30 November 2010

30 November - Saint Andrew; Salmon Steaks with Caviar Sauce

Come, follow Me, I will make you fishers of men

Today is the feast of Saint Andrew, the first disciple of Our Lord, who spent his life leading people to Christ, starting with his own brother Simon (Peter).  He is said to have been martyred in Patras, Greece, by being tied to an X-shaped (decussate) cross, where he preached for two days before dying.

Read more about Saint Andrew here; The Golden Legend has the Life of Saint Andrew here, with several of his miracles, including an interesting story about a bishop who was ensnared by the devil in the shape of a beautiful woman.

As seen yesterday, unmarried women invoke his help in finding a husband.

A fisherman, he is the patron of those who take their livelihoods from the sea - not only fishermen, but fishmongers and fish dealers - and even those for whom fishing is not an occupation but a hobby, such as anglers.  If for some reason the fish aren't biting, say a quick prayer to Saint Andrew.  He'll understand.

Please pray for fishermen and mariners and those who make their living from the sea.

He is the patron of the countries of Greece, Russia, Romania, and Scotland, of the Greek province of Achaia and its capital Patras (where Andrew was martyred); of the Italians cities of Amalfi, Antey-Saint-Andre, Cartosio, Conflenti, Grognardo, and Samolaco; the German cities of Berchtesgaden and Lampertheim; of Burgundy, France; Encinasola, Spain; Luqu, Malta; and Plymouth, England; of the dioceses of Constantinople, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Victoria, British Columbia.

For dinner tonight, the main course should be fish, fixed in the manner of one of the countries of which he is a patron, like this Russian recipe for SALMON STEAKS WITH CAVIAR SAUCE:

You will need 1 salmon steak, 1 inch thick, for each serving.  This recipe serves 2; if you are serving more than that, you will probably need to double the amount of ingredients for the sauce.

You can make the sauce while the steaks are broiling.   

Sprinkle a little salt and lots of pepper on one side of each salmon steak and rub it in; brush with cooking oil.  Broil, oiled side up for 8 minutes.  Turn steaks over, brush with oil, and broil for 8 minutes.

Separate 2 eggs; save whites for another use.  Put yolks in a medium-sized bowl; beat lightly and stir in 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.

In a saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of butter; stir in 1/4 cup of flour until smooth and bubbly, then stir in 1-1/2 cups of milk.  Stir over low heat until sauce is thickened.

Add the hot sauce to the egg yolks a little at a time, mixing well with each addition.  When steaks are done, stir 2 tablespoons of caviar into the sauce, season with salt to taste (if it needs it), and pour over the steaks.  Serve immediately.

To accompany this repast? Perhaps St. Andrew's Ale, from the Belhaven Brewery Company of Scotland.  Or a Chardonnay from St. Andrew's Estate in Adelaide Plains, Australia.

For dessert, you can find a recipe for Saint Andrew's Walnut Cake here and one for "Tandry Wigs" (also called Tandrew Cakes), which seem to be a lot like the St. Catherine Wigs of November 25th. 

29 November 2010

29 November - Saint Andrew's Eve

Tomorrow being the feast of Saint Andrew, tonight is St. Andrew's Eve, and another day for trying to figure out who you will marry.

To Andrew all the lovers and the lustie wooers come,
Beleeving through his ayde, and certaine ceremonies done,
(While as to him they presentes bring, and conjure all the night)
To have good lucke, and to obtaine their chiefe and sweete delight.

When you retire for the night (and hopefully you have the room to yourself), take off all your clothes and say a prayer to Saint Andrew (like the following), asking for a worthy husband, and oh-by-the-way, can you know what kind of person he will be.

"Deus, Deus meus, O Sancte Andrea, effice ut bonem pium acquiram virum; 
hodie mihi ostende qualis sit cui me in uxorem ducere debet." 

Heavenly patron, Saint Andrew dear, Please won't you show me a picture clear 
Of the man whom thou hast chosen for me? Whether he handsome or homely be, 
Or young in years, or maybe old, Or still and shy, or loud and bold; 
I do not mind his manner and way: Just make him love me, that's all I pray.

Then climb into bed.  You should dream of your future husband (let's hope you are wearing something in your dream).  And the nights being really chilly right now, it would take a great deal of determination to get into bed with nothing on.

Also, if you hear any barking dogs tonight, note their location - your future husband will come from that direction.

You can try the apple peel again.  Take an apple and peel it, keeping the cut peel in one continuous piece.  Then throw it gently over your left shoulder and see if it resembles a letter of the alphabet.  If so, that is the first letter of the name of your future spouse or someone who is very interested in you.  If not... well, you won't be getting engaged any time soon.

If you wish to learn the color of your true love's hair, take hold of the latch of the house door and repeat three times, "Gentle love, if thou lovest me, show thyself".  Then open the door quickly and make a rapid grasp through it into the darkness; you should then find in your hand a lock of his hair.

In Poland it is called Andrzejki.  (On-jay-kee)  Learn your fortune by dropping melted wax through the hole of an old-fashioned (and large) key into a bowl of cold water; let it solidify, then take the resultant shape out.  Hold it up to a wall with a light behind you (a candle is traditional); the shape of the shadow cast on the wall tells your future.  The interpretation of the shape is up to you, but here are some shapes and their meanings to give you a few ideas:
Airplane - a journey
Apples - success
Balloon - your troubles won't last long
Bell - unexpected news
Bird - good news very soon
Boat - a visit from a friend
Bridge - you will receive an offer
Car - good fortune is on its way
Cherries - your love affair will be happy
Clouds - trouble ahead
Clover - happiness
Cow - prosperity
Crown - your wish will come ture
Cup - success will follow your efforts
Daisy - you will be happy in your love
Dog - you have a true friend
Dragon - there is a sudden change coming
Faces - you will attend a party with many friends
Geese - you will have unexpected visitors
Grapes - much happiness is in store
Guitar - you will be happy in love
Hand - friendship and success
Hat - a new occupation
Head - new opportunities
Heart - a trustworthy friend
Hen - happiness at home
Letters of the alphabet - initials of friends or loved ones
Jug - good health
Key - all doors will be opened for you
Ladder - a promotion
Ring - engagement or marriage in your future
Ship - successful journey
Snake - you have an enemy
Square - comfort and peace
Star - good luck and success
Tent - a journey
Tower - you will be offered a good opportunity
Trees - a change for the better

A group of unmarried girls can take off their left shoes, line them up heel to toe from the back of the room (opposite the door), and then take the shoe at the very back of the line and move it to the front of the line.  Continue doing this until a shoe fully crosses the threshold of the door - the owner of that shoe will be the first to marry.

Write a different man's name on each of several pieces of paper and put them under your pillow.  In the morning, reach under your pillow and pull out a piece of paper - the name on it will be the name of your future husband.

In Romania, tonight is the Night of the Vampires, who are supposed to come out and entice people to their destruction (time for garlic necklaces).

First rule for tonight: Don't talk to vampires.  They will stand outside your window trying to get in, but don't listen to them.

Also, the animals will be talking tonight, but don't listen to them either.  To do so is to invite very bad luck, and maybe even death.

