Mell Cakes

‘Mell’ was a word used in northern England to describe the last sheaf of corn reaped during harvest time. This was ‘harvest home’ time again, a big event in the farming year, as it  contributed significantly to the economic survival for another year of both farmers and farm workers.

It was traditionally followed, particularly if the harvest was good – and the farmer generous – by a Mell Supper, with much eating, drinking and dancing, to celebrate.  The last sheaf of corn cut was often tied up with ribbons and flowers, and Mell cakes were also baked for the occasion.  They were made into large plate-sized circles to be broken and shared out communally.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb  (450g) plain flour
  • 7 oz (200g) lard
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 oz (113g) currents
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 fl oz (quarter pint) of milk
  • Sugar to garnish

Method

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients. Mix into a stiff dough with the milk
  2. Roll out to  ½” inch (1 cm) thick to the size of a plate and cook it on a greased baking tray in a moderate oven for about 25 minutes
  3. When cooked, split and butter them, and sprinkle them with sugar
  4. Best when served warm.

Source: Theodora Fitzgibbon, A Taste of Yorkshire in Food and in Pictures (1979) Pan Books.

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