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Havercake Bake at Colne Valley Museum

About the event

We will be baking haver cakes and oat cakes. The basic crop which kept people alive in the north until relatively recently was oats. This is a tough, adaptable cereal whose grains, suitably milled to oatmeal, could be easily transformed into a highly nutritious food known throughout Yorkshire as Havercake – the word “haver” linked to the German word “hefe” meaning grain or yeast. There will also be one or two 'Havercake Lads' to answer questions including why they are called the Haverake Lads.

The event image includes an image from artist George Walker’s famous book, Costume of Yorkshire (1815), showing a woman in a farmhouse kitchen with her children making oat cakes or to use their correct term Havercakes.

In poorer areas of Northern England, and this included the Yorkshire Pennines, many of the smaller valley side fields were ploughed to grow basic crops for domestic use, crops such as oats, rye and cereals tough enough to survive in the thin soils, cooler conditions and longer winters of the uplands.

The basic crop which kept people alive in the uplands until relatively recently was oats. A tough, adaptable cereal whose grains, suitably milled to oatmeal, could be easily transformed into a highly nutritious food known throughout Yorkshire as Havercake – the word “haver” linked to the German word “hefe” meaning grain or yeast.

The classic Havercake recipe as described by Walker is for a very thin cake made out of just two ingredients, oats and water, mixed in a large bowel and measured out in a ladle. This is then rolled out to the required circular shape size on a piece of linen dusted with oatmeal. It is then placed on a hot hearth stone known as a backstone (hence the frequent name “Backstone” in an area where suitable sandstones were quarried, for example, Backstone Gill on Ilkley Moor) and cooked on each side for a just a few seconds and then placed on a linen cloth to cool.

The cakes, still soft, are then hung on a wooden creel or rack, sometime called a “fleeock”, that is suspended from the ceiling, to dry. These racks were a common feature of most farmhouse and cottage kitchens in the Dales and South Pennines in the 18th and early 19th centuries when Havercake was a staple fare.

Contacts

Colne Valley Museum

Cliffe Ash, Golcar, Huddersfield, HD7 4PY

01484 659762

Dates and venues


Further information

Documents

Themes

Learning and interest Events related to education and careers, as well as learning for fun. Also, talks, guided walks, and events of historical or other interest.