There are several ways to see the face of your future spouse.  To dream of him, place sweet basil or a wooden comb under your pillow. Or take a lit candle out to a spring or well, and look into the water to see his reflection there.  No well handy?  Then stand before a mirror with a candle on either side of you, and you should see him looking over your shoulder. (And if you notice somebody standing next to you, but there is still no reflection, get that garlic up around your neck quick!)

And if all else fails, wearing a belt of garlic around your waist is supposed to bring suitors, none of them the blood-sucking kind.

28 November 2010

28 November - 1st Sunday in Advent

Weather: The last Sunday of the month indicates the weather for next month.
Clear, brilliant, sunny, and not cold.  This is a gift.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent and the beginning of the Advent Season.  It is also the beginning of the Liturgical Year.

Fisheaters has a good overview and ways to celebrate.   The most famous tradition is the Advent Wreath with four candles; the first, the candle of the Patriarchs, is lit tonight.  Also well-known are Advent Calendars, which usually start on December 1st and go until December 24.  Commercially made calendars have religious pictures and a verse of scripture behind each door, or a piece of chocolate, or a small ornament.

Less well-known are Jesse Trees, wherein one reads the appropriate Bible story or verses before placing the night's ornament on the tree.  It is based on Isaiah 11:1-2,
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord.

All of these (except possibly the chocolate) are good ways to spiritually strengthen us and remind us of the real reason for the season: He is Coming!

Lights!  Glitter!  Action!

Many, if not most, people have already put up their Holiday tree, decorated the house, put up the outside lights (which will stay there until March, because nobody is going out in the ice and snow to retrieve them), and started playing endless loops of carols.  The stores certainly have been doing this for the last month.  There is a mad rush to make everything magazine-worthy - perfect Holiday Entertaining with perfect-but-never-tried-before Holiday Recipes, perfect Holiday Presents wrapped in perfect Holiday Gift-wrap, perfect Holiday Decorating with the latest in perfect Holiday Ornaments... all accompanied with perfectly pasted-on Holiday Smiles and Good Cheer, and surrounded by perfect Holiday Music.

By the time Christmas arrives, everyone is sick of it. 

This year, try something different.  Treat Advent as it should be treated - as a time for spiritual reflection and anticipation of Our Lord's Coming.  Yes, it is like a little Lent.  Strengthen your faith by reading a theological book - we are called to explain our faith at all times; if you cannot, it is time to put in some study.  Increase your works of spiritual and corporeal mercy - alms if you can, but prayers are something anyone can do.  Read the prayers and verses that accompany each candle, calendar day, or Jesse Tree ornament with your family at night.

I'm not asking you to give up the decorating, et al, until Christmas Eve (which is when it was traditionally done, by the way).  Certainly shopping for presents is in order.  But maybe this year, put off the decorating until a week before, perhaps to celebrate the beginning of the Golden Nights on December 17.  That way, you won't be tired of Christmas when it finally arrives, and you can go on celebrating for the Twelve Days following.

27 November 2010

27 November - Still Have Leftover Turkey?

continuing from November 24th...

Two of my favorite recipes are Turkey Tetrazzini and Turkey Pot Pie.

(named for Luisa Tetrazzini, a famous coloratura of the early 20th century.  Apparently, she liked to eat well.)

Butter a shallow baking dish.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook and drain 1 pound of thin spaghetti
Heat 1 cup of milk.  Heat 1 cup of chicken bouillon.
Dice 2 - 3 cups of cooked turkey
Measure out 1/4 cup of dry sherry, then pour some for the cook.

In a saucepan, melt 1/2 cup of butter, then stir in 1/2 cup of flour.  Add hot milk and bouillon, and cook, stirring, until sauce is smooth and thickened.  Blend in 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and the sherry.  Stir in 3/4 cup of heavy cream.  Remove from heat.

You can either saute 1/2 pound of sliced mushrooms in a little butter or just grab a couple of small cans of mushrooms (or leave it out altogether, if you don't like 'shrooms).  Mix the mushrooms with half of the sauce; mix that with the cooked spaghetti and pour into your baking dish.  Make a well in the middle of the spaghetti; mix the remaining half of the sauce with the diced turkey, and pour this into the well.  Sprinkle the whole with grated Parmesan, and bake for about 20 minutes.


Either make your own pastry (for a two-crust pie), or buy it already made.  Line your chosen pie dish (round or square) with part of the pastry.  Reserve the remaining pastry for the top crust.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat 1-3/4 cups of chicken or turkey broth.  Heat 2/3 cup of milk.
Cut up 2 cups of cooked turkey.  Chop 1 small onion to make 1/3 cup.

This is the basic recipe.  Mine is always creative, as it depends on what I have on hand and how much.  Also, I start with the drippings from my bird, so the flavor and color of the sauce is always dependent on the herbs and wine that I used for basting.  You can do the same by saving and refrigerating the drippings in a plastic container.  The fat will rise to the top and congeal; you can use that in place of the butter in this recipe.  The clear jellied part of the drippings (beneath the fat), mixed with hot water to make 1-3/4 cups, can substitute for the canned broth.

In a saucepan, melt 1/3 cup of butter over low heat; blend in 1/3 cup of flour, the chopped onion (sweet, pungent, leeks, whatever you have), 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper (black, white, or red: I've tried them all).  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly.

Stir in broth and milk. (There is never any leftover gravy here: mashed potatoes get a goodly amount, and Hot Turkey Sandwiches get the rest, but if you have leftover gravy, you can add it to the sauce)  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir in cut-up turkey and some vegetables: a small package or about 1/3 of a large bag of frozen peas and carrots or mixed vegetables, or 2-3 cups of cut up fresh vegetables, if you have any.

Pour mixture into pastry-lined pan. (I usually sprinkle 1 teaspoon of celery seed over the top).  Place top crust over filling; roll edges under and flute.  Cut slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until crust is browned.  If you don't want your fluted edges to overcook, cover the edges with strips of aluminum foil; remove strips 15 minutes before pie is done.

26 November 2010

Black Friday (The Widow Rants)

Image from Eyehook.com
If you are looking for a sweetness-and-light post, today's isn't it.

Today - the Day After Thanksgiving - is known in the U. S. as Black Friday, so-called because the intense shopping puts the account balances of the merchants in the black (they hope).  Although horror stories from previous years of Mob Madness, of shoppers crushing people to death without a thought as they surge through the doors in search of something else they don't really need, would make a much better definition of Black Friday.

Let the frenzy begin!

Some people make this part of their holiday traditions, staking out a place in line in the wee hours of the morning to get the best bargains as soon as the doors open.  While I have no problem with people rushing out to commercialize the season as soon as possible, acting in unlovely ways as they grab items out of the hands and carts of others, yelling, screaming, fighting, pushing, shoving, giving the one-finger salute to all and sundry... I do have a problem with merchants who pull their employees away from their Thanksgiving dinners and families (if they allow them the time off at all) in order to get the store ready for the 3 am onslaught.

