Lughnasadh or as it can be known to Heathens Loaf-fest, Freyfaxi or Hlafmaest is a time of bounty, summer bearing crops are ready to harvest, the first loaves since grain stores ran empty are baked and ale and mead is brewed.
During this time it is only right that we share our bounty with the Aesir and the Wights as thanks for a good season, free of storms, vermin or disease to ruin the crops. It is also a forward payment on the next harvest too.
For modern heathens there are many interpretations of how to celebrate this time, however grain, bread, and ale are all good suggestions for things to offer at Loaf-fest, although if you are looking for more to offer consider using some of your harvest from your garden (or for those without a garden an offering of something that is in season where you are currently). Some of the more commonly praised gods and goddesses at this time are Thor, Freyr, and Sif.
It is also thought that this is a good time to make a corn dolly to sacrifice to the fire as part of your celebrations, the dolly is though to aid in warding of storms and vermin.
Some heathen scholars also argue that this is a good time of the year to bless wells and waterways, to keep the waters clean and pure, as well as warn of floods. They suggest giving the corn dolly to the waterway instead of the fire, however, there is nothing stopping you from making two and offering one to each. Just remember that anything you are offering to the waterway needs to be completely natural and biodegradable, you don’t want to pollute your local creek or river (or add to the pollution).
In my mind I’m doing my best Nigella Lawson impression as I sit here and write out the recipe to use cherry plums to make jam that I used to make with my mother and grandmother. A note on playing out this impersonating Nigella – don’t stick your finger in the hot jam, there is nothing sensual or fun about scalding oneself fiercely on molten fruit and sugar.
So if you have a cherry plum in your backyard you will know they produce a tart fruit that isn’t much chop to eat as is. However, there are options available to using them, my favourite being to make jam. For the new jam makers, there are some notes at the end of the recipe you should read before making the jam, although if you are experienced at jam making you probably know these notes already.
Cooking time for this should be about 20 – 30 minutes.
For this recipe you will need:
- 550g of Ripe Cherry Plums (not overripe/rotting because they will make your jam go off too quickly)
- 450g of Sugar
- Up to 4 Tablespoons of Water
- 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
- Sterilized Jars for Storage
- A Large Pot or Saucepan
- Wooden Spoon
- Slotted Spoon
To start, gently wash and drain your cherry plums, discarding any that are turning/going to rot or have any damage from birds or insects.
Put the cherry plums in the pot on the stove and add the water, if your fruit is really firm you may need to add a 5th tablespoon of water. Then bring the water and fruit to a gentle simmer, cooking until the fruit goes to a pulp and the skins separate.
With the masher, gently squish the fruit to help loosen the stones. Then making sure the jam doesn’t run dry (it is ok to add another tablespoon of water at this point if it looks too dry) simmer the mixture and with the slotted spoon fetch out the stones as they float to the surface. Gently agitating the mixture during this process helps them come to the surface.
Once all the stones are removed add the sugar and lemon juice to the pot and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Keep it at this heat until it reaches the setting point (thickens nicely and passes the wrinkle test).
Wrinkle Test (Testing if the jam is ready to set)
Once you think the jam has gotten to setting point spoon a little on a cold saucer or plate, allowing to cool (you can cheat by putting it in the freezer for a few minutes to bring the temperature down). Then gently push the edge of the jam and see if the surface wrinkles when you push it into itself.
If it doesn’t wrinkle or only sort of wrinkles heat the jam further and repeat this process until it wrinkles. Often it will only take another minute or two of boiling to achieve the desired result.
Sterilising the Jam Jars
Any good cookbook that deals with jam or a Google search should show you a number of options for sterilising your jars.
I used a microwave method, after washing the glass jars I intended to use in hot soapy water and rinsing all traces of soap off I put them in the microwave (still wet and without the lids which were metal) and baked them on high for three minutes. They were then ready to use (but very hot! make sure to use an oven mitt, tea towel or something else to protect your hands from burns).