Barm Brack Bread And Butter Pudding.

IMG_7326Samhain, literally meaning summer’s end, is one of the four quarter-days of the celtic calendar. Imbolc (St. Brigid’s Day, February 1st) is the start of Spring. Bealtaine (May 1st) is the start of Summer and Lughnasa (August 1st) is the start of Harvest.

The Celts, it seems, liked to work from Dark towards Light and so Oiche Shamhna, Halloween Night, marked the end of one year and the beginning of the next. At this in-between juncture Pookas, Banshees and Fairies might all make an appearance and it was generally considered wise to stay indoors and make some sort of offering to the spirit world.

There are gory stories of rowdy neighbours stuffed into a wicker man and burned alive but we haven’t done that for a good while now. IMG_7325

When I was a child, Halloween meant a black refuse sack pulled over your head and a 20p mask from the sweet shop that you licked your sweat off as you walked over to the neighbours who might, only might, give you an apple and a few monkey nuts.

We always called to my Granny’s house where Grandad was, for one night only, put in charge. He had a long list of activities which amounted to something resembling a Halloween boot camp. With our hands tied behind our backs, we lunged at hanging apples. We bobbed for coppers at the bottom of Granny’s basin. Grandad would put a glace cherry on top of a pile of flour and we would take turns to scoop away the flour without toppling the cherry. He taught us how to pretend the end of our index finger had been chopped off. He would tap on a left shoulder while muttering boo at the right. He was good at all that stuff. When we were small, and we still let him, he was really good at making us laugh.IMG_7329

The centre piece of Halloween was, and still is, the Barm Brack. I’ve tried making my own but, somehow, it’s the cheap shop-bought one which is the tradition. It’s a very dry, open textured, fruit bread which needs a good slathering of butter. The shop ones have a gold ring inside and whoever gets the ring will be the next to marry.IMG_7241

There are traditions of adding peas (for poverty), coins (for wealth) and sticks (for a beating!) but I’ve never had a brack that held anything more than a ring.IMG_7242

If you can’t buy one and you want to make one there is a recipe here.

I can honestly tell you that I didn’t see a real pumpkin until I was well past the age for trick-or-treating. We knew of their existence and we wanted them but there was nothing for it but to take a long knife to a turnip.

E.T. changed everything. Steven Spielberg showed the children of Ireland what they got up to in America for Halloween and there was no going back.

My children will have all Grandad’s games, and fancy costumes and pumpkins and a frightening quantity of horrific sweets.

We’ve had two Barm Bracks already and I will squeeze another couple in next week. I’ve made the discovery that Barm Brack makes a terrific bread and butter pudding. I suppose that’s another deviation from the way things used to be but then, we make our own traditions, don’t we?

Barm Brack Bread And Butter Pudding.

1 Barm Brack, sliced and buttered.
350 mls milk (or milk and cream mixed)
3 eggs.
2 Tablespoons brown sugar.

Layer up the buttered brack in an oven-proof dish.IMG_7244

Mix the milk and eggs and pour over the brack.IMG_7245

Sprinkle with brown sugar.IMG_7246Bake at 180C for 40 minutes until it’s set and golden.IMG_7261

Serve with custard, ice-cream or thick yogurt.IMG_7262

PS. Cold leftovers are yummy too.

14 thoughts on “Barm Brack Bread And Butter Pudding.

  1. How interesting! I would have never thought E.T. would be responsible for spreading American Halloween customs. Thank you for sharing this post and the recipe! Also, I have nominated you for the Starlight Blogger Award. If you would like to participate, the information is on my site. Congratulations 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this story about Grand dad! what a wonderful bunch of memories! What games! The Barm Brack sounds so lovely! your posts give me such a wonderful insight into a different world and they warm my heart! The recipe sounds warm and yummy! Wish we could meet up for tea and Bram Brack! much love, Lynn

    Liked by 1 person

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