I take it back.  I have a big problem with people so crazed with shopping mania that they would trade a man's life for another trinket.  Pretty fair bargain, that!  Who cares that he might have wanted to live a little longer, as long as we are first in line for whatever is on sale?

Why am I not surprised?  This is, after all, a society for whom life is just another throw-away item.  It costs too much to maintain?  Toss it!  It has outlived its usefulness?  Toss it!  It is inconvenient?  Toss it!  It (and I wish I had never heard this) is a 'punishment'?  Toss it quick!  Destroy it!  Let us be rid of everything for which we have no use, because otherwise it might mean the we have to take that ugly and unknown word - RESPONSIBILITY.

I would like to think that there is some decency in the world.  Today always argues otherwise.

25 November 2010

25 November - Thanksgiving; Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Today in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving, giving thanks to God for our many blessings.  And if an unemployed widow who is facing foreclosure can give thanks, so can you.

To my family and my friends, Happy Thanksgiving. 
(Maybe next year I can join you.  I shall look forward to that.)
Weather: As at Catherine foul or fair, so will be next February.
Overcast, chilly - rain forecast later.
Today is the feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages, usually recognized in the pantheon of Virgin Saints by the appearance of a spiked wheel near her. 

Her story, a highly embellished version of which you can read in The Golden Legend, was of a young Christian noblewoman, well-educated, who upbraided the emperor for his persecution of Christians and debated with the pagan philosophers sent to persuade her by learned arguments to apostatize; instead, her arguments converted them. After being beaten and imprisoned, she was condemned to die on a spiked wheel, but it broke when she was bound to it.  This so enraged the emperor that he had her beheaded, and thus she achieved the crown of martyrdom. 

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira discusses Saint Catherine's final prayer and ends with:  So then, let us ask St. Catherine to help us be calm in every situation in our lives, and especially in the risks and dangers of life, and even in the extreme sacrifice of death, if that should be the will of Our Lady for us. 

Catholic Online adds: "Maxentius' blind fury against St. Catherine is symbolic of the anger of the world in the face of truth and justice.  When we live a life of truth and justice, we can expect the forces of evil to oppose us.  Our perseverance in good, however, will be everlasting."

As a virgin saint, she is the patron of never-married women:
  • unmarried girls
  • maidens
  • spinsters
  • old maids
From the spiked wheel of her martyrdom, she is the patron of those who work with wheels in some form:
  • mechanics and wheelwrights
  • millers
  • potters
  • spinners
  • turners
  • knife grinders and sharpeners
For her reputed wisdom and education, she is the patron of collectors and disseminators of knowledge:
  • archivists, libraries and librarians
  • educators and teachers
  • scholars, schoolchildren, and students
  • scribes, secretaries, and stenographers
For her debating skill and persuasive language, she is invoked by those who need such skills in their work:
  • apologists and philosophers
  • attorneys, barristers, jurists, and lawyers
  • preachers and theologians  
As one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, she was invoked against tongue diseases and sudden death. 

It is her patronage of unmarried women that gave rise to the traditions associated with today; this is a day not only to hopefully dream of a future husband, but also to ask for one. 

"A husband, Saint Catherine,
A handsome one, Saint Catherine,
A rich one, Saint Catherine,
A nice one, Saint Catherine,
AND SOON, Saint Catherine!"
(I've always like this prayer.  There is a hint of impatience in the final request.)

The one who would like to dream of her future husband should place a piece of wedding cake under her pillow, and her wish is sure to be gratified... providing that the piece of wedding cake has previously been passed through a wedding ring. [Now explain to your mother why there are crumbs and a smoosh of icing under your pillow]

A little more involved: Three to seven young women, no more or less, must assemble in a room where they are safe from interruption.  As the clock strikes 11 pm [2300 for military types], each must take from her bosom a sprig of myrtle, which has been worn there all day, and fold it up in a bit of tissue-paper.  They must then light up a small chafing dish of charcoal, and on the lighted coals each must place nine hairs from her head and a paring of each of her finger and toe-nails. [Since time is of the essence here, you might want to have all of this ready beforehand]  Each young woman must sprinkle a small quantity of myrtle and frankincense in the charcoal [which will hopefully rid the air of the odor of burning hair and nails], and while the odoriferous vapor rises, fumigate the tissue-wrapped packets of myrtle in it.  Then go to bed while the clock is striking the hour of midnight, placing the myrtle exactly under the head.

The instructions assure us that each young woman will be sure to dream of her future husband; HOWEVER, once again, the whole hour's performance must be passed in perfect silence.  Good luck with that.

From Observations of the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain:
"A writer in 1730 observes, "St. Catharine is esteemed in the church of Rome as the saint and patroness of the spinsters; and her holiday is observed, not in Popish countries only, but even in many places in this nation; young women meeting on the 25th of November and making merry together, which they call Catharning."    "Camden, in his 'Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish' says, "Formerly women and girls in Ireland kept a fast every Wednesday and Saturday throughout the year, and some of them also on Saint Catharine's Day; nor would they have omitted it, though it happened on their birth-day, or they were ever so ill.   The reason assigned for this custom was, that the girls could get good husbands, and the women better ones, by the death or desertion of their living spouses, or at least by an improvement of their manners." "

Whereas the men (at least the blacksmiths) feasted well on Saint Clement's Day, two days previous, today it is a feast of women.  What a splendid time for a Girls Night Out! 

If you can find the wheel-shaped pasta, use it in tonight's dinner.  Pick your own favorite pasta recipe.

You might try making "Saint Catherine's Wigs"  (and another recipe here) or Cattern Cakes, which, from their description, sound a lot like cinnamon rolls, with the addition of caraway seeds.  So either use one of the recipes online (you will need to convert the measurements, as they all seem to be based in England), or get yourself a can of whoppin' cinnamon rolls, press a few caraway seeds into the dough before baking, and make life easy on yourself.  We spend so much time being broken on the wheels of our own making; perhaps today is a good day to sit back and let the wheel turn on its own.

24 November 2010

24 November - Andromedids; All That Turkey

Astronomy: The Andromedid Meteor Shower peaks tomorrow night through the 28th, with maybe 5 or so per hour, although The Transient Sky calls it "... more of a historical curiosity than something that modern observers can experience."

For this, you don't need to set your clock and get up in the predawn hours.  Look toward the south in the early evening, although the event will likely be drowned out by a waning, but still hefty moon.

You can read a history (and a lot of technical stuff) on the Andromedids here at Meteor Showers Online.

For all I know, it could be more spectacular than the Perseids; the November skies in the Smallest State tend to be overcast more often than not, and I've never had a chance to see whether the Andromedids are merely a pleasant memory or what.

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and your mind is probably going through what gets cooked when, where will everyone sit, and if there are enough serving dishes.  But soon you will also be thinking, "What do I do with all that turkey?"

You may already have traditional uses for the remains of the day.  Here are a couple of mine (and they work equally well for the remnants of a roast chicken):

HOT TURKEY SANDWICHES, of course.  Basically, it is bread, turkey, and gravy.  I like to lightly toast the bread, cover each slice with pieces of turkey, maybe a spoonful of leftover stuffing, and top with hot gravy.  Maybe even crown it with a spoonful of cranberry sauce.  You can be equally creative, I'm sure.

