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December 1, 2010 08:26 - December Highland Games & Events

December’s events are few, but the Montol Festival in Cornwall has opened a vast source of information on the ancient Celts and the diaspora of their tribes across Scotland and Ireland.

  • December 4 to 5, Port Adelaide, South Australia ~ Celtic Festival
    A celebration of Celtic culture in music, art, dance, cuisine, language and literature, including workshops on the Scottish fiddle, Border Celt dancing, Breton dancing, Irish set dancing, the small pipes, drumming, and the Cornish language. Artists of Celtic ancestry will exhibit in local pubs, cafes, and galleries.

  • December 6, Dalesford, Victoria, Australia ~ Dalesford Highland Gathering

  • December 8 to 21, Cornwall, England ~ Montol Festival

The name montel and the event are associated with celebration of the winter soltice and Nadelik, meaning Christmas.

The Sun Resplendent courtesy Montol Festival

Note the festival ends on December 21st, the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle. Also known as Doubting Thomas, his feast day is held on the darkest day of the year ~ as he remained in darkness longest.

Many old traditions have grown around this festival, been lost, and are being revived by the Celts of Cornwall. These include ~

  • The singing of Christmas folk songs, not Christian hymns
  • The Wassail as a blessing ceremony for next years harvest, celebrated with honey and mead, while elsewhere in Britain apples and cider are offered.
  • The Masking of the Guise dancers ~ also known as geese or goosey dancers ~ as they celebrate with mischief and topsy turvey role reversal.

    Both sexes dress in the hand-me-downs, sometimes in tatters, sometimes with their faces blackened or whitened to disguise their features, but always with masked ball style masks, and some men dressed as women.

  • The Lord of Misrule, chosen to oversee the revelry and lead the Guise dancers. Also known as The King of the Bean and The Abbot of Unreason, this is a position of honor and is highly prized.

    To be considered, you must be at the top of the steps of St. John’s Hall at 5:45 p.m., dressed in full Guise dance costume. There is a casting of lots, using colored beans. Whoever receives the red bean becomes the Lord of Misrule.

    As an aside, this area of Cornwall is where the fairy taleJack and the Beanstalk originated.

As Montol and the festival approach, more information with be forthcoming.

For more detailed information about the listed events, go to

Coming tomorrow, more rose water recipes…

December 2, 2010 08:16 - Rose Water Part VI ~ More Rose Water Recipes

  • Homemade Crystallized Rose Petals
    From Family Oven
    Servings: 8 to 16

    20 -50 fresh rose petals
    1 egg white
    1 cup caster sugar
    Baking parchment paper or greaseproof paper

    [Please note, in order to have this recipe posted, I had to put in quantities - they are approximate, depending on how many petals you are crystallizing]
    Use a fork to lightly beat the egg white and use the paint brush to ensure all surfaces of the petal is then covered. Use the tweezers to hold the petal.
    Then dust the petal evenly with the sugar, place on the baking parchment/greaseproof paper so they are not touching and leave to dry in a warm room.
    It will take approx 2 hours to dry.
    Store them in an airtight tin, in between greasepoof paper for up to 3-4 months.
    Use the rose petals to decorate cakes, trifles and desserts.

    Note: Mum taught me how to do these when I was about ten years old - I remember helping her pick the roses! I try to have a good store of crystallized rose petals, as they are such an imaginative, beautiful and edible decoration for cakes and desserts etc. Make sure your rose petals are free from pesticides and are not traffic polluted either. The more the fragrant the rose, the more fragrant the taste when you eat them! I have given these as gifts before, in an attractive tin and with an attached recipe hanging from the ribbon - unusual and yet edible!

  • Rose Petal Pound Cake

    1 cup butter, softened
    1 2/3 cups white sugar
    5 eggs
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon almond extract
    1 1/2 ounces finely chopped almonds
    1 teaspoon rosewater
    2 drops red food coloring

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9 inch tube pan.
    Cream butter well. In a separate bowl beat sugar and eggs together until doubled in volume. Add sifted flour and salt gradually. Fold in creamed butter thoroughly.
    Divide batter into two equal parts. Into one part add the almond extract and the ground almonds. To the other part add the rosewater and the red food coloring. Spoon batters alternately into the prepared pan.
    Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 50 to 60 minutes. Let cake cool then remove from pan and dust with confectioner's sugar.

    Rose Petal Pound Flower Cakes, using the above recipe

    Rose Petal Flower Cakes courtesy All Family

Family Oven has many more recipes incorporating rose petals and rose water.

Tomorrow, rose water scones…

December 3, 2010 09:03 - Rosewater Part VII ~ Scones

Originating in Scotland, but served throughout the British Isles, scones are popular wherever the Scottish have migrated, particularly Australia, Canada, the U.S., and New Zealand.

