Monday, August 1, 2011

lughnasadh and campfire bread

   Here we are at the least celebrated and least recognized cross quarter day of the year.

   Yes folks, it’s a holiday!  Today is Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas or First Harvest).  Get out your festival wreaths, bring in the first of your crops, figure out where you’d like to live for the winter, try out an anonymous marriage for a year and a day or contract out your children into marriages of their own.  (Okay, perhaps not those last two.)  This day, like so many seasonal celebrations, is also traditionally a day of craft fairs and of games and contests of skill and strength.   What better mid-summer pursuit than a badminton or bocce ball match?
   Of course, like all festivals, the important piece is the gathering.  Even if Lughnasadh means nothing to you, doesn’t it just offer up a reason to hold a lively Summer soiree?  (Truth be told, it doesn’t actually mean much to us either.  We’ve just been researching festivals of late and, in trying to create a stronger sense of community and tradition in our disconnected, modern, urban lives, have enjoyed recognizing and celebrating each of the changes of season as well as the seasonal mid-points with family and friends.)

   Today we will celebrate the first grains of harvest (albeit not our own since we don’t actually grow grain) by baking bread over our bonfire.  If you’ve not tried this before, it’s a tasty and fun way to prepare bread out of doors.  While it’s possible to bake over a fire in a dutch oven or even a regular camp pot, it’s so much more fun to roast what is often called stick bread or campfire bread. 
   Begin by preparing dough using any bread recipe (even a sweet bread or cheesy variety will do).  While waiting for your campfire to burn down to hot embers, whittle away the bark from one end of a hardwood stick (for the length that the dough will wrap around it).  It’s possible to roast the dough over an open flame but, as is also true of marshmallows, a more even, less erratic cooking will occur over coals away from a giant blaze.  When the fire is ready, pull small biscuit sized chunks from your dough and roll them into little sausage shapes.  Insert the prepared stick into the center of the dough roll leaving the end closed and proceed with the baking.  Depending on the heat of the embers, hold the bread 6” to 10” above the coals and rotate the stick regularly.  Ours have taken 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the bread and the heat of the fire.  They’re done and ready to peel from the stick and fill with your favorite spread when they sound hollow when tapped.  They’re so delicious and a great, non-sugary alternative to the requisite camping marshmallow treat.  (A baked good camping luxury any day of the year.)
   We’ll enjoy them with the other fruits of our early harvest and perhaps a lively game of Toss-the-Frog.  Happy Lughnasadh to you all!

Easy Campfire Bread Recipe
(If you're not into all that kneading and waiting for dough to rise)
3 cups flour
1/2 cup oil, butter or animal fat
1 1/2 Tblsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup water
In a large bowl, mix together flour and fat by hand.   Add the baking powder and salt (and dried fruits or cheese if you're doing that).  Next mix in the water and knead for a few minutes until you've got a firm dough.  Separate the dough into fist sized balls and roll each into a sausage shape before piercing with a clean stick.


  1. we gathered the first of our crops a long time ago and now there's just about nothing. we could bake some bread though :-)

  2. We're about mid-way through our own garden as well although many of the fruits are just beginning since the warmth here began later than usual. What I'm thinking is that the "first harvest" applied more to large grain crops. Anyone know if that's actually true of mid-summer? Do any of you grow your own grains?


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