TURKEY SOUP.  Once the carcass has been denuded of all pieces of meat which will be useful in other recipes, I put the bones, the skin, and the contents of the giblet bag (except for the liver) in a large pot of water to cover.  If you have any drippings that you aren't using or saving (mine are saved for a future pot pie), add them as well; also add salt, depending on the size of the carcass: 1 teaspoon for a large turkey, 1/2 teaspoon for a turkey breast or roasting chicken.  You can adjust the seasonings later.

Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 4 hours (following the advice of another cook, I found that if bedtime was looming, I could simmer the stock for a couple of hours, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and leave it until the next morning; then bring it back up to a fast simmer and continue for another couple of hours).  But don't leave it unattended.  You want it to simmer, not boil, and certainly not boil away.

When done, let it cool, then remove the bones (your fingers will tell you if you've let it cool enough) and strain the stock. Put the stock back in the kettle; the remains of the noble bird can now be honorably disposed of.

Now for the soup!  To your stock add some chopped carrots, chopped celery, and chopped onion - how much is up to you (4 carrots, 4 celery stalks, and a medium onion is a good start.  Or a small bag of frozen mixed vegetables - whatever you have).  Maybe a clove or two of chopped garlic, some chopped parsley, a bay leaf, and a teaspoon of minced thyme or any other herb you fancy.   Cook until the vegetables are tender. If you would like to add rice or pasta, cook them first, then add to the pot.  Heat for about 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

23 November 2010

23 November - Saint Clement; Saint Troll

Bernardino Fungai, The Martyrdom of Saint Clement

Today is the feast day of Saint Clement I (died c. 101), Pope and martyr, disciple and friend of Saints Peter and Paul.

He is said to have been martyred by being tossed into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck (see the above image).  By this, he became the patron of sailors, mariners, watermen, and boatmen.  Prior to this, he had been sent to labor in a stone quarry, so marble workers and stonecutters also claim him as their patron.  And for some reason, blacksmiths claim him as well, although there doesn't seem to be anything in his story about blacksmiths.  Various theories are advanced: they felt guilty that it was their occupation which forged the anchor; that a pagan deity in charge of smiths was honored on this day, and the two celebrations just naturally melded together; or that originally it was the anchor-smiths (a different mystery from that of blacksmiths) who claimed him has their patron, and the blacksmiths joined in.

Be that as it may, the traditions for this day much resemble those of a few weeks before.

In some parts of England, children would again go singing and begging door to door, as they did previously on All Hallow's Eve and All Soul's Eve, for money and cakes or fruit:
"Clemancing, clemancing, year by year
Apples and pears are very good cheer;
One for Peter and two for Paul,
And three for the Man that made us all.
Up with your stocking and down with your shoe,
If you've got no apples, money will do..."

Blacksmiths also would go around the neighborhood and beg for alms in the name of good Saint Clement, thence repairing to the chosen tavern and there enjoying as good a carouse as the day's haul would allow.

The traditional little cakes given out to the children were spice cakes, and you can do the same by making cupcakes out of your favorite spice cake recipe.  If you want to go fancy, try St. Clement's Tartlets, a custard tart flavored with orange and lemon; or even fancier, St. Clement's Trifle (which soaks the sponge cakes in Cointreau, suitable for anyone's carouse).

The use of citrus in Saint Clement recipes harks back to the old rhyme(s) (there were several variations) about the Bells of London:

Oranges and Lemons say the Bells of St. Clement's
Bullseyes and targets say the Bells of St. Marg'ret's... etc.

So nearly every recipe you find for a Saint Clement's Day dessert will have orange and lemon flavorings.  This SAINT CLEMENT'S CAKE is no different.

First make your LEMON CURD.  You will need a double boiler for this.  Into top part of double boiler put 1/2 cup of butter, 1-1/2 cups of sugar, the grated rind of 2 lemons, 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice, and 6 lightly beaten eggs. Place this over simmering water and cook, stirring constantly, until fairly thick.  Cool, then store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  This will make about 3 cups of lemon curd, of which you will only need a couple of tablespoons for this recipe; use the rest as filling for tartlets or to spread between layers of spongecake.

Now for the CAKE.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8-inch cake pan, line with wax paper, and lightly grease again.

Separate 1 egg.  Sift 6 tablespoons of sugar and set aside.  Sift 1/2 cup of flour; then sift together flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and a dash of salt.  Sift again and set aside.  Beat the egg white until stiff and set aside.

In your mixing bowl, beat the egg yolk slightly.  Add 1/2 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and beat until thick and light yellow.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon rind. Beat in the sifted sugar, one spoonful at a time.  Stir in 3 tablespoons of hot water and the sifted flour mixture.  Fold in the beaten egg white.

Pour into prepared cake pan and bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on a cake rack (let it cool thoroughly).  Slice the cake horizontally into two layers (this is easiest done by placing toothpicks at the desired height all around the cake and using them to guide your knife).

Spread lemon curd on bottom layer; 2 - 3 tablespoons should do, more if you like.  Replace top layer on cake.  Drizzle with ORANGE GLAZE, which you make by mixing together thoroughly 1 cup of confectioner's (powdered) sugar, 1 teaspoon of grated orange rind, and 2 tablespoons of orange juice.
This is also the feast of a 7th century saint called "Trudo",  a Benedictine preacher who evangelized in the area of modern Belgium.  In the Chamber's Book of Days, he is called "Saint Troll", and since he doesn't seem to be the patron of anything, perhaps he could be the patron saint of trolls, those mighty sinners online who set out to cause mayhem, hatred, and flame wars.  Even they need an advocate in heaven - nobody here is likely to ask a blessing on them.

22 November 2010

22 November - Saint Cecilia

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, Humpback Whales migrate to Hawaii now.  Smart whales!  Wish I could migrate to Hawaii.

Today is the feast of Saint Cecilia, martyr, patroness of music and musicians, also of
  • composers
  • luthiers (makers of stringed instruments: guitars, harps, dulcimers, violins, etc.)
  • martyrs
  • musical instrument makers
  • poets
  • singers
  • Academy of Music, Rome, Italy
  • the city and archdiocese of Albi, France
  • the archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska
  • the diocese of Valleyfield, Québec
You can read an account of her life here in the Golden Legend; in truth, not much is known about her, except that she was martyred.  Her body, which had been buried in the catacomb of San Callisto, was transferred in the 9th century to a new church built over the ruins of her house in Rome, called Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.

Prayer to Saint Cecilia
Dear Saint Cecilia, one thing we know for certain about you is that you became a heroic martyr in fidelity to your divine Bridegroom. We do not know that you were a musician but we are told that you heard Angels sing.  Inspire musicians to gladden the hearts of people by filling the air with God's gift of music and reminding them of the divine Musician who created all beauty. Amen.

(P.S. Could you inspire our liturgists to remember that the music at Mass is for the Glory of God, not entertainment for the congregation?  And that we are not in a cocktail bar, at a Broadway musical, or watching "America's Next Greatest Singing Talent Ever!"?  Thank you.  Amen.)

