This turn of the wheel now brings us to the Autumnal Equinox, also known as Mabon. There is so much going on this time of year, one must only look out the window to see it! The temperature drops noticeably, the leaves are already changing and falling off the trees in wisps of beautiful colors. Many people celebrate Mabon as a Pagan Thanksgiving. We offer our gratitude for the full bounty of our harvest, a successful growing season, and prepare our homes to settle in for the long winter ahead. The equinox is also a time for balance, and we take this time to bring this lesson into our lives in so many ways. Light and dark are in perfect balance on Mabon and from now until Yule, the sun’s strength wanes each day.How do we bring this symbolism to our Mabon table? The first step is to decorate our tables with the beautiful colors of the new season. Oranges, reds, yellows, golds and browns should grace the table. Collect beautiful leaves from your yard and fill a vase for your table, or use the leaves to create personalized place cards for each of your guests. My family takes a nature walk each Mabon. We collect leaves, place them between two sheets of wax paper with some crayon shavings, iron the sheets together, then make a border with construction paper—Mabon place mats! Make sure you have an adult’s supervision with the iron. Our common theme for Mabon’s feast is the apple, a very typical and symbolic food that has great significance in Pagan celebrations. Slice an apple in half, across the seeds, and you’ll see nature’s very own pentacle! Herbs such as sage and rosemary are typical this time of year, as are grapes, gourds and peaches. Remember to bring your goal into your cooking; you’re not just making a meal, you’re nourishing the soul and appreciating the bounty given to us by the God and Goddess.
HOT SPICED APPLE CIDER
Wonderful for a chilly autumn evening, or to use during the Cakes & Ale part of your Mabon ritual. Be creative with your spices, add what you like. It’s all up to you! Here’s what you need for a basic recipe:
6 cups of fresh apple cider
1/4 cup REAL maple syrup (not pancake syrup!)
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice berries
1 orange peel, cut into strips (try to get the orange part, not the bitter white part underneath)
1 lemon peel, cut into strips (same thing, just the yellow)
Pour the cider and maple syrup into a large, non-reactive saucepan. Take a piece of cheesecloth (available at the supermarket), wash it, and cut a large square. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, and citrus peels into the center of the cheesecloth. Fold the sides up into a bundle and tie it up with kitchen string, also available in your supermarket. Drop the spice bundle into the cider mixture. Place the pan over medium high heat for 5-10 minutes, until the cider is very hot, but not boiling. Remove cider from the heat. Discard spice bundle. Pour carefully, with a large ladle, into mugs. You can garnish each serving with a cinnamon stick or a thin orange slice if you wish.
APPLE-STUFFED SWEET POTATOES
I found this recipe when looking for healthier alternatives to glopping butter onto my potatoes. Not only is this sweet and delicious, it’s low in fat!
4 medium sweet potatoes
1 1/2 cup peeled and finely chopped apples (approximately 2 apples)
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup sugar (you can use less, or you can use an artificial sweetener like Splenda)
1 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
Heat the oven to 400 degrees, put potatoes on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake them until soft, approximately 45 minutes to one hour. When potatoes are ready, combine remaining ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for three minutes. Stir carefully. Cook uncovered 1 ½ to 2 ½ minutes more until thick. IT WILL BE VERY HOT! BE CAREFUL! Cut a slit down each potato with a knife, and spoon a generous serving of the apple mixture into each. Yummmm….
HONEY CITRUS CHICKEN
One large roasting chicken, or 4-6 Cornish game hens
1-2 oranges, unpeeled, cut into wedges
2 lemons, unpeeled, cut into wedges
1/2 cup of honey
1 Tablespoon of orange zest
1 Tablespoon of lemon zest
1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of sage
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stuff the chicken or game hens with orange and lemon wedges; place in a roasting pan. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, and brush the chicken with this mixture. Bake in oven, basting with honey mixture twice during cooking, until cooked through, 60 – 75 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken (45 minutes if using game hens).
THYME GREEN BEANS WITH ALMONDS
A savory vegetable side dish will break up the sweetness of the other items on the Mabon menu. Here’s one of my favorites.
2 pounds of fresh green beans, ends snipped off
2 tablespoons of butter, can use olive oil
1 tablespoon of minced fresh thyme (1 teaspoon if using dried thyme)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/3 cup of slivered almonds, toasted
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully put the green beans into the water and let them cook for about 8-10 minutes, until just crisp-tender and still bright green. Remove the beans from the water and plunge them into a large bowl of ice-water. This will help them keep their beautiful color and prevent them from overcooking by their own heat. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the beans, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes, or until heated through. Sprinkle with almonds when ready to serve.
BEST EVER APPLE PIE
To me, it’s not autumn until we’ve gone apple picking and made an apple pie. Is it really the “best ever” apple pie? My family thinks it is! This is the one request that I get when guests join us for dinner this time of year. (It’s second only to the Pumpkin Bread I make at Samhain, wait until next issue for that one!) Use a mixture of great apples to get full flavor. My personal favorite mix is Gala, Granny Smith and Macintosh apples. I hope you enjoy it as well.
Pastry for 2 crust pie (can use your favorite recipe, or a premade one works just fine and saves TONS of work!)
1 cup of sugar
4 Tablespoons of flour
Dash of salt
6 cups of peeled, pared and thinly-sliced apples (about 6 apples)
2 Tablespoon of butter
2 Tablespoons of milk
1 more tablespoon of sugar Cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, flour and salt. Put apples into a very large mixing bowl. Pour sugar mixture over the apples and toss them lightly to coat them evenly. Place one pie crust into the bottom of your pie dish, pour in apples. Dot with small pieces of butter. Roll on the top layer of pastry, adjusting it over the filling. Make several slits in the top with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape during cooking. Crimp the edge with your fingers or with a fork. Brush the top of the pie with milk using a pastry brush, and sprinkle on a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet on the center oven rack for 45-50 minutes, or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. **Variation: When dotting the pie filling with butter, you can add some squares of caramel in there too! Fabulous!