Start a new fall family tradition with a Harvest Home celebration! Make memories giving thanks for the harvest with this unique, annual feast for family and friends. The article includes a little history if you’re teaching a homeschool unit study, as well as a traditional recipe for Cattern Cakes made from wholesome, homestead ingredients.
By September the fall harvest has begun in earnest. In some warmer regions it’s been coming in like gangbusters, and you’re already drowning in fruits and veggies. All this abundance means you have the best ingredients for nourishing recipes. This is also a time to give thanks for our harvests on the homestead.
Even if your homestead is one tomato plant and a rabbit, your body begins to gather into itself, preparing for the hibernation of winter.
It’s natural to eat and seek warmth this time of year; normal to come in and roost together. We comfort ourselves by being grateful for every blessing surrounding us. Our very souls are crying out for Harvest Home.
What is Harvest Home?
Have you ever heard of Harvest Home? You certainly have if you’re British, as this is a decidedly English holiday.
But all cultures, across the globe, have harvest celebrations. Americans and Canadians call theirs Thanksgiving; the idea of Harvest Home is the same and it’s completely tied to this special season of the year.
Here are some things to know about a traditional Harvest Home:
- At Harvest Home celebrations, it was traditional for the lord of the manor to host a great feast for all his tenants. Servants set up long tables on the village green or in a great hall. Cooks prepared enormous amounts of foods for everyone to share.
- After the feast, a king and queen of the harvest were selected from among the attendants. The queen wore a crown of flowers and the king carried a sheaf of wheat.
- This feast was not just for the wealthy, though, because Harvest Home was a time of community and of gathering. Just like the autumn itself.
To learn a little bit more about Harvest Home, click here.
If you’ve seen Rock it Mama’s awesome meme of Family Traditions for the year, you know that Harvest Home would fit right in with her November events. You can see here list here.
Why Celebrate Harvest Home on the Homestead?
Why was this an important event in the year? At the heart of any community is the people, and the homestead community is especially important. Here’s from the Community section of our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead:
“What does our community have to do with our homesteading ventures? Plenty, believe me.
“Consider this scenario: you’ve just lost an entire batch of home-canned broth because the seals on the lids didn’t set for some reason, and you nearly burned your arm off removing the lid. You’re ready to pitch your pressure canner against the wall and collapse in an exhausted, weeping heap. Then you remember that your canning-guru neighbor once told you what to do when the seals fail, so you give her a call.
“She assures you that she’s done that herself dozens of times and you just have to move on. She relates the story of the time she added four cups of salt to her jam, instead of sugar, because her toddler was providing loads of distraction in the kitchen that day. By the end of the phone call, you’re both laughing and you’re ready to try canning broth again.”
At Harvest Home, people of all stations would come together to:
- sympathize and to help
- gossip and to boast
- to share and to learn
Winter rapidly approaches after the harvest and is such an insular time, especially if you live where the weather can be harsh. This fall season of thanksgiving is an important time of strengthening and nourishing, which are needed attributes in our modern times.
To build the homestead community where you live, host a traditional Harvest Home celebration. You can use the suggestions below for a family celebration, and/or you can add a scarecrow building contest for your community. A scarecrow building contest is fun for all ages and super simple to arrange.
Follow these instructions from Sow and Dipidty for Hosting a Scarecrow Contest. (FYI, your browser may warn you that her site isn’t safe, but it’s just that she hasn’t paid for her https certificate. It really is just a blog about homemade stuff.)
Celebrating with your Family
Harvest Home doesn’t need to be an elaborate affair in your home. Use the following simple steps and set aside a day to observe this tradition with your family and friends.
- Using the recipe below, prepare Cattern Cakes.
- Gather the children together and crown a King or Queen of the Harvest – be sure to crown her in a wreath of flowers. Have the children take turns being royalty every year.
- Provide the makings of a simple craft – like these Mason jar lanterns. Have a parade around the yard with your lanterns.
- Do a service project for the wild birds and make a peanut butter bird feeder from natural materials.
- For teenagers attending the Harvest Home, try making these simple grapevine wreaths. They’re a little more involved than the bird feeders, but not too hard for those aren’t very crafty.
- Have a picnic dinner or a potluck with friends.
- For more ideas, check out The Do It Yourself Homestead Unit Study.
For a far more thorough explanation of a cozy family Harvest Home, read Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions. This is one of my favorite books, which is why I included it in the recommended resources of my book, The Do It Yourself Homestead.
For More Traditions at Harvest Time
If celebrating the harvest season is your thing, be sure to check out our book, Five Kernels of Corn.
Harvest Home Recipe from the Homestead
If you’re going to have a celebration, you’re going to need a tasty treat. Try these simple Cattern Cakes brought to us by our British Isles friends. Traditionally, Cattern Cakes are made on St. Catherine’s Day (the lace-maker’s holiday). Cattern Cakes taste like a scone crossed with a biscuit, so they’re great for breakfast or dessert.
This recipe is adapted from one my favorite traditional recipe books, The Festive Table, by Jane Pettigrew.
- 3/4 Cup butter softened
- 1 Cup sugar - rapadura sucanat, raw
- 2 Cups flour - I usually use Bob's Red Mill Organic flour so that I can get it unenriched and unbleached
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 Cup almond meal
- 1 egg beaten
- 2/3 Cup currants or raisins - if you don't use currants try to make your own raisins - I'm not sure why homemade tastes better in this recipe, they just do
- Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy in your stand mixer (or by hand).
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, spices and almond meal.
- Add the dry mixture to the creamed butter and begin to mix slowly.
- Add enough egg (usually one will do the trick) to form a stiff dough.
- On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 3/8 inch thick.
- Sprinkle currants over the dough and roll up the dough, pinching the ends. If you've ever made cinnamon rolls, this part is similar.
- Cut into slices about 1/2 inch thick and lay them flat on a buttered baking pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes until golden.
- Let the tray of cakes cool for a few minutes before you move them too cooling racks. This allows the almond meal to set up and you'll get less breakage.
- Butter and serve warm; though, they're equally good cold!