Today would be a good day to send a note of appreciation to your liturgist, choir, or schola (if indeed you appreciate their efforts).  If you have any instruments lying around the house, which are no longer played, donate them to your local school or church.  Attend a concert of sacred music, or put on a CD of Gregorian chant or Handel's Ode for Saint Cecilia's Day.

And to make the day special, a recipe for Cecilias, a marzipan confection, can be found here at Catholic Culture.

21 November 2010

21 November - Stir-up Sunday; North Carolina; Blue Moon Tonight

Weather: As November 21, so is the winter.  
Clear, sunny, a little chilly.   
Astronomy: Tonight is the Full Beaver Moon, also known as the Frost Moon or the Snow Moon, and (for those who didn't get enough game in their larder last month to see them through the winter) the Hunter's Moon.

Also, this is a Blue MoonAs EarthSky tells it, a Blue Moon can be the third of four full moons in a single season (and in fact, this is the original meaning); tonight's moon is the 3rd of the four that take place between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, skunks hibernate now.  Uh-huh.  For some reason, my yard always hosts the insomniacs convention.
Today is also known as 'Stir Up Sunday', from the traditional collect of the day: "Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of Thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen."

The schoolboy's rendition of the above collect was:
"Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot
And when we get home, we'll eat it all hot!"

This became a signal that it was time to make the Christmas puddings, or at least stir together the ingredients for the puddings, some of which, like the Widow's Mincemeat, will be stored in spirituous liquor until baking or steaming time (Christmas Eve).

Today in 1789, North Carolina became the 12th of the original 13 Colonies to ratify the Constitution, and true to the independent nature of its people, would not do so until a Bill of Rights safeguarding the liberties of the individual against the power of the Federal government was written and proposed.

There is just no way to be bored in this state!

The Outer Banks is, of course, everyone's favorite vacation spot; visit Roanoke to see the place of the first English attempts at colonization and the home of the Lost Colony, or Kitty Hawk, site of Orville and Wilbur Wright's more successful attempt at flying.  If you are into pirates, check out Bath, where Blackbeard lived between acts of piracy, and Ocracoke, where he was killed in battle.  That Charles Eden, the first governor of North Carolina, was in cahoots with Blackbeard is still a matter of speculation.

Moving inland, there is the Town Creek Indian Mound NHL near Fayetteville, the Alamance Battle Ground, site of a 1771 attempt by the colonials rid themselves of excessive British taxation and mismanagement, and Historic Bethabara Park and Old Salem Museums and Gardens in Winston-Salem.

Ready for a wine tour? Check out wineries and vineyards on the Wine Trail of the Yadkin Valley.  Move up into the mountains and travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway, where you can visit Mount Mitchell (the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi), Blowing Rock, and Grandfather Mountain, with its Swinging Bridge, and maybe even see the Brown Mountain Lights!

(By the way, North Carolina has more ghost stories and legends per square inch than any state I've been in - judging by the number of books on the subject that I've collected.)

Try your hand at mining and look for rubies in Franklin, emeralds in Hiddenite, or pan for gold at the Reed Gold Mine NHL, site of the first documented discovery of gold in the United States. Or try to strike it rich at the Cherokee Casino.

For more things to do, see VisitNC.com, the state's official Travel site.  The images there will give you more than enough ideas.

For a taste of North Carolina cuisine, you can choose anything from a fish fry (with hush puppies and cole slaw) to Barbecue (scroll down for Secret Sauce recipe), washed down with gallons of Real Ice Tea (I always drink mine unsweetened.  Yes, I know.  Heresy!)

20 November 2010

20 November - Saint Edmund; Hedgehog

St. Edmund, detail from the 'Wilton Diptych'

 In the General Calendar,  today is the feast of Saint Edmund (c840 - 870), King of East Anglia.  He is the patron of the Diocese of East Anglia, of the County of Suffolk, of kings and torture victims (from his death).  He is also a patron of wolves, from the disposition of his head, as related in All the Year Round: A Weekly Journal, Vol. 61, page 391[1887]:

"The twentieth of November is dedicated to Saint Edmund, 'King and Martyr'.  This was the brother and predecessor of Alfred, and he succeeded to the throne of East Anglia in 856.  In 870, he was taken prisoner by the Danes, and being a Christian, was executed.  The body, shorn of its head and pierced with arrows, was thrown into a wood, where it was afterwards found and decently buried in a wooden church at Haglisdon.  The head was subsequently discovered unmutilated between the paws of a wolf, which, as Lydgate, the Monk of Bury, says, was "an unkouth thyng, and strange ageyn nature."  The head, when placed on its proper position on the trunk, united so perfectly, that the separation could hardly be traced.  Such a miracle could not fail to attract attention, and the body of the King-Martyr was removed to Bury, where a church was erected, and a monastery founded. Many miracles are reputed to have been worked by the dead body of this Saint, for Edmund was duly canonized by one of the Popes.  The town of Bury St. Edmunds is so named, from the place being the repository of the King's remains."

You can read Abbo of Fleury's 10th century account of the Life of Saint Edmund here at Medieval Sourcebook, and Father Butler's account here.

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira relates the martyrdom of the Saint Edmund to our modern need for leaders of courage and dedication, who are willing to shed their own blood for the good of their people [not something you are liable to find in our Congress].

Poor Saint Edmund was shot full of arrows "until he bristled with them like a hedgehog" before his head was cut off.  For his feast day, make a dessert called "A HEDGEHOG"; think of all the almond slivers as the myriad arrows of his martyrdom. 

You will need a pudding dish, well buttered, and a shallow baking pan in which to set it while in the oven.  You will also need ground blanched almonds and slivered almonds.

First scald 3 cups of milk.  In a large bowl, beat 4 eggs until light, then stir in 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Slowly add the scalded milk, beating the whole time.  Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg,  1 cup of ground blanched almonds, and 1 tablespoon of brandy (if no brandy in the house, and you can't borrow any from a neighbor, substitute 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract).

Pour into your pudding dish, and place the dish into a shallow baking pan.  Pour boiling water into the pan to the depth of 1 inch around the pudding dish.

Bake at 350 degrees F. until the custard is firm, about 45 minutes.  Loosen the custard from the pudding dish by running a knife around the edge of the pudding dish, and turn the custard out onto your serving platter.  Stud the surface of the custard with 1 cup of slivered almonds.

Serve with fresh fruit; if you can find it, there is a deliciously sweet apple called "Saint Edmund's Pippin". 

Schoolchildren of Southwold, in Suffolk, England, celebrate the day with "St. Edmund's Sticky Buns".  Their parents, of course, can celebrate with a glass of "St. Edmund's Head" from the Old Cannon Brewery, of Bury St. Edmunds.

19 November 2010

19 November - Puerto Rico Discovery Day

The Shining Star of the Caribbean

 Día del Descubrimiento de Puerto Rico!

Today, in 1493, Christopher Columbus (on his second voyage) landed on the smallest of the islands of the Greater Antilles, and named it San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist.  Sixteen years later, a settlement on the northern coast was named Ciudad de Puerto Rico (City of the Rich Port).  At some point after that, the names were switched around; the island became Puerto Rico and the rich port became San Juan.