The word scon means to crush or beat flat with the open hand on a flat surface.

Like many other words, such as to-may-toe vs. to-maa-toe, you can have a scone to rhyme with John, or a scone to rhyme with Joan. The controversy is exemplified in a rhyme

I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone

They are the basis of our southern biscuits, though barley or oatmeal are often the flour used, rather than wheat. And scones are made with cold butter, giving a delicate flaky texture, where biscuits use vegetable shortening and are of a crumbly texture.

Originally baked on a griddle, with the availability of baking powder many are now baked in the oven. They were a plate-sized flat bread cut into quarters for serving. Commercial sconces are presently served in a round shape, sometimes a hexagon for ease of shipping.

As with bagels and other ethnic breads, today’s scones often contain a sweetener, plus raisins or currants. We Yanks have taken them a step further adding cranberries, blueberries, chocolate chips, cinnamon, poppy seed, and even M&M’s. Surely some bakery must offer them with butterscotch chips and macadamia nuts!

A latest craze is the lemonade scone, substituting lemonade and cream for the butter and milk.

Savory, or unsweetened varieties, can contain bacon, onions, cheese.

Australians have pumpkin scones. In their winter months, they serve puftaloons, a scone either deep-fried or pan-fried and dripping with oil.

Going back to Scotland, the savory scones, without sugar, are often served with a full breakfast. When potatoes are added, they’re called tattie scones. Plain with baking soda are called soda farls, from the Scottish word farle, meaning quadrants, or cut in fours. When fried, they’re called griddle or girdle scones. Like the southern drop biscuit, scones can also be dropped on a griddle to cook, thus called dropped scones.

As the Scottish regiments returned home from foreign lands, they introduced their families to exotic flower waters, such as rose, jasmine, and orange blossom. Eventually, these waters, along with lavender and violet waters, were added to flavor scones.

But recipes for scones is a theme for Monday…

December 6, 2010 06:51 - Rose Water Part VIII ~ Scone Recipes

First, for the traditionalist, a basic scone recipe, then one for rose water scones.

Basic Scones
From, a light buttery scone ~ a basis for endless variations

Yield: makes 8-12 scones, depending on how big you cut them.

2 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
3 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
½ tsp salt (table salt, not Kosher)
4 Tbsp butter (½ stick)
3 eggs
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup dried currants

Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
Cut butter into the flour until the mixture resembles crumbs.
In a separate bowl, beat two eggs and stir in the cream.
Stir the egg-cream mixture into the dry ingredients.
Stir in currants.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and press it together into a single lump. If it doesn't hold together yet, add water (you could use milk more cream) a tablespoon at a time, until it does.
Don't overwork the dough.
Roll dough out to a thickness of 1 inch. Cut into rounds with fluted pastry cutter.
Prepare your baking sheet pan by greasing it with butter or shortening or lining it with parchment paper. Or use a silicone baking mat.
Place scones on the baking sheet.
Separate the third egg and beat the egg white. Then brush the tops of the scones with the egg white.
Bake 15 minutes or until golden.
Variation: For triangular scones, turn the dough out and separate it into two halves. Form each half into roughly circular shape, being careful not to overwork the dough. Then roll each half to 1-inch thickness, and cut into wedges with a knife. Proceed with remaining steps as written.

Check out this step-by-step scone tutorial for more information.

Rose Scones with Walnuts
Recipe from About Thyme January Rose Tea Party

Yield: about 2 dozen

Scones ~
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup shelled walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup cream
1 tsp rose water
2 Tbsp finely chopped rose petals

Icing ~
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tsp water
1 Tbsp rose jelly mixed with about 1/2 tsp rose water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Scones ~
Combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse meal.
Stir in chopped walnuts.
Mix the cream and rose water together.
Rinse the rose petals and pat them dry, then chop very finely.
Stir the petals into the cream, then mix into the dry ingredients.
Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet
Bake 10-12 minutes, until brown.

Icing ~
Combine confectioner's sugar, jelly, and water and whisk until smooth.
Add another teaspoon of water if icing seems too thick.
On warm scones, it will soften a bit. Drizzle on warm scones.
These are best served right after baking.
To make in advance, cool without icing and store in lidded container.
Then wrap in foil and reheat in 325-degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
Ice while warm and serve.
(Adapted from Flowers in the Kitchen by Susan Belsinger.)

To wander just a bit, here’s a simple, quick recipe for Rose butter for tea sandwiches, or as an addition to chicken or crabmeat sandwiches ~

Alternately layer rose petals and sweet butter sliced lengthwise.
Cover tightly.
Let stand at room temperature for an hour.
Refrigerate overnight.
Remove petals
Cream butter.

