Imbolc Foods: 10 Magical Meals & Drinks for Brigid’s Day
Imbolc, also called St. Brigid’s Day, approaches on February 1st. For many, it’s the magical first stirrings of Spring. It’s the white blooms poking up through the snow. The bleat of a newborn lamb. The blustery winds begin to warm ever-so-slightly. We hear fairy music in the distance. To our Celtic ancestors, Imbolc was a celebration of the first lambs born, hence it’s name Imbolc translates to ewe’s milk. Today, magical folks around the world celebrate this sabbat by making special Imbolc foods and beverage. Here are our favorite traditional and modern Imbolc foods (with special fairy suggestions shared with us by our resident kobold’s cousin – the Irish house elf, the bean-tighe. More on her at the end).
Imbolc Foods: 5 Traditional St. Brigid’s Day Recipes
Traditionally, Imbolc is a festival of milk and fire. So, naturally, any dairy products or foods made with dairy are traditional Imbolc foods. Including milk, butter, cream, and cheese. In addition, blackberries, bread and corn are traditional offerings for Saint Brigid and Brigid the Goddess. Here are five traditional Imbolc foods you can try this year:
1. Braided Bread
Grains are associated with Saint Brigid, as well as the goddess Brigid. Therefore, you may choose to make any kind of bread you’d like for Imbolc. If you’d like a challenge, try baking this braided Brigid bread. If you’ve made bread before at home by hand, it’s not too difficult to split the dough in three parts and braid it as you would your hair. While you knead, roll, and braid the dough, give thanks to the Celtic ancestors, our beloved house elves, and to Brigid for peace, health, and abundance in the coming Spring.
2. Herb Butter
An easy Imbolc food to make and one that compliments the braided Brigid bread above is our recipe for Spring herb butter. There’s nothing more scrumptious than herb butter on fresh bread.
- Unsalted Butter (1/2 cup or 1 stick)
- Fresh rosemary – minced (1/2 tbsp)
- Fresh red clover blossoms – minced (1/2 tbsp): note, if you can’t get fresh red clover blossoms substitute with thyme leaves
- Let butter come to room temperature, until softened.
- Mix fresh herbs into the butter using a mixer or manually.
- Place in lump on saran wrap, then roll into a log. Tie off the ends.
- Refrigerate until cold and solid.
- Serve on bread, vegetables, in stews or soups, etc.
3. Blackberry Crumble
Blackberries are a sacred fruit to Brigid and used as a traditional offering. These little fruits grow on bramble bush with thick, nasty thorns that serve as protection for the plant itself. And when used in magic or in meals, lend their protective properties to the individual or family partaking. Make any dish with blackberries as an Imbolc food OR bake a decadent blackberry crumble like this easy recipe by Veena Azmanov. Serve with vanilla bean ice cream. Don’t forget to leave a portion for the bean-tighe and faery folk. They love fruit and cream.
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish that’s often served on Imbolc, as well as on Samhain and the other Celtic sabbats. Put simply, it’s mashed potatoes with cabbage and sometimes bacon is added (though I think that’s a more modern rendition of the truth). Bon Appetit offers a Colcannon recipe here, but note – I’ve used spring onion instead of leek and had great results. The choice is yours but don’t forget a big slab of butter on top!
5. A Nice Cup O’ Ale
This one’s easy and doesn’t require a recipe, now does it? A traditional Imbolc beverage is ale. So grab yourself a pint, boyo! If you don’t have ale, any kind of beer you have on hand will do. I prefer Murphy’s Irish Stout or Guiness Extra Stout.
5 Modern Imbolc Foods
If you’re anything like Mumma Kitty and our resident kitchen Kobold, we love traditional recipes, BUT we LIVE for making traditional meals our very own. We like to play with magical ingredients, twisting and topsy-turveying old recipes to make them that much more powerful. And delicious, of course. Here’s our favorite 5 Imbolc Foods with a modern twist:
6. Potatoes Leeks Au Gratin
We are aware that Au Gratin dishes are NOT traditionally Irish. However, the fact that this particular dish combines potatoes with a spring veggie (leeks), cream and cheese is the reason it is perfect as an Imbolc food. Our favorite recipe comes from the NY Times Cooking section. Note: if you don’t have a mandolin to slice the potatoes, add some extra time for preparation. Here’s the Potatoes Leeks Au Gratin recipe we made for Imbolc and blew the local Baron right out of his pantaloons!