Read here about the subsequent history of Puerto Rico. 

If there is any place that knows how to throw a party, it is Puerto Rico!  I lived there for 18 months (not nearly long enough, in my estimation) and it seemed like there was a celebration of some kind every single weekend somewhere on the island!  Whether is was a patron saint's festival, or an upcoming election, or a Public Holiday, or what-have-you, I could go and dance, eat, drink, be merry, and dance some more.  Wikipedia has a list of the Public Holidays - it doesn't include the local celebrations - and you can see what I mean.  Puerto Ricans know how to celebrate!

What to do while there?  Well, if the dancing, eating, drinking, and merry-making have taken a break, go to Phosphorescent Bay in La Parguera, and take an enchanted night-time boat ride.  Surf (or watch the surfers) in Rincon, on the western part of the island.  Hike through El Yunque, the rain forest, and listen to the coquis sing.  Visit Ponce, El Ciudad Senorial, on the south coast.

[And apropos of nothing, when the Widow was stationed at Roosevelt Roads (many moons ago when wifehood, let alone widowhood, was NOT on her radar screen), the only fast food restaurant on the island was in Ponce, about 4 hours away.  It might have been Burger King... I don't know.  What I do remember is that we very quickly learned that when a guy asked you to go out for a hamburger at whatever it was, he was actually trying to get to know you better - ahem - overnight.]

And then there is the capital city, San Juan - which was almost two cities, even when I was there.  On the one hand, there is the Condado - high style shops, high style restaurants, high style clubs... everything the tourist heart could wish for.

On the other hand, there is the old world elegance of Old San Juan.  Yes, you know which side I will go back to one day.

So how to celebrate today?  Start with a nice rum drink like a Coquito (does it make you sing like a Coqui?) and think about dinner.  There are a lot of recipes to choose from.

Among the Widow's many happy memories is a dinner with friends in Fajardo, at a place which is probably long since cleared away to make a dock for gigantic cruise ships, where she dined on fried plantain and turtle steak.  Another delightful memory is of a dinner starting with black beans and rice. Roasted chicken and pan de agua could be found in small mom-and-pop stores; with a bottle of wine, we had an impromptu picnic.  And Lechon Asado seemed to be at every festival.

Instead of writing out a recipe, I'm sending you here to El Boricua, and the recipes of Carmen Santos Curran.  They are easy, and they are good!

18 November 2010

18 November - William Tell; Apfeltorte

From Free Printable Coloring Pages

Today in 1307, William Tell, the National Hero of Switzerland, put an arrow through the apple on his son's head - thereby putting the kid into years of intensive therapy.  Raise a glass of hard cider in young Walter Tell's honor, and put the apple to better use by making APFELTORTE (Apple Tart).

(Oh, and if you don't already know it, you can read the Legend of William Tell here.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a tort pan or pie plate with pastry; chill.

Wash, pare, and core 10 large cooking apples.  Slice 2 of the apples thinly and set aside.  Cut the remaining 8 apples into eighths. [If you are good with a crossbow, you can try cutting up the apples that way; otherwise use the tried-and-true method of a kitchen knife.]

Melt 1/3 cup of butter in a skillet and add the 8 apples.  Cover and cook until apples are soft (you may need to stir it occasionally; don't want the apples to burn).  Break up the apples into small pieces, then stir in 1/3 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then spoon the mixture into the pastry-lined pan.

Now cook the 2 thinly-sliced apples in 1 cup of water mixed with the juice of 1 lemon for about 5 minutes.  Drain them, and dry on paper towels.  Arrange the slices in a pattern on top of the pie (I like to make a spiral) and sprinkle with 1 - 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. and bake for 20 minutes longer; remove from oven (do not turn off oven).  Meanwhile, beat 1 egg with 4 tablespoons of heavy cream.  Pour over tart, and return tart to oven to bake for 10 minutes longer.  Serve warm. 

Or, if you are a member of Taste of Home, you can try the recipe for William Tell's Never Miss Apple Cake.

Want to try making your own hard cider?  Have a bit of time and a lot of apples on your hands?  Instructables has a step-by-step easy to understand guide.  I, of course, will skip immediately to Step 8 and buy some commercially-sold cider.

There is also a British concoction called 'Scrumpy' - one glass and the world begins to glow - sounds good to me!  Instructions for making this delightful brew can be found here.  (Being the impatient sort, I wonder if Scrumpy is available in New England?)

Fortunately for Walter, it wasn't available in Switzerland.

17 November 2010

17 November - Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Today, in the General Calendar, is the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231), daughter of Andrew II of Hungary and wife of Landgrave Ludwig IV of Thuringia.

A pious woman from her earliest years, who took the admonition from Our Lord "What you do for the least of these, you do for me" very seriously.  She gave away bread from the royal kitchens, established a hospital to care for the indigent sick, and nursed them herself, sewed winding sheets in which to bury the indigent dead and attended their burials, and constantly thought on the poverty of Our Lord.  Her husband and protector dying when she was 20, she embraced a life of hardship, and died at the age of 24.

She was and is a very popular saint, as attested by this list of her patronages from Saints.SQPN.com:
  • against in-law problems
  • against the death of children
  • against toothache
  • bakers
  • beggars
  • brides
  • charitable societies
  • charitable workers
  • charities
  • countesses
  • exiles
  • falsely accused people
  • hoboes
  • homeless people
  • hospitals
  • lacemakers
  • lace workers
  • nursing homes
  • nursing services
  • people in exile
  • people ridiculed for their piety
  • tertiaries
  • tramps
  • widows
  • Sisters of Mercy
  • Teutonic Knights
  • Erfurt, Germany, diocese of
  • Jaro, Philippines, archdiocese of
You can read here the story of Saint Elizabeth as told in the Golden Legend.  It is rather depressing, and I have my own thoughts about the sanctity of "Master Conrad", but no doubt it was considered edifying.  Still, body and mind can take only so much abuse before it gives up; I'm not surprised that she died young, only that she lived to the ripe old age of 24.

A lovely prayer for today would be the Litany of St. Elizabeth.

One charming legend relates that one night, as Saint Elizabeth was taking bread from the castle kitchens to give to the poor, her husband stopped her and asked what she carried in her apron.  She opened her cloak and revealed an apron that was full of roses instead of bread.

A good way to honor Saint Elizabeth, would be a contribution to your local soup kitchen or Saint Vincent de Paul Society.  Your contribution can be money, or food, or just your time in picking up donations, stocking, cooking and serving, or distributing.  As in Saint Elizabeth's day, there is a lot of need out there, and even one person's help is appreciated.

16 November 2010

16 November - Leonids; Oklahoma

Astronomy: The Leonid Meteor Shower peaks in the early hours tomorrow morning and on the 18th as well.  Best viewing is after the gibbous moon sets around 3:30 am, so set your clock to get up early, bundle up (it is chilly outside, at least here in the Smallest State), and look toward the south in the predawn.  Some years are spectacular, some not so much.