Tomorrow, a surprise recipe…

December 7, 2010 08:15 - Butterscotch Scones

Butterscotch Scones

Friday, I made an off-hand joke about butterscotch scones, and guess what?

Here they are, compliments of Ellen Easton at What’s Cooking America

Holiday Butterscotch-Ginger Tea Scones
Yields: 12 full size scones or 24 small size scones.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp unsalted sweet butter, cold
1/2 cup buttermilk, with a link to making a buttermilk substitution
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butterscotch morsels
1/4 cup diced candied ginger
Egg Wash (see recipe below)
Cinnamon-Sugar (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
With a pastry blender or two knives, cut the cold butter into flour mixture until particles are the size of small peas.
Blend buttermilk, egg, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg together.
Fold in butterscotch morsels and candied ginger bits.
Add mixture to the flour mixture.
With floured hands, pat dough to a 3/4-inch thickness onto a floured board.
With a floured cutter of your desired shape, cut out scones.
Place 1 inch apart on lightly greased and floured baking sheet.
[If a drop scone is preferred, use 1/4 cup and drop 1 inch apart]
Lightly brush the top of the scones with the egg wash.
Extra cinnamon-sugar may also be sprinkled on top.
Bake 12 to 18 minutes until lightly golden brown.

Egg Wash
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
In a small bowl, mix together the egg and water, repeat if more is needed.

Cinnamon Sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 or 2 Tbsp cinnamon, to taste
In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Repeat if more is needed.

Tomorrow, back to rosewater and Rubicon exotic soda waters…

December 8, 2010 05:43 - Rose Water Part IX ~ Rubicon Exotic Drinks

Rubicon Exotic is a British manufacturer specializing in exotic soft drinks. They produce a variety of different flavors, in both still and sparkling varieties. Their drinks are also available in the U.S. and Canada.

In light of the rose water series, they do have a rose syrup flavor!

Rubicon Exotic Flavors

Coconut Water

Fruit Paradise

Sparkling Fruit Paradise



Sparkling Guava

Guava, Blackcurrant & Grape 100% Juice


Sparkling Lychee


Sparkling Mango

Mango, Apple & Peach 100% Juice

Florida Orange Juice


Passion Fruit

Sparkling Passion Fruit

Pineapple & Coconut Blend


Sparkling Pomegranate

Pomegranate, Blueberry & Cranberry Blend

Rose Syrup

Tropical Fruit

Sparkling Tropical Fruit


Their website also offers exotic cocktails recipes. For the Christmas season their drink recipes include ~

  • Sparkling Exotic Winter
  • Taty Bo Jangles Exotic Punch
  • Mango Christmas
  • Rubi Rubi Christmas

    Rubi Rubi Christmas Cocktail courtesy Rubicon Exotic Drinks

Other cocktail recipes include ~

  • Bahia Papaya
  • Exotic Ipanema
  • Pom Martini
  • Sweet Dreams

…and exotic mocktails ~

  • Papaya Zing
  • Fes
  • Eden
  • Rubicana

A photo of their postal drop box expresses their fresh, unique approach to marketing

Postal Drop Box courtesy Rubicon Exotic Drinks

Visit their website at Rubicon Exotic Drinks.

As a side note, this trail has led from roses to rose water to rose syrup…and to rubicon, which I recognized, but couldn’t place the word in history…read more about rubicon tomorrow…

December 9, 2010 07:11 - Rose Water Part X ~ Crossing the Rubicon

Yesterday, I recognized the word rubicon, but couldn’t put a definition on it. Just what is the Rubicon? And what does it signify?

The Rubicon is a river in Italy. It marked the boundary between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the north and Italy proper to the south.

Mouth of the Rubicon River courtesy Wikipedia

Under Roman law, governors of Roman provinces held imperium, or the right to command military forces within their own province. As such, they served as the general of the Roman army in their territory. Any governor who entered Italy proper forfeited his imperium, was no longer allowed to command troops, and all with him were subject to execution.

When Julius Caesar and his troops crossed the Rubicon River on his approach to Rome, in 49 B.C., he committed an act of war. He deliberately and flagrantly broke the law on imperium, making an armed conflict inevitable.

Bust of Julius Caesar courtesy Wikipedia

Caesar supposedly uttered what has become a famous phrase, alea iacta est, the die has been cast.

Therefore, Crossing the Rubicon became synonymous with passing a point of no return, from which there is no turning back.

The leaders and senate of Rome fled, justifiably so, in fear. Civil War ensued, the Caesars came to power, and the Roman Empire was established.

