For many in the North America, February 2 marks the celebration of Groundhog Day, a popular tradition that has historical roots in Pennsylvania Dutch superstition. IF the furry fellow exits his burrow and sees his shadow, he’ll return to his cave, and there will be six more weeks of winter. No groundhog shadow portends that there will be an early spring.
Although scientific evidence is sparse to support this superstition, February 2 does mark halfway point between the winter solstice (December 21) and the spring equinox (March 20). Known as Candlemas day, this celebration has both pagan and Christian roots.
In Christian history, the date marks the purification of the virgin and the time that Mary could return to the temple. Inbolc was the pagan goddess holiday, in which people would light candles to banish dark spooks. They would also gather up partially used candles and make luminaries from old wax, or dip fresh beeswax candles, to get them through the second half of winter.
In our agrarian culture, Groundhog Day was a custom of food and fuel reckoning. For a family to survive until spring, they needed to have ½ the food and fuel needed to sustain the farm still remaining.
Here at Rabbit Hill, this is the time when we take stock of the roots and apples in the cellar, and the winter squashes stored in an unheated bedroom. Tubs of macoun, smokehouse and spencer apples are sorted, the decomposing apples fed to the rabbits, and the soft ones cooked into applesauce.
Winter squashes; delicata, butternut, Georgia candy roaster, and kabocha, are carefully inspected for signs of decay, soft spots and changes in color. This is when I get busy in the kitchen, roasting squashes and making batches of puree for the freezer.
Our family enjoys a heart-warming soup, and the recipe for Curried Squash & Apple Soup is one of the favorites. Sweet onions are sautéed with curry paste or powder, then simmered with squash puree and apple cider. Processed until smooth, and then finished with coconut milk, this delicious potage freezes well and is perfect for different eating styles, including dairy free, vegan, and gluten free.
Curried Squash & Apple Soup
- 4 cups packed squash puree *
- 2 cups chopped onion about 2 large
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons curry paste or curry powder
- 3 cups apple cider or juice
- 2 bay leaves
- Dash of cumin
- Sea salt and fresh pepper
- 14 ounce can coconut milk
- Assemble ingredients and tools.
- In a heavy soup pot, sauté the onions in the olive oil until transparent. Stir in the curry powder or paste, and cook while stirring until the fragrance is released, about 1 minute.
- Add the apple cider, squash and bay leaf. Increase the heat and simmer until the squash and onions are tender. At this point, you may choose to puree the soup with an immersion blender or a food processor, or leave it slightly chunky. Be sure to remove the bay leaves before pureeing.
- Whisk in the coconut milk and taste the soup. Adjust the seasonings with a dash of cumin, sea salt and fresh pepper, and more curry seasonings if desired.
- Serve garnished with chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.
* To prepare the squash:
- Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Peel and cut into cubes. Or, pierce a whole squash with some vent holes and cook the squash on a sheet pan in a 350-degree oven until it is fork tender and slumps. Remove from the oven and let cool. Peel the skin from the flesh and remove the seeds. Puree in food processor.