7. Dandelion Wine
Dandelions are prevalent in Ireland and are also associated with the goddess Brigid and her Saintly counterpart. As a child, dandelions always made me smile. Add them to a wine, and the smiles won’t stop on Imbolc. If you’d like to celebrate Imbolc by brewing your own wine, try your hand at this dandelion wine recipe. Dandelions are great for strength, courage, and healing.
8. Beer Cheese Soup
What could be more Imbolc than beer and cheese together in one dish…voila! Beer cheese soup is a hearty meal for any Imbolc gathering. Or even if you’re home alone and need some comfort food. It’s not hard to make either. Here’s a recipe a close friend of mine gave me:
- Celery, finely sliced (1 cup)
- Carrots, finely chopped (1 cup)
- Onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
- Chicken broth (2 quarts)
- Flour (1 cup and 2 tbsp separate)
- Butter, melted (1 cup)
- Ale, 8 ounces
- Cheddar, grated (16 oz)
- Melt 2 tbsp butter in pan and cook veggies until onion is clear about 10 min over medium heat.
- Add broth, bring to a simmer.
- Mix the flour with the butter. Stir into the broth.
- Cook and stir until thickened. Boil for one minute.
- Reduce heat and add the beer and cheese.
- Mix until smooth and the cheese has melted.
- Serve with bread and butter (see braided bread and herb butter recipes above).
9. Roasted Rack of Lamb
I first had the thought that perhaps eating lamb on Imbolc would be sacrilegious somehow, but then I realized, I’m pagan. And I eat meat. And since Imbolc evokes the bleating of lambs in my mind whenever I hear the word, I figured why not make the occasion special and roast a rack? I don’t think Brigid or the bean-tighe will mind. This recipe for roasted rack of lamb would pair perfectly with a batch of traditional colcannon and honey roasted carrots.
10. Blackberry Cheesecake
If you’re not feeling the blackberry crumble, why not indulge in a blackberry cheese for Imbolc? This dish combines dairy and blackberries, two traditional offerings for Brigid. The blackberries bring protection, and the cheese/dairy brings abundance in the Spring season. Cheesecake is a decadent dish, so share some with your neighbor…if the fella across the hill deserves a taste. Here’s our favorite blackberry cheesecake recipe from the Pioneer Woman.
Imbolc Traditions, Folklore, Magic and FAIRIES
Imbolc is the first sabbat on the Wheel of the Year to be celebrated annually on February 1st. This ancient Celtic holy day originates in Ireland and Scotland and represents the first stirrings of Spring. It’s a fire festival in which the sacred fires of Brigid were stoked by her priestesses dating back thousands of years. In more recent times, the sacred fire of Kildare has been maintained for Saint Brigid. Lighting bonfires, candles, and hearthfires is traditional on Imbolc. As well as making traditional Imbolc foods over an open fire such as Brigid’s braided bread, soups, creamy stews, and desserts. Modern pagans and some Christians still carry on the tradition of this ancient Celtic feast. In addition to lighting fires for Brigid and making food offerings, Brigid’s crosses are made and hung above the front door to protect against fire, lightning, illness and more in the coming year.
In addition to being a sacred day for Brigid, some Celtic pagans honor the little people or good folk, as some call them. You may know them as fairies. The fairies of home and hearth are particularly active on this sabbat, including the Irish bean-tighe. This Irish house elf, similar to our resident Mr. Kobold, loves to help the lady of the house finish her chores. The bean-tighe appears as a small elderly woman wearing a dusty, raggedy dress and apron. Irish lore says she will look after the children at night, covering them when they get cold. She also watched over the animals of the home. Leave out a bit of your blackberry crumble and ice cream for her on Imbolc Eve. Learn more about the bean-tighe here.