Tomorrow, send a rose e-card…

December 10, 2010 08:27 - Rose Water Part XI ~ Rose E-cards

It seems, once you start on roses and rosewater, the path leads to many places. One of these is Love of Roses, who offer free rose e-mail cards.

There are six selections, including the Horburns and Betty Boop roses.

Betty Boop Rose courtesy
Love Of Roses

Horburns Rose courtesy
Love Of Roses

What I find even more appealing is the choice of uploading your own URL for a flower photo you’ve found elsewhere…like one to match your color theme.

These could be used as "Save the Date", shower invitations, or reminders for dates related to your wedding!

You can even pre-select a date for a card to be sent. And there’s a limited selection of HTML code for minor changes in your message ~ headers, italics, centering, bold, breaks, pre-formatted. So you can send out truly customized messages.

Monday the Rose Water series ends with the "As You Wish" Damascus Rose Necklace…

December 13, 2010 06:58 - Rose Water Part XII ~ The As You Wish Damascus Rose Necklace

Women always admire jewelry and find such pleasure in wearing the various pieces they own. The women of Scotland were, and are, no different.

Historically, when an entourage would arrive from a foreign government, they were always surprised, and often outdone, by the women who were present at court displaying the quality and variety of their jewelry.

Though the Damascus Rose is the basis of rose water, it seems appropriate to close the Rose Water series with a different display of Damascus Rose ~ a crystal ball bead from Swarovski Crystal.

Swarovski crystals are the highest quality crystal from Austria and are the standard against which all other crystal is measured.

Swarovski Damascus Rose Crystal Ball
courtesy Pinky Monkey at Art Fire

The bead is approximately 1 cm x 1 cm.

Pinky Monkey, at Art Fire, has created a set of jewelry, centering on the Damascus Rose bead, named "As You Wish".

As You Wish Necklace courtesy Pinky Monkey at Art Fire

For those who don’t recognize the quote, As you wish, it’s from the 1987 movie The Princess Bride, a romantic comedy which has become an all-time favorite of many. A beautiful young woman lives on a farm where her farmhand always happily complies with her orders, answering, "As you wish!"

The Princess Bride soundtrack
courtesy Wikipedia

Pinky Monkey at Art Fire also offers other pieces in her "As You Wish" collection, not only in Damascus Rose, but a variety of other colors.

Swarovski Crystal Ball Bead Colors courtesy Pinky Monkey

With such a wide color selection, this bead could be the basis of gifts for the bridal party, those who perform special tasks on the wedding day, or the bride herself.

Tomorrow begins a series on the Celts of Cornwall, leading up to their annual Montol Celebration…

December 14, 2010 07:09 - The Celts of Cornwall Part I ~ The Montol Celebration

Fyreplay courtesy Montol Festival

From December 8th to the 21st, the Celts of Cornwall celebrate their heritage. December 21st is also the Feast of Thomas the Apostle and the Winter Solstice, which in Cornish is Montol.

The symbols of the festival are the spear and square of St. Thomas and the Sun Resplendent. I’ve not found anything about the Sun Resplendent, but I’m it has to do with the days becoming longer after the Winter Solstice.

The Sun Resplendant courtesy Montol Festival

Three Ceremonies are highlighted in the traditional Festival ~

  • Choosing of the Lord of Misrule
    The towns select a mock mayor who leads the revelry. This person is also known as the "Abbot of Unreason" and the "King of the Bean". Within the communities this is a highly prized and honored position.

    The choosing is done by a casting of lots or beans. In Penzance, to be eligible you must be in a full Guise dance costume, at the top of the steps of St. John’s Hall, at 5:45 pm. The Master of Revels distributes the beans to the Guise dancers. Whoever gets the red bean is declared the Lord of Misrule.

    The Lord and the Guise dancers proceed. Guise means goose or geese. The dancers wear Bal masques, animal masks, or plain masks.

    Veniza Bal Masques courtesy Wikipedia

    Verona Bal Masque courtesy Wikipedia

    The men wear cocked hats decked with streamers and ribbons. The women wear steeple crowned hats, beautiful gowns with trains, and ruffles hanging from their elbows.

    The River of Fire Procession leaves from St. John’s Hall, wending the way to Lescudjack Hill Fort. The Bagas Torchen, or torch bearers, who light the way.

  • Lighting the Beacon at Lescudjack Hill Fort, an Iron Age settlement

    Montol Beacon courtesy Montol Festival

    The crowd gathers in the oldest part of town where the Guise dancers perform dances and plays. The Lord of Misrule lights the beacon. After a series of performances, everyone proceeds to the town center with the Bagas Torchen still lighting the way.

