Rhoda MacRitchie, a native of the Isle of Harris and a Gaelic speaker, fondly recalls the three-hour-long summer communion services of her childhood. Communion was a major event and people would come from miles around to the large Finsbury church on Harris. Rhoda can still see a boat full of communicants arriving from the nearby Island of Scalpay. The fishing boat would be laden with people of all ages and the sound of them singing psalms and hymns in “beautiful Gaelic voices” wafted across the water as they approached shore.
Beforehand, the host congregation undertook a flurry of cooking and baking and there was a competition as to whose house attracted the most guests for a lunch of Scotch broth, roast lamb and trifle. The afternoon was spent discussing the morning sermon. Later everyone attended the evening service, followed by ‘Clootie’ dumplings and tea, before heading home.
Some 40 years ago, Rhoda and Ken MacRitchie left the Hebrides and settled in Toronto. Since then, the MacRitchie family have attended Glenview.
Clootie Duff (Dumpling)1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup suet (shredded Atora*)
1 cup currants
1 cup raisins
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp syrup
1 tbsp molasses
½ cup grated apple
½ cup grated carrot
ground cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and all-spice (to taste—around ½ tsp)
Combine flour, breadcrumbs, suet, currants and raisins in a bowl. Add the sugar, syrup and molasses and stir. Add the spices to taste and then stir in grated apple and carrot. Add enough milk to make a stiff dough.
Dip a large piece of cheesecloth in boiling water and spread it over the bottom of a heatproof basin or bowl. Sprinkle the wet cloth with flour. Pour dough onto the cloth and shape it into a ball. Draw the cloth loosely around the dough and tie it with string. Fill a roasting pan or casserole dish with water—no more than ⅓ the height of the duff. Bring the water to a boil. Place the bowl containing the duff on a rack. Bring the water to a boil a second time. Turn down the heat and let simmer for about 3 hours, until cooked. Remove cloth and sprinkle the duff with sugar. Serve with custard or sliced, like a cake.
*Available at specialty butcher shops.