The constellation Leo is one of the easiest to find and recognize, and the meteors will appear to be springing from the Lion's head.  The Leonids have their own website here at Leonid.org.


 We know we belong to the land,
And the land we belong to is grand!

Today in 1907, Oklahoma, formerly known as Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, and prior to that as The Nations, was admitted to the Union as the 46th state.

You can read about Oklahoma's history here, and more personal history accounts here.

Lots to do here.  Oklahoma has wineries (now that would be an interesting tour!); guest ranches, if you want to explore your inner cowboy; art museums, if you'd rather explore your inner artist... and lots of shopping, in case your wife isn't interested in either your inner cowboy or inner artist.

Among the museums are the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (mark your calendars! The Cowboy Christmas Ball is the 17th of December); the Pioneer Woman Museum, the Spiro Mounds, a prehistoric Native American archaeological site; and a museum dedicated to Route 66 ('get your kicks...').

And a whole lot more listed on Oklahoma's Official Website.

In a couple of places, I have found that the official state meal is: fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken-fried steak, pecan pie, and black-eyed peas.  Now, I am not sure if that is one entire meal (in which case, I would start dividing it up into courses) or a list of their official favorite foods, nor does it matter.  This is rib-sticking food.  So I am going to offer BISCUITS WITH SAUSAGE AND GRAVY, which is good for breakfast or dinner.

You can find any number of recipes, plain and fancy, for this dish online, because it is really simple and basic, and people are always experimenting with different flavors.

  • Make your own from scratch, if you have a favorite recipe, or
  • Bake a batch of those 'whoppin' biscuits, as we called them; 'whop' being the noise the biscuit can made when it was opened.

  • Crumble about 1/2 pound of pork sausage into a skillet and brown.  Just brown.  Don't overcook.
  • Eyeball the amount of drippings in the skillet (I tip my skillet slightly, let the fat run down to a puddle, and judge from that).  Sprinkle an equal amount of flour, one tablespoon at a time, over the sausage and drippings, stirring each spoonful until smooth and bubbly, before adding the next.
  • Now add milk (whole milk!) a half cup at a time, stirring constantly to incorporate.  I end up using between 3 and 4 cups of milk.  Continue stirring as it cooks over low heat until it is thickened. 
  • Season with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.
Place a couple of biscuits on your plate, spoon a nice amount of sausage-studded gravy over them, grab a fork, and tuck in!

15 November 2010

15 November - King's Feast in Belgium; Endive au Gratin

Since 1866, today has been celebrated in Belgium as "King's Day" or "King's Feast" in honor of the Belgian monarch.  (This should not be confused with the Belgian National Day, which is on July 21 and celebrates King Leopold I taking the oath as the first sovereign of Belgium.)  A service in the Cathedral of St. Michel and St. Gudule in Brussels, at which a Te Deum is sung, is followed by a ceremony held by the Belgian Parliament.

You can read about the Kingdom of Belgium here, including its interesting political divisions between the Dutch-speaking Flemish and the French and German speaking Walloons.  To get an idea of how much is packed into that small space, Belgium is about the size of the state of Maryland.

As for gastronomy, well... 
Belgian food has been described as "French quality in German quantities".  A melding of cultures has resulted in a rich and satisfying cuisine,  and they are not ashamed to enjoy it.  I agree.  Try this recipe which mixes tart endive with a rich cheese sauce.

To start with you will need 1 to 2 endives for each person, and enough ham slices, thin enough to roll, for each endive.  Eight heads of endive will yield enough for 4 - 8 servings.

This goes under a broiler, so use a shallow broiler-proof dish.

Wash the endive and cut away any tough segment of the stem.  Leave whole.  Cook endive in a small amount of salted boiling water for 20 minutes, or until tender.  Drain; when cool enough to handle, roll each head of endive in a piece of ham and place in your cooking dish.

Melt 1/3 cup of butter in a saucepan.  Blend in 1/4 cup of flour, then gradually add 2 cups of milk, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir in 1/4 cup of grated Swiss cheese (or a Belgian cheese like Herve) until melted; add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg.

Pour cheese sauce over endive.  Sprinkle another 1/4 cup of grated cheese over the top and dot with butter.  Brown lightly under the broiler.  

Need more Belgian recipes to try?  Go here for several Family Recipes (wonderful cuisine without a lot of fuss) or here for a list of 41 recipes, most of them adapted from Ruth Van Waerebeek's book "Everybody Eats Well in Belgium" [I'm inclined to agree with the title.  From Fries and Mussels to Carbonnade Flamande, washed down with Beer and followed by the ever-heavenly Chocolate, Belgians eat like kings!]

14 November 2010

14 November - Crab Apples, spiced and jellied

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, Crab Apples (aka crabapples) are ripe now.

For those who have never encountered them, crab apples are a small and sour fruit (sometimes described as extremely tart, but I think that is being charitable) which adds a bit of zing to other apple recipes like cider.  As with rhubarb, if you add enough sugar, these tiny bombs with immense pucker-power become palatable.

SPICED CRAB APPLES for canning. A spicy accompaniment for meat.

Wash and sterilize jars.  This recipe makes about 4 pints; plan accordingly.

Wash 6 pounds of red crab apples (do not remove stems), and stick 2 or 3 whole cloves in each.

Tie 2 tablespoons of broken cinnamon sticks and 1 tablespoon of whole allspice loosely in a cheesecloth bag.

Make a syrup by combining 4 cups of cider vinegar, 4 cups of water, and 8 cups of sugar in a large kettle.  Add the spices in cheesecloth bag, and boil for 10 minutes.  Add a few drops of red food coloring; then add the crab apples, a few at a time, simmering each batch until tender (about 10 to 20 minutes).

Lift the crab apples out of the syrup with a slotted spoon and fill the hot jars with them.  Strain the syrup, bring it to a boil, fill the jars with syrup, and seal. [Do remember to remove the whole cloves before you eat them.]

Crab Apples are already high in pectin, so there is no need to add commercially bought pectin to this recipe.

This recipe makes about 6 half-pint jars.  Wash and sterilize jars.

You will need 4 cups of crab apple juice for this recipe, so start with 8 cups of crab apples, washed and cut into quarters [remove the stems and the blossom ends].  Put the apples in a large kettle and add enough water so that the water can be seen between the pieces of fruit, but not enough to make the pieces float.

Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until apples are soft.

Now, you can either go the modern route and strain the apple mixture through a couple of layers of cheesecloth, or you go the time-honored route and pour the whole mess into a pre-moistened jelly bag (an old, well-washed pillowcase will work also.  Just remember to wet it before pouring in the cooked fruit).  Suspend the bag over a bowl and let it hang until the juice no longer drips [this takes a while, usually overnight, so you can't be in a hurry here]. [AND DON'T SQUEEZE THE BAG!]