  • Chalking the Mock
    At 10:30, an individual is selected for the honor of Chalking The Mock, or Cornish Yule log. With chalk, they draw a stick man on the Yule log. The Lord of Misrule holds the Mock up for everyone to see. While holding the Mock aloft, he states, "According to our tradition this represents the end of the old and the beginning of the new. A candle dance is performed and the Mock is burned.

    Chalking the Mock courtesy Montol Festival

    Coming tomorrow, Cornwall ushers in the Bronze Age…

December 15, 2010 05:31 - The Celts of Cornwall Part II~ Cornwall Ushers in the Bronze Age

Tin, combined with copper, opened up the Bronze Age. Tin, combined with lead, gave us pewter. Even before 2000 B.C., tin was being mined by the Damnonii Celtic tribe in what has become Cornwall.

South Britain Celtic Tribes courtesy Wikipedia

Control of the tin is believed to have been held by the Veneti, who lived on the Bay of Biscay on the west coast of Brittany. The Veneti were a seafaring Celtic tribe.

South Britain Celtic Tribes courtesy Wikipedia

Other historians claim the Phoenicians controlled the shipping of tin from Cornwall to the Mediterranean markets.

By the time the Romans invaded Britain [c. 71 to 213 A.D.], they were already controlling the tin mines of Spain and Brittany, where the Veneti tribe lived.

Cornwall shows less Roman influence than other areas of England. This is thought to be because the tin mining was controlled locally by the Damnonii, with the tin merely being purchased by the Roman Imperial authority.

The Damnonii tribe also controlled land in what became Scotland, from the Glasgow area to the River Forth.

North Britain Celtic Tribes courtesy Wikipedia

In the 6th century, an Irish priest named Perran became a Cornish abbot. In Cornwall saints don’t carry the title Saint. He became the patron saint of tin-miners and Cornwall. The Cornish flag, also known as St. Piran’s Flag, is a white cross on a black background. Perran adopted the two colors after seeing the white molten tin flowing from the black ore in his fire.

Cornish Flag at Portloe courtesy Wikipedia

Tomorrow, more about Cornwall and how it got its name…

December 16, 2010 07:25 - The Celts of Cornwall Part III ~ Tartans & How Cornwall Got Its Name

The name Cornwall combines the Roman term Cornovii, as they called the local Celtic tribe, and the Latin word cornu, which became the Celtic cern, meaning horn or peninsula.

By the Middle Ages the land was called Cornubia. The Anglo-Saxons added the suffix, Wealas, meaning foreigners, thus creating the word Corn-wealas. Cornwall was also known as West Wales, with modern day Wales being called North Wales.

The entire peninsula of Cornwall, was also known as Belerion, or Land’s End. The inhabitants of the area were trading with foreign merchants from an early date.

The local Celts would carefully work the earth, extracting the tin, then selling it to the merchants. Next the tin was shipped to Gaul and carried by horseback on a thirty day trek to Arles, at the mouth of the Rhone River on the Mediterranean Sea.

To see some wonderful scenery and learn a bit about modern day Cornwall, a BBC series, Doc Martin, is about a doctor’s general practice in a Cornwall village. Several seasons of the series can be viewed on Netflix instant viewing.

I was delighted to find a selection of Cornish tartans, predominantly in yellow. One specifically for Cornish National Day and a St. Piran dress tartan, plus two national tartans.

If you’ve any Cornish ancestry, or come from a mining family, there’s likely a tartan here for you. The Cornish Hunting would be a smart complimentary tartan for the Groom and his men. Just add some white heather and pale blue forget-me-nots for a really stunning wedding theme.

Cornish Tartan WR1567 was designed by the Cornish poet, E.E. Morton Nance who regarded tartan as the heritage of all Celts and extolled brave Cornishmen to wear the kilt of black and saffron, "tints blazoned by her ancient Kings".

Cornish National Tartan WR1567

Cornish Hunting Tartan WR1568

Cornish Hunting Tartan WR1568

Cornish National Tartan WR1569

Cornish National Tartan WR1569

Cornish National Day Tartan WR1262

Cornish National Day Tartan WR1262

St. Piran Dress Tartan WR1685 reflects St Piran’s influence on Cornwall, which along with the significance of black and white were published yesterday.

St. Piran Dress Tartan WR1685

The most westerly town is Penzance, at Land‘s End, with her pirates…but that‘s for tomorrow

December 17, 2010 08:36 - The Celts of Cornwall Part IV ~
Penzance, The Town and Her Pirates

Penzance, the name meaning holy headland, is the most westerly town in Cornwall at Land‘s End. Due to its location, Penzance and surrounding villages were often sacked by many foreign fleets and pirates.

Seven years after the Spanish Armada limped home, a Spanish force attacked Penzance in 1595. They seized supplies, raided and burned both Penzance and surrounding villages, held a mass, and sailed away before anyone could confront them.

