Halloween is all about costumes and candy. According to History.com, “Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.”
Hey, there is nothing funner than a costume party where someone reads everyone’s fortune.
So Halloween is actually one of those holidays that hasn’t strayed too far away from the original purpose, unlike Valentine’s Day and Christmas. But many of us would like to see our kids eating something other than tons of commercial candy with so much sugar and chemical additives. Although I do not suggest making candy and handing it out to the kids who come to the door (if you do this you risk serious scorn as well as suspicion). Kids are warned by authorities not to eat any candy that isn’t in a sealed commercial wrapper and this is due to the past poisonings of candy, including razor blades in apples. What a horrid way to ruin the possibilities of getting children to eat apples! So thanks to the creeps strike another victory for food factories. But such as it is, we can still make natural candies every day of the week and on Halloween and teach our own children to make and enjoy it. I threw together a few recipes that I thought my readers might like to try. You might be surprised.
Chocolate Halloween Roll
This is a treat that can be made year round without the coloring. If you wish to make natural coloring, I have included a short recipe at the bottom of the dessert recipe. Otherwise, you can also buy organic or natural food colorings in health food stores if you just don’t have the time.
1/2 cup of raw organic sugar
4 organic or humane certified eggs
1/2 cup sifted organic cocoa powder
2/3 cup whipped cream (use the commercial soy based product)
1 vanilla bean
orange food coloring
Jelly Roll Pan or any pan measuring 7 x 12 inches
Make vanilla sugar by steeping the vanilla bean in the organic sugar over night. When ready to make the roll, remove the bean and add the sugar to the eggs in a large bowl. Beat firmly until well blended. It should be thick and pale in color. Fold in the cocoa and stir a few times so that it’s swirled into the mix. Pour the mix into the jelly roll pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is. Turn out the roll from the pan onto a cloth and allow to cool. Remove the seeds from the vanilla bean and toss out the bean. Mix or whip the seeds into the whipped cream mix. Add orange food coloring. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and decorate, if you wish, with candy witches and ghosts. During the rest of the year, you can make this without the food coloring and garnish it with fresh strawberries instead.
Natural Orange Food Coloring
Use fresh red fruit or berries that taste good! For this chocolate roll, I suggest strawberries or raspberries. Put a handful into a cup of water and simmer over medium low heat. The water will slowly turn red. Add the skin of a bland yellow vegetable like squash. The thicker the skin, the better. Allow the mix to continue to simmer and watch it closely until it reaches the right color of orange. Don’t let it get too light. Cool the mix and use it like you would any food coloring.
Candied Witches Brooms
These are fun to make and the kids will absolutely love them.
Young, tender Angelica stems
2 cups of raw, organic sugar
2/3 cup of water
black food coloring
Slice the stems down the center about 1/3 of the way. Take a thin knife, blade or other cutting instrument, and slice each end piece into several ribbons, 5 or 6 or so. When you have enough ribbons to where it looks like a broom, then take the side ribbons and bring them up above the others. In the meantime, put the sugar and the water into a heavy pan and stir them together over warm heat until the sugar dissolves. It should be a very thick syrup. If it’s still too thin, add sugar until it is very thick but not solid. At this time, take the loose ribbon on each side of each stem and wrap them around the base of the main stem so that they look like a broom. Now, holding the wrapped ribbons down if need be, pour the sugar syrup over the stems and leave them on a plate to cool overnight.
In the morning, pour the syrup back in the pan. It will be watery now because it will be mixed with juices from the fresh angelica. Boil it again until thick and pour it over the stems again. Repeat this 4 times over another 4 days, until all the liquid is absorbed and the stems are coated. During the last two steps of this process, you may add the black food coloring in just enough drops to make the mix black. Do not overdo this or you will make the mix watery and you will have to boil it on a fifth day! Once the syrup is thick and black and coated on the “brooms”, then lay them out on a wire rack to dry. If you start the week before Halloween, these will be great on the big night.
Fresh sweet cicely roots
2 cups of raw, organic sugar
fresh lemon juice
black food coloring
Peel and slice the roots and then put in a pot with enough water to cover. Simmer over medium heat until tender. Make a syrup by boiling the sugar in enough water to make at thick mix. Add small amounts of water as you go along, stirring. Add a little lemon juice (a dash) and a little food coloring (a dash). Pour the warm sugar mix over the roots and allow to sit overnight. In the morning, pour the remaining syrup back in the pot and boil again until thick. Cut the roots down to bite size pieces, like licorice. Pour the syrup back over the roots and leave again overnight. Do this for 4 days until the syrup is stiff and thick and coats the roots. Add drops of more food coloring as needed to keep the mix black. Once the syrup is thick and black and coats the roots completely, leave the roots on a wire rack to dry overnight. If you start this project in the week before Halloween, it can be easily done in time. And it only takes a half hour or so. In the long run, what you have is natural licorice with a strong flavor.
This candy is tasty and great for kids who have already gotten a cold. It is made with Horehound, which is known for it’s medicinal properties. If the child is coughing, this will stop that. And if they are just getting a cold, this candy will help cut it short. So don’t send the kid out coughing in a costume! Give them cough candy and they’ll have a lot more fun.
3 sprigs of Horehound
2/3 cup of organic soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons of natural molasses (not the fake flavored stuff)
juice from 1/2 fresh Orange (do not substitute fresh squeezed or concentrate)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Cream of tartar is a natural by product of the wine industry. When they scrape the wine barrels, they get this as sediment. It is a natural product of Grape fermentation. It’s chemical name is potassium hydrogen tartrate and it is an acid salt. it is not unnatural and is not dangerous but for those of you who do not wish to use it, you may substitute 1/4 tsp of lemon juice mixed with 1/4 tsp of vinegar instead.
To make the candy, pour 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over the horehound and leave to infuse for about 30 minutes. Strain out the horehound, pressing to extract the juice. Discard the horehound and add the juice to a pan. Toss in the remaining ingredients and stir constantly to dissolve everything. As it dissolves, bring up the heat so that it boils. Boil this mix fast and hard until you can take a dollop of it and drop it into cold water and see it actually harden. Once this happens, a drop of it hardens in the cold water, then pour the remaining liquid onto a marbled slab or porcelain plate or baking sheet. It will immediately spread out into a thin layer. As it slowly hardens, mark it out in small squares with the point of sharp knife. When it is finally cooled and brittle, break it up into small enough pieces to be eaten with the hands.
You can wrap this candy up as treats or seal it in a candy jar. To make it special for Halloween, dip the pieces into black, orange or red food colorings. Or, according to the recipe given above, make a natural food coloring of your own.