Once you have your juice, measure it out (you should have about 4 cups).  Pour the juice back into the kettle and discard the pulp from the cheesecloth or bag.  Bring the juice to a boil, skimming off any foam that forms.  Gradually add 3 cups of sugar and cook rapidly until the mixture begins to thicken and the temperature is about 215 - 220 degrees F. [Those of you who make jelly regularly already know how to recognize 'the jelly stage'].  When the jelly begins to sheet off from the spoon, remove from heat and skim off any remaining foam; pour into hot, sterilized jelly glasses and seal with paraffin.
From Life in the Breakdown Lane:

Saint Martin's Summer continuing through today, I have opened the windows of the house.  Candyman is now sitting on the window-seat with his head stuck out of the window, hoping and praying that one of the birds enjoying the bird-feeders will somehow mistake a large black-and-white cat for another feeder, and come over to investigate.

13 November 2010

13 November - Fantasia

Today in 1940, Walt Disney's "Fantasia" was released.  You can read all about it here, but as it is the Widow's very favorite Disney movie of all time, she will leave off writing for the day and celebrate by watching it again.

Accompanied, of course, by a huge tub of buttered popcorn.  And Jujubes.  I love Jujubes.  Nothing brings back memories of early movie theaters like the smell of popcorn, and stepping on Jujubes.

12 November 2010

12 November - Lobsters and Leotard

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, lobsters move to offshore waters now.

And snowbirds move to Florida.  It's all the same.
He'd fly through the air, with the greatest of ease
A daring young man on the flying trapeze!
His movements were graceful, all girls he could please,
And my poor love he purloined away...

Today in 1859, Jules Leotard of Toulouse (c1842 - 1870) performed for the first time on the Flying Trapeze. [read here for the different kinds of trapeze, of which the 'Flying' is only one].  This momentous exhibition took place in Paris, and, as might be expected, was an instant hit.

The son of a gymnastics teacher (which must have helped), Jules was schooled with an eye to becoming a lawyer.  However, instead of the mental gymnastics in which a successful lawyer must engage, he opted for physical gymnastics and developed the art of the Flying Trapeze.

He was the first to complete a full mid-air somersault as he leaped from on bar to another, and eventually developed an act utilizing three trapezes.

His maillot, the one-piece, skin-tight garment which he wore to facilitate his exertions (and which showed off his splendid physique) no doubt caused many a young woman to swoon, and likely led to not a few unchaste dreams.  Years after his death, the maillot started being referred to as the 'leotard', and appears today in forms that would make even Jules blush.

Celebrities usually had dishes named for them - Spaghetti Caruso, Peach Melba - and while I haven't found it yet, I have no doubt that some enterprising chef of the 1860s named his latest creation in honor of the High-Flying Wonder.  Pending discovery of that recipe, let us enjoy LOBSTER QUICHE (and call it 'Lobster Leotard'). 

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry (either your own or store-bought) and flute the edges.  Prick the bottom with a fork, line the bottom with foil and fill with beans or pie weights.  Bake for 8 minutes; remove foil and beans  and bake about 3 minutes more.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Reduce oven to 375 degrees F.

Saute 2 tablespoons of finely chopped green onion in 2 tablespoons of butter for a couple of minutes; spread on bottom of pastry shell.  Top with 1-1/4 cups of either fresh cooked lobster or canned lobster (or even pretend lobster) and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of fresh dill.

Scald 1-1/4 cups of heavy cream.  Set aside.

In a bowl, lightly beat 4 eggs; stir in 2 tablespoons of white wine, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and the scalded cream.  Pour mixture into pie shell over onions and lobster.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until set.

Serve with the rest of the white wine.

11 November 2010

11 November - St. Martin; Veterans Day; Taurids; Washington

Astronomy: North Taurid Meteor Shower tonight and tomorrow night, with anywhere from 3 to 10 shooting stars.  The best time for viewing is after midnight when the constellation Taurus is at its highest point in the night sky.  Face south and look up to find Taurus.
If All Saints Day brings out the winter, St. Martin's Day will bring out Indian summer.
If Martinmas is fair, dry, and cold, the cold in winter will not last long.  Well, hooray!  Today was bright and chilly, so maybe winter won't be so awfully cold.
If the wind is in the south-west at Martinmas, it will remain there until after Christmas.
This is traditionally the time of Saint Martin's Summer, better known here as Indian Summer. Hasn't failed yet.  While Saint Martin's Day was cold, the following days have been gorgeous weather - warm, sunny, A GIFT!
Today is the feast of Saint Martin of Tours, the Apostle of Gaul, the Roman soldier turned bishop.  Most people recognize him as the soldier who divided his cloak to cover a beggar; here Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira moves beyond this typical depiction of Saint Martin to his real purpose.

Today, traditionally, the wines of the season are first tasted (and of course, one taste is never enough, is it?), which make nice accompaniments to the traditional dinners of Roast Goose or Black Pudding.  Remember to ask Saint Martin to dine with you, by sharing your dinner with someone who has nothing to eat.

Catholic Culture has more celebrations of this popular saint's day, including a cookie called "Saint Martin's Horseshoes", an easy recipe, and one that will keep the children busy forming the 'horseshoes'. 
In the United States, this is also Veterans Day (in Canada, Remembrance Day) formerly Armistice Day, when the guns fell silent, marking the end of the World War, the War to End All Wars.  Pause for two minutes at the eleventh hour - 11:00 am - to remember those who have served their countries - and vow to make sure that the guns really do fall silent.
Today, in 1889, the State of Washington, formerly Washington Territory, was admitted to the union as the 42nd state.

Known as the Evergreen State, and for good reason, as anyone who has visited Seattle for any amount of time 'knows' - it rains.  A lot.  However, mosey east over the Cascade Mountains, and you'll find that it is less green, and has much less rain.  Quite a difference between the two.

Washington has always been known for its apples and for the sweet Walla Walla onion; celebrate the state and Saint Martin by having a SAVORY APPLE STUFFING with your roast goose:

Peel and dice enough tart apples to make 4 cups [4 to 8 apples, depending on size].

In another bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of firmly packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon each of ground sage, marjoram, and thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper.  Set aside.

Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a pan.  Saute 1/2 cup of chopped celery (leaves as well), 1 chopped onion [Walla Walla sweet onion, if you can get it; yellow onion if you want something more pungent], and 2 tablespoons of minced parsley in the butter for 5 minutes.  Add the diced apples and the sugar/seasonings mixture.  Cook for 5 minutes longer.  Stir in 2 cups of toasted bread crumbs and mix well. 

Washington also claims to have 'the perfect climate for wine'. [That is as maybe, says this Californian]  To accompany the main course tonight, how about something from Goose Ridge Vineyards and Estate Winery.

10 November 2010

10 November - U. S. Marine Corps Birthday!

Oorah!  Formed in 1775; now building on 235 years of active service as our amphibious force-in-readiness (and still wearing the best looking uniforms!)

By decree of the Second Continental  Congress, November 10, 1775:
"That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates as with other battalions, that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies; unless dismissed by Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalions of Marines."

Today will be read General Order 47:
Marine Corps Orders
No. 47 (Series 1921)
Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps
Washington, November 1, 1921
759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.
  1. On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name "Marine". In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.
  2. The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and is the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.
  3. In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.
  4. This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.
John A. Lejeune
Major General Commandant

Happy Birthday, Leathernecks!  And many thanks!