Rebuilt many times, as both a port and a market town, the town gained favor with the king and in 1614 gained borough status.

Mediterranean pirates continued to raid through the late 1700’s., but by the late 1800’s, Penzance had become a peaceful resort town. When Gilbert and Sullivan wrote The Pirates of Penzance in 1879, the idea of being raided by pirates had become amusing and laughable.

While reading about Cornwall, the raids conducted along the coastline, the pirates who at one time hid in coves along the coast, and the town of Penzance, I finally gathered all the information together and remembered how much I’ve liked Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.

Pirates of Penzance Act I Finale courtesy Wikipedia

Not meaning to offend the residents of Land’s End, I assumed Penzance was a made-up place. I’d read the operetta in the late 1950’s, then seen the 1983 film production, which was just released on DVD September, 2010.

Pirates of Penzance DVD courtesy Wikipedia

The film stars Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, and, much to my delight, Angela Lansbury reprieving her song and dance days.

Angela Lansbury in Till the Clouds Roll By courtesy Wikipedia

Monday, the nursery rhyme Ding Dong Bell and how it relates to Cornwall…

December 20, 2010 07:27 - The Celts of Cornwall Part V ~ The Economy of Cornwall

As published last Wednesday, tin mining was important in the Cornish economy. But a decline in tin and copper around 1850, while the extraction of china clay becoming more important and still is today.

Kaolin ore courtesy Wikipedia

Near Madron, the Ding Dong Mines lie in an old and extensive mining area. The origin of the name is obscure, with a few choices. It may refer to the "head of the lode", or the outcrop of tin on the hill. Also, in the Madron church the bell that rung to mark the end of the last shift of the day is called the Ding Dong Bell.

Which, in turn, leads to the nursery rhyme, Ding Dong Bell. But that’s a topic for Wednesday, December 22nd.

Midwinter celebrations for miners were common, as Tom Bawcock’s Eve is for the fishing industry, which will be published next Thursday, December 23rd.

One is Picrous Day, celebrated the second Thursday before Christmas. Legend tells of a man named Picros founded their industry. Others claim St. Piran gave the Cornish families their tin industry.

Chedwidden Thursday is another miner’s celebration, also known as White Thursday and Jew-whidn. This takes place the last clear Thursday, at least one week before Christmas.

Determining the day of Chedwidden brings the weather lore into play.

Mist from the hill
Brings water for the mill;
Mist from the sea
Brings fine weather for me

Lundy plain, Sign of rain

This festival celebrates St. Chedwidden discovering how to smelt white tin from black ore.

The Cornish expertise in hard rock mining of tin and copper, then kaolin, was highly regarded in the international mining industry. So much so, agents from mining companies around the world recruited miners from the Cornish mines.

The miners who emigrated from Cornwall to foreign mining areas were called Cousin Jacks.

Two theories explain the nickname ~

  • The Cornish men were always asking about a job for their Cousin Jack from back home
  • The miners addressed each other as cousin and Jack was the most popular Christian name in Cornwall.

So the Celts of Cornwall, like the Irish, are our cousins from way back.

Tomorrow, one ride you wouldn’t want to take…

December 21, 2010 06:51 - The Celts of Cornwall Part VI ~ Skimmington Rides

During the Middle Ages, community punishment for unacceptable behavior was public and degrading, meant to shame the guilty persons into ceasing their behavior. Among those targeted were men who were hen-pecked or worsted by the wife, a cuckold who accepted his wife’s adultery, and any married person engaged in licentious conduct.

In the West Country, including Cornwall, the process became known as a Skimmington Ride. It seems the women of the region used a ladle for cheese making. This ladle was perceived as a weapon in the hands of a strong willed woman who would beat a weak husband.

Those to be punished would be paraded through town, either in a cart or on a horse or donkey, being exposed to ridicule and humiliation. Originally, those forming the parade carried ladles and spoons to hit one another. As the custom evolved, they added noisier tools that could be rattled, such as pots and pans, kettles, bones, horns.

The parade would intentionally go past the church, where church bells would be added to the cacophony. It would also wend through neighborhoods to warn others to respect community mores. Homes of others whose behavior was questionable would receive more attention.

A Skimmington Ride painted by William Hogarth as an illustration for Samuel Butler’s poem Hudibras, a satire aimed at the factions involved in the English Civil War of 1642 to 1651.

Hudibras Encounters The Skimmington
by William Hogarth courtesy Wikipedia

Along the way, more and more people would joint the melee. In many communities the parade led to the village pond, where the punishment would culminate with a dunking.

