October is a harvest month all over the world, but especially so in Poland, an agricultural country. It is a time to bring in the crops and to celebrate a bit. There is usually a frost in most places by late September so it is only the beets, cabbages, carrots and other root crops and perhaps some grains that are being harvested.
Old Polish legends sing of harvesting these late root crops on or just after October 15 which is St.Hedwig's Day. In Poland this is called Sw. Jadwiga. It is said that she sweetens these crops if they are left till then. One old Polish ditty that is shown in Sophie Knab's "Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore" book, tells of this:
Sw. Jadwiga- , jesli deszcz nie pada-
To do kapusty Pan Bog miodunada.
On St. Hedwig's, if it's not raining
God grants honey to the cabbage.
I have an aunt Hedy, but her birthday is not until December 1, but I think I will dedicate this to her anyway and be sure to wish her a happy Feast day on October 15!
It is also said that by St.Luke's Day, October 18 all the work in he field should have been completed. They might chant: " Sw. Lukasz, co w polu szukasz? Or on St. Luke's Day , what are you looking for in the fields? "
I enjoy reading about the old customs, from a time when lives were much more simple and truly governed by the change of the season and the crops . Today we take this for granted and just go to the store to buy our food. Our ancestors had to grow, harvest and preserve all their food, or they did not eat.
Polish people make a lot of zupa (soups) , but starting with the cold weather and the harvest , soup is a wonderful addition to any meal. To make a delicious end of the season garden soup start with a beef bone and some chuck meat or chicken in a big pot of water. Simmer this for a couple of hours to get good flavor. Add finely chopped onions to taste. Then add a handful each of barley, lentils, beans and dried peas. Add 1 large can of chopped tomatoes or tomato puree. Cook 30 minutes, add carrots, celery, potatoes, beets, and cabbage, cut to bite size, simmer another 15 minutes, then add string beans, peas, corn, lima beans or a pack of mixed frozen vegetables. Stir and cook until these are tender. Before serving sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and scallions . ( I also sprinkle with grated cheese. ) This is wonderful served on a chilly autumn day with crusty bread and lots of butter. You may use any vegetables you like or have in your garden. Another great fall meal that is tradition, especially in fall in Poland is bigos or hunter's stew.
Wonderful fall desserts use jablka (apples). An easy one to go with your soup would be baked apples. Core apples, but do not peel , put in a buttered dish. Fill centers with a mixture of brown sugar , flour , nuts and raisons. Or use preserves and nuts that have been dusted with flour. Top with butter before baking. Some people might add some red wine or maple syrup to the dish before baking. Bake at least 1 hour at 350. Serve warm with cream or ice cream. Delicious! This makes your house smell so good! Happy Harvest.
Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, Mary Anne Knab (Illustrator), Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore
Try also a book written by Alina Zeranska, Janina Domanska (Illustrator), entitled The Art of Polish Cooking