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.