But dunking and the rhyme Ding Dong Bell is a topic for tomorrow…

December 22, 2010 07:49 - The Celts of Cornwall Part VII ~ Ding Dong Bell

The Celts have been known for their fairy tales and sagas of ancient heroes. But few know that the Celts of Cornwall are associated with Ding, Dong, Bell, including the Ding, Dong Mine published last Monday.

Ding Dong Bell courtesy All About Info

Ding, dong, bell,
Pussy’s in the well.
Who put her in?
Little Johnny Thin.
Who pulled her out?
Little Tommy Stout.
What a naughty boy was that,
To try to drown poor pussy cat,
Who ne’er did him any harm,
But killed all the mice in the farmer's barn.

The first six lines are known to have been published in London around 1765.

As well as the name of a tin mine in Cornwall, the phrase Ding, dong, bell also appears in plays by Shakespeare. Because of the writing technique used by Shakespeare, called Quarto text, and his plays not being published until 1623, after his death, the phrase could have been stage directions for sound effects. No one knows for certain.

Sea nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! Now I hear them - Ding, dong, bell
The Tempest, Act I, Scene II

Let us all ring fancy's bell;
I'll begin it - Ding, dong, bell.
The Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene II

Digging further back in history, a Skimmington Ride, published yesterday, is believed to have originated in the West Country, which includes Cornwall.

A loose woman was once referred to as a pussy. Use of this term can be found in the works of Philip Stubbes, who, in 1599, published semi-devotional works for Christian women.

Stubbes used the word pussy, plus he associated cats with lust, disorderliness, and femininity. Thus our modern slang term pussy, meaning not only a loose woman, but also her female anatomy.

The ride, meant to be humiliating, would pass the local church, where the bells peeled loudly. Then all would culminate at the village pond, where a dunking stool was permanently installed. The woman being punished would be repeatedly dunked into the water by the young men to show the community disapproval.

Dunking Stool courtesy Wikipedia

So ding, dong, bell seems to refer to the church bells ringing, while Johnny Thin and Tommy Stout represented the young men who did the dunking. And ’poor’ pussy was once an immoral woman being punished.

The last four lines were added in the 18th century, when the original meaning was forgotten, this had become a children’s rhyme, and "being nice" needed to be instilled in children.

Tomorrow, Tom Babcock’s Eve in Mousehole, Cornwall…

December 23, 2010 07:28 - The Celts of Cornwall Part VII ~ Tom Bawcock's Eve

On December 23 a festival is held in Mousehole [pronounced Mouzul], Cornwall. This is to remember and commemorate a local fisherman, Tom Bawcock.

Somewhere back in the history of Mousehole, a terrible storm held the fishermen in port. Being a fishing village, fish was the mainstay of their diet. No fishing, no food equals famine.

Tom braved the elements, risking his life and his boat to go out to their fishing grounds. He returned with enough fish to feed the village. As a communal effort, all the fish were baked in one, big pie which has come to be called Stargazy Pie..

So each year the villagers gather to celebrate Tom Bawcock’s Eve. The residents march in a parade, carrying Tom Bawcock’s Lanterns

Tom Bawcock’s Lantern Parade courtesy Wikipedia

As part of the celebration, a night-time float parade, including a stargazy pie, lights up the harbor.

Stargazy Parade Float courtesy Cornish Culture

Everyone proceeds to the Ship Inn, where they all eat a communal pie.

Stargazy Pie courtesy London Food

The contemporary pie is made of pilchards, or sardines in a pastry crust. The pilchards are arranged with their tails toward the center of the pie and their heads poking through the crust near the edge, giving the appearance of gazing toward the stars. Thus the name, stargazy pie.

No one knows for certain what kind of fish was in the original pie, so some folks use mackerel or herring in place of the pilchards. Over the years, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, onions, and mustard have been added, as have boiled potatoes and white wine. And the tails also protrude through the crust.

A recipe for Stargazy Pie can be found at London Food.

Ladies in Lavender poster courtesy London Wikipedia

It was filmed on location in Cornwall and a stargazy pie is served. For those who have Netflix, the movie is available for instant viewing. The movie is well worth the watch and with what I now know, I’m soon going to view it again…maybe on December 23rd. Maybe each year, as my own little celebration. I may even bake a Stargazy Pie.

One thought more about Tom Bawcock’s name. In Middle English, bawcock means a fine, worthy fellow, as seen in Shakespeare.

Why, how now, my bawcock!
Twelfth Night, Act 3 Scene 4

Tom was often used for any man, thus Tom Bawcock was any fine fellow who risked his life for the sake of the village.

Tomorrow, a few recipes for Christmas dinner…then a holiday break.

December 24, 2010 06:28 - Recipes for a Scottish Christmas Dinner

Our children will be sharing Christmas with us this year. It’s been a few years and there’s a young grand-daughter who’s being introduced to her Scottish roots.

