Michaelmas Bannock was baked in northern Scotland and in Ireland on St Michael’s day (in some traditions, it was made the night before.) Many of the activities that had been done at Lughnasadh — sports, games and horse races — migrated to this day.
The Michaelmas Bannock was given a special name, the “struan”, and made as a large bannock, around 9 inches (23 cm) wide, and about ½ inch (1 cm) thick.
The oldest daughter was supposed to make it, without using metal implements.
In the Hebrides Islands, it was made from the three main grains grown there, barley, oats and rye, ideally, in equal parts. In other places, it would be made with a portion of each grain grown on that farm.
The flours were mixed together with sheep’s milk as the liquid (later versions used buttermilk and baking soda.) Any fruit available could be added, as well as flavourings such as caraway seed and a sweetener, like honey. In some traditions, a silver coin would be hid in the bannock for a child to find.
The Michaelmas Bannock mixture was kneaded just enough to make a soft, smooth dough. A batter was then made from cream, eggs, and melted butter, and the batter would be brushed on one side of the bannock. You would start baking the bannock on a lambskin (called a “uinicinn”), and brush the top side with the batter. When the underside was brown, you would then flip it to cook the top side with the uncooked batter on it. You would repeat brushing and flipping until each side had three layers of batter on it.
If the Michaelmas Bannock broke before being baked, it was bad luck to the daughter. If it broke after baking, it was bad luck to the whole household.
Leftover flour on the baking surface had to be gathered up, put in a legging, and taken the next day and sprinkled on the livestock (sic) as both a blessing and protection against curses.
Those that made Michaelmas Bannock the night before would take them to a mass at church the next morning to have them blessed. Others liked to make them the day off, and eat them warm.
Michaelmas Bannock could be served plain, or with a topping such as butter and honey. It was traditional for everyone in the family to have a piece of the bannock.
Later, the Michaelmas Bannock faded from tradition and was replaced with scones.