Mothering Sunday this year falls on the 15th March 2015
The date varies each year, as does Easter, as it always falls in the middle of lent, which is the 4th Sunday in Lent. As with all of our festivals and special days, the origins, customs and traditions can be followed back through the ages.
In the sixteenth century, it was the day that people returned to their mother church which was the main church or cathedral in the area.]Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone "a-mothering" .In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together. The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or give to their mothers.
In the early 1900’s in our neighbouring Nottinghamshire a Constance Penswick- Smith (1878-1938) started the Mothering Sunday Movement, as the tradition was waning somewhat. Constance was a vicar’s daughter in the village of Coddington, she wrote a booklet called “The Revival of Mothering Sunday”. The campaign gathered momentum, largely by feelings of loss that so many Mothers felt at losing their Sons and Husbands in the First World War.
In 1914, on the other side of the Atlantic a Miss Anna Jarvis promoted that Mothers should be honoured on their own special day. Her campaign worked and it was decided by Congress and President Woodrow Wilson that the second Sunday in May should be officially designated as Mother’s Day. The 9th May was chosen as this was the date when Anna Jarvis had lost her Mother. Both Constance and Anna never became Mothers themselves.
When Mother’s Day began being celebrated and became evermore commercialised, it was then that confusion started to arise over the correct name. Mother’s Day is the American and Canadian celebration in May and Mothering Sunday is our day of celebration which normally falls in March depending upon when Easter is each year.
As always festivals are intertwined with certain foods steeped in symbolism and tradition. Another name linked to Mothering Sunday is Simnel Sunday. Simnel cakes were originally made for Mothering Sunday by girls for their Mothers. Sometimes girls in service were allowed by their employer to make them and could take them home on their precious day off. I think the association with Easter came about as they were often saved to have at Easter, especially as it was during the period of Lent when eating such rich food may have been frowned upon. Legend has it that two siblings from Shropshire – Simon and Nell wanted to make their Mother a cake. They argued on whether it should be boiled or baked and ended up with the Shropshire Sim (Simon)-Nel(Nell) cake with the marzipan in the middle and at the top. Further confusion with Easter is that it should have 11 marzipan balls on top to represent the apostles minus Judas. Constance is also responsible for reviving the link of Simnel Cake with Mothering Sunday too.
In the spirit of making your own gifts for Mothering Sunday, it seems appropriate this month to offer you two recipes, both of which come from my maternal Grandma Yeates. The first one is for Toffee, which is suitable for adults and supervised older children to make and lovely to wrap up as a present. The second recipe is for Raspberry Buns, which are not only splendidly delicious but easy for children (and Dads) to make. These are ideal to make and eat on the day.
My Grandma “Ethel” Yeates, known as Hettie to her friends was born in July 1909 and lived to a grand old age of 96. She was born in Strubby and as a teenager went into service at Tothby House near Alford. She later married Frank Rupert who was a Stockman.
For 30 years they lived in a sixteenth century mud and stud thatched cottage called Sycamore Cottage in Bilsby. This stood on the site of Hunters Lodge on Thurlby Road. It reached national fame in 1970 when the owner – Mr Ranby of Grimblethorpe Hall near Louth decided to fill the cottage with tyres and set fire to it, burning to the ground one of the last unspoilt mud and stud cottages in the county. Mr Ranby battled to save the cottage for eight years against Spilsby RDC, who had ordered a demolition order in 1962. The cottage had no water and had to be carried from a pump over the road and it had no electricity. The cottage had a reputation for being haunted and many people heard ghostly footsteps. I bet the resident ghost wasn’t very happy about his home being burnt to the ground. Fortunately my Grandparents and Mother weren’t in it at the time it went up in flames and my Grandma and Grandad went to live elsewhere in the village.
Grandma had an excellent reputation for baking in Bilsby and according to my Mum Hilary Carter, she was known for her delicious raspberry buns and toffee, so I hope you enjoy them.
The toffee recipe is taken from a very well used and coverless cookery book that I should think is from the 40’s as there are lots of recipes containing dried egg, so it points to it being from the era of rationing.
Grandma Yeates Toffee
You will need a large Maslin Pan or thick bottomed saucepan, Scales, Long wooden spoon, Bowl of water, a buttered tin to pour your toffee in to. Greaseproof paper, scissors. A pretty box/tin/jar and ribbon to wrap it up nicely.
1lb Demerara Sugar
½ lb Butter
2 pinches of plain flour
2 dessertspoons of treacle
Please make sure pets and small children are not nearby when you are making this as it does get extremely hot.
Have your bowl of water nearby to test for set.
Have your tin greased and lined with greaseproof paper, grease the paper too, it will help you to get the toffee out after it has set.
Weigh everything up and put into your maslin pan.
Bring up to the boil and boil for twenty minutes.
Take a small blob out and put into your bowl of water, you should after a few seconds be able to roll your blob of toffee into a ball and it holds its shape in the water. If not boil a bit longer, but not too long. Check again for a set.
When ready carefully pour it into your buttered and lined tin.
Score it and leave it to cool. Go over your score lines a few times as it cools and sets.
When cold and set break it up into pieces and put in a pretty box/tin or jar and tie up with ribbon.
Try a bit for quality control purposes and feel a happy glow at what a wonderful person you are to create such a lovely gift. Give to Mum, Granny, Aunt or whoever the lucky recipient is.
“Hetties Raspberry Buns”
You will need a mixing bowl, sieve, butter knife, scales, measuring jug, teaspoon, couple of baking sheets lined with baking paper. Couple of cooling racks
Pre heat oven at 190c (fan)
8oz Self Raising Flour
3oz Stork Margarine (in a tub)
3oz Granulated Sugar
Jar good quality Raspberry Jam
Little Splash of Milk
Sift flour and salt into your bowl.
Stir in the sugar.
Rub in your Stork
Add egg and enough milk and water to make a very stiff paste.
Shape into balls about the size of an egg, then flatten them a bit with the palm of your hand.
Put them on your baking tray, leaving a big gap in between as they spread out quite a bit.
Then wet your thumb with cold water as this stops your thumb sticking to the mix and depending whether you are a grown up or child, you need to make one or two thumb prints on the top in the middle of your mixture, so you have a little dip to put your jam in.
Fill the holes with jam using two teaspoons is easiest, one to put the jam in and the other spoon to scrape it off.
Bake in your hot preheated oven for about 15 or 20 minutes.
Cool on a cooling rack
Wait before trying one or handing them out as you don’t want boiling hot jam down your chin on Mothering Sunday!
I really hope you enjoy making and tasting these special family recipes.
Thank you for all of your positive comments regarding my monthly food column, I’m delighted you are making the dishes and enjoying them.
Sadie Hirst is a member of the British Society of Baking and she loves collecting old recipes, especially local ones and is particularly interested in recreating historic British bakes.