We’ve decided to skip our usual Christmas turkey ~ and from among traditional Scottish fare, we’ll have a venison stew with neeps, tatties and swedes. Then we’ll finish up with a Dundee cake.

For those who don’t know, neeps are turnips, tatties are potatoes, and swedes are rutabagas, which have recently become available at a local super market, much to my delight!

Read more about Dundee cake on the April 15 to 17, 2008 blogs.

Venison Stew
Popular on tables of gentlefolk at Christmastide and New Year in the 18th and 19th centuries.

1lb lean venison cut into strips
1lb streaky bacon
1 oz. butter
Salt and pepper
1 lb. small carrots
1 stick celery
1 large onion
Grated peel of 1 orange
¾ pt. milk
1 spray thyme
2 Tbsp whisky
¼ pt. cream
Cheese of your choice

Put butter into a non-stick pan, and brown the two meats briskly.
Add salt & pepper to taste.
Slice carrots, celery, onion
Grate peel of one orange
Add all to meats
Add about 3/4 pint milk, just to cover meat, and thyme
Cover and simmer for two hours until venison is tender Remove meat & vegetables
Thicken juices with a little flour
Add whisky and cream, heating gently until thick and smooth
Pour over the meat and vegetables in a serving dish
Grate a little cheese over the top and brown in the oven until it bubbles
Serve with buttered mashed potatoes, Swedes and neeps.

Dundee Cake
Though of Scottish origin, now popular throughout Britain.. Served as an alternative to Christmas Cake, this is less rich and more digestible.

8 oz. butter
8 oz. sugar
4 eggs
10 oz. plain, not self-rising flour [plain flour gives better stability for the heavy fruits]
Rind of 1 orange rind, finely grated
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 oz. ground almonds
1 lb. mixed dried fruits
4 oz. candied peels
Blanched almonds
Egg white

Line an 8" cake tin or spring form pan with a double thickness of baking parchment, extending an inch above the rim, buttering the inner paper
Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Beat in eggs, one at a time, with a little flour from the measured 10 oz, to stop the eggs from curdling
Stir in orange rind, finely grated. Sift the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt
Fold the flour mix into the creamed mixture
Add ground almonds, mixed dried fruits and candied peels
Spoon into prepared tin, smooth the surface, hollowing slightly in the middle, so when the cake rises it will not peak.
Arrange whole blanched almonds in a pattern on the top, without pushing them into the surface of the cake [see below for blanching almonds]
Brush the surface with beaten egg white
Place a pan of hot water on the bottom of the oven to keep crumb moist and prevent over-browning
Bake in a pre-heated oven 325 Fahrenheit for about three hours
After the first hour, place a sheet of baking parchment on top and tie or tape a layer around outside edge, to prevent the crust getting too dark and burning
Testing with a skewer, when it comes out clean the cake is done
Let cake cool 15 to 30 minutes in the pan, remove and cool completely on a wire rack. [I don’t know if it will help, but to prevent surface cracking I cool my cheesecakes in the oven for one hour with the heat off and the door open]
Store in an air-tight tin.

To blanch almonds yourself, place almonds with skin into saucepan of boiling for 2 minutes, rinse in cold water to cool, slip off skins

Wonderful served plain, but some cooks like to serve the cake with orange marmalade sauce, orange sections and whipped cream.

Here’s a few examples of patterns used to arrange the almonds…

Dundee cake courtesy Cake Blogger

Dundee cake courtesy Baking Mad

Dundee cake courtesy

Dundee cake courtesy Delia Online

Dundee cake courtesy Scottish Recipes

On this last one, notice the almonds are laid out in a spiral, which is a popular motif in Celtic knots and in the mazes and labyrinths covered in the April 14 to 27, 2009. Just one more little Scottish touch that can add to the overall Scottish theme for your wedding.

Marmalade Sauce
2/3 cup orange marmalade
3 Tbsp whisky
4 oranges
Combine marmalade and whisky in medium saucepan
Cut all peel and white pith from oranges, working over bowl to catch juices, cut between membranes, releasing orange segments
Add 2 tablespoons orange juice from bowl to saucepan
Stir over medium-low heat until marmalade melts and sauce is heated through, about 5 minutes
Transfer sauce to serving bowl
Serve cake with warm sauce, orange segments, and whipped cream

Well folks, Christmas is here and it‘s time to shut down and enjoy my family through the holidays. May yours be bright, joyful, and filled with family and friends. May your new year bring sunshine and, for the brides to be, all the wonder and delight of marriage.

See you January 3rd with the January Highland Festivals and Events, then a little more about our Celtic cousins of Cornwall with their giants, mermaids, and piskies…

November 2010 « 


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