed potatoes or white rice, as a plain foil for the amazingness of the meat.
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