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Summer Solstice & Summer Pudding

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere today is the Summer Solstice, giving us the longest daylight hours and the shortest night-time hours.

Many cultures around the world celebrate the solstices as well as Mid Summer’s Day, also known in the UK as St John’s Day, which falls three days later on 24 June. In the UK the Summer Solstice is traditionally celebrated by both Christians and pagans, but perhaps is more often identified with the Druids who celebrate “the wedding of heaven and earth” at Stonehenge. Thousand of people in the UK, both pagans and non-pagans will gather at ancient religious monuments and standing stones around the countryside to watch the sun rising on the first morning of summer.

At the very moment when the solstice occurs and we have the longest day, conversely, it is also the time when the sun will begin to decline towards winter and the days become shorter. In this way we can observe the shifting of the seasons and realise the great influence the sun has on earth, with its warmth and light nurturing us and providing us with all our needs.

The Grove
by Woodland - Emilio Miller-Lopez

The groves still green and growing,
The Juniper and Oak,
The Willow and the Rowan,
Still wear their leafy cloaks,
The Holly and the Hawthorn,
All wrapped in a wreath,
Where the old bark is peeling,
There is new wood beneath,
The Spindle and Vine,
The branches all entwined,
In the old sacred grove,
We gather tonight,
For it was written in the stars,
And bowed upon the breeze,
A tale braided in the branches,
And the colour of the leaves,
From a fallen Rosewood bow,
A harp sings a fable,
From the wood of a Willow,
A rocker for a cradle,
Oh the arms of the Ash,
The winged fruit,
Where the old tree has fallen,
New life takes root,
The Elder and the Pine,
The branches all entwined,
In the old sacred grove,
We gather tonight,
In honour of the queen of leaves,
And her green man in the trees,
A tale braided in the branches,
And the colour of the leaves

Recipe Summer Pudding
From BBC Good Food

1.15kg British summer fruits eg: 350g/12oz raspberries, 350g/12oz small strawberries, 300g/10oz blackcurrants, 175g/6oz redcurrants
175g golden caster sugar
5 tbsp Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur)
2-3 day-old small unsliced farmhouse white loaf of bread (you will need about 5 slices)
cream , to serve

Prepare fruit. Cut strawberries in halves or quarters. Strip the blackcurrants and redcurrants from their stalks in one fell swoop by running a fork down the length of each stem - keep both the currants separate from the other fruits.

Tip the sugar into a wide, not too deep, saucepan. Measure in 3 tbsp water and the cassis. Put the pan on a low heat and cook, stirring often, until you can no longer hear the crunch of sugar grains on the bottom of the pan. When the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat to medium-high and let the mixture bubble away for about 8 minutes. It will go quite syrupy and you want to catch it just before it starts to change colour or caramelise.

Now tip the blackcurrants and redcurrants into the hot syrup, it will feel quite sticky at first, then bring everything back up to a lively simmer and let it bubble again for no more than a minute, just to lightly burst and soften the currants without losing their shape. Take the pan off the heat and leave until it is barely warm.

Gently stir in the strawberries and raspberries - a large metal spoon is best so they don't break up - and let the fruity mixture sit for about half an hour so the juices all mix in.

Cut 4-5 slices from the loaf, about 5mm thick, and trim off the crusts. Cut a little square (about 4cm) from one slice and put it in the bottom of a 1.2 litre pudding basin. Using a big slotted spoon, put a layer of fruit (about 3 spoonfuls) over the bread. Next lay a slice of bread in the centre over the fruit trimming to fit and fill any gaps with trimmings of bread so the fruit is covered. Continue layering with more fruit, more bread, then a final layer of fruit so it comes to within a hair's breadth of the top of the basin. Spoon over a few spoonfuls of juice - not too much or it will ooze out when weighted down. (You should have about 4 spoonfuls of fruit and juice left for making a sauce.) Cover the fruit with a final layer of bread, press down to compact everything, then cover with cling film. Lay a saucer on top and weight down with heavy cans or weights. Stand the basin on a plate in case any juices spill out, then leave in the fridge overnight, or for a minimum of five hours. Press the leftover fruits and juice through a metal sieve to make a sauce, keep chilled. (You can freeze the pudding and the sauce at this stage for up to a month.)

To turn out, go round the edge of the pudding with a round-bladed knife to release it, then invert it on to a plate. Cut into slices with a serrated knife and serve with a drizzle of the fruit sauce and cream.

Morning Sonnet

Come, Valiant Sun, at the height of your strength,
and witness the death of the king of oaks.
Your summer days have reached their greatest length,
but now the wren-king the robin-lord breaks,
and here begins the failing of the Light.
The Goddess weeps to see her consort fall,
but takes her new love by his ancient right
even as she lays out the old king’s pall.
Nothing is static and everything flows,
and though the mother is fecund and green
the power of the Dark from this moment grows,
though it is the Light whose strength is now seen.
The turning of the circle of the years
brings triumph to us here, but later, tears.
Attributed to Andrew B Watts

And sunrise in our house? Well, I was up. It went like this:

2am – cat’s persistent meowing outside to be let in. Go downstairs, let cat in, make a cup of tea.

3.00am – DH snoring so loud that dog starts to growl – Snnnznzzz, grrrrrrrr, Snnnznzzz, grrrrrrrr. Meow, meow, meow.

3.40am – Meow, meow, cat crying to go out. Let cat out. Birds start dawn chorus, cheep, chirp, chirp, Snnnznzzz, grrrrrrrr, Snnnznzzz, grrrrrrrrr.

4am – Get up make a cup of tea. Let dog out. Yip, yip, yip, dog sees neighbour’s cat.

6am – time to get up now to make DH breakfast and pack up his lunch. Yawn!

Every day, I am Blessed emoticon emoticon
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wow! Wonderful blog - and yummy recipe! Great photo too -guess that's your very own pudding?
    Absolutely love the Lopez poem and the Woodland music - just the sort of thing I like to listen to. I don't know them but will definitely be getting a CD or two. Great intro - thank you.
    Sounds like a pretty eventful Solstice night in your home - as you say, you are much blessed emoticon -
    Shame the weather was so poor for the gatherers at Stonehenge - tho I guess they're made of sterner stuff!
    Horribly busy at the moment but will get back to you soon.
    2467 days ago
    2467 days ago
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