24 February 2011

24 February - Saint Matthias; Granita

Weather:   If it freezes on St. Mathias' Day, it will freeze for a month together.

St. Matthias breaks the ice; if he finds none, he will make it.

St. Matthie sends sap into a tree.

Today (in the Traditional Calendar) is the feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle and Martyr, the man chosen to fill the place of Judas Iscariot among the apostles.  In a leap year, this is celebrated on the 25th of February.  In the New Calendar, his feast is celebrated on 14 May.

The Golden Legend treats of Saint Matthias (after an interesting prologue on the 'history' of Judas which you can read there (if the story sounds familiar, think of Paris of Troy and, more especially, Oedipus of Thebes)):

And then they made their orisons and said: Lord God, which knoweth the hearts of all the persons, show to us whom we shall choose of these twain here. And after, they cast lots, and the lot fell on Matthias, which forthwith was enumbered with the other eleven, and then were they twelve. ... He did that which he preached, he made the blind to see and healed the sick men, he raised the dead men, and did great miracles in the name of Jesu Christ.

And when he was accused hereof tofore the bishop of Jerusalem, it was demanded him that he should answer thereto and he said: It behoveth not much to answer hereto, because for to be a christian man it is nothing criminal but it is a glorious life.

[Well, that didn't go over very well.]

The Jews took him and brought him to justice and had gotten two false witnesses against him and for to accuse him, the which cast on him first stones, and the other after, and so was stoned, and he prayed that the stones might be buried that the false witnesses had cast upon him, for to bear witness against them that stoned him, and finally he was slain with an axe after the manner of the Romans. And he held up his hands and commended his spirit to God.

Other accounts say that he preached near Sebastopolis (modern Sulusaray, Turkey) and was either stoned or crucified there.  He is the patron of reformed alcoholics, of carpenters, and of tailors [an interesting grouping].
If, as it says above, "Saint Matthias breaks the ice; if he finds none, he will make it", it behooves us to have ice for the good saint to break.  With this in mind, why not make GRANITA.

Granita is very easy to make - fruit juice, pureed and strained fresh fruit, coffee, chocolate, whatever, mixed with sugar and water and frozen.  The hardest part is that, every once in a while, you must stop whatever you are doing and go rake up the frozen crystals.  However, it is little enough effort and the result makes a grand presentation.

There are lots of good recipes online.  The easiest is one that a friend served at a kid's party:

Pour 5 to 6 cups of root beer into a large, flat, baking dish (if you use a short, flat, baking dish, be prepared for a longer freezing time).  Put the dish into the freezer and let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour (different freezers, different freeze times).  Take it out of the freezer and use either a fork or a whisk to break up the frozen pieces and mix them with the liquid.  Even out the mixture and return to the freezer for another 45 minutes to one hour.  Remove, whisk again, return.  When mixture begins to freeze totally, switch to using a fork to scrape down the ice crystals. Do this until there is no more liquid.  Serve.  Granita looks best served in chilled glasses.  Top with a scoop of ice cream and you have the taste of a root beer float.

And that should be enough ice to keep the good saint from making more.