10 July 2011

10 July - Seven Holy Brothers

Weather: As the weather is on the feast of the Seven Brothers, so will it be for the next seven weeks.

If it rains on July 10th, it will rain for seven weeks.

Today is the feast of the Seven Holy Brothers, martyrs (2nd century).  In the medieval Golden Legend, their names were Januarius, Felix, Philip, Silvanus, Alexander, Vital, and Marcial, the sons of Saint Felicitas of Rome.  They were condemned for their faith and suffered various torments, exhorted by their mother to stand fast as believers in Jesus Christ.  Having watched the execution of each son, from the eldest to the youngest, strengthening their resolve to the last, she also suffered martyrdom.

Similar is the story of St. Symphorosa and her seven sons, whose feast is July 18.  Both legends may have been influenced by the story of the Seven Holy Maccabees (feast: August 1), related in 2 Maccabees, Chapter 7.  This is the month of 'sevens', for the feast of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus is on July 27.

If you are barbecuing today, or on any of the above days, honor all these sevens by including the Old World custom associated with the New World Pennsylvania-Germans: the "Seven Sweets and Seven Sours".

The 'sweets' can include fruits like spiced peaches, gingered pears, spiced apple rings, sweet pickles, pickled or candied watermelon rind, apple butter, honey, jams and jellies, and other sweet conserves.

The 'sours' can be represented by various tangy pickles - onions, cucumber, carrot, yellow bean, green tomato, etc. - and relishes - chowchow, corn relish, and mixed vegetable relish, as well as the usual cucumber relish.

For more sweets and sours, and recipes to make them, see Oddity Recipes of the Pennsylvania Dutch, and Alan's Kitchen

To get you started, here is a well-tried (and well-received) recipe for BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES:

This makes 6 pints or 3 quarts (I used quart jars.  It was easier.)

First, sterilize your jars, lids, and lid rings.

Wash (do not pare) and thinly slice into rounds enough cucumbers to equal one gallon (16 cups).  Yes, that's a lot of pickles.  Approximately 32 pickling cukes.

Peel and thinly slice 8 medium onions into rounds.

Wash 2 red or green bell peppers and slice into thin strips.

Put the vegetables in a large bowl, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of coarse salt (like kosher salt). Pour 1 cup of water over the vegetable, then cover with a layer of about 1 quart of crushed ice [the first time I tried this recipe, I didn't have crushed ice, so I used the ice cubes from four ice-cube trays. It worked fine.  Crushed ice is easier, though].  Put a plate on top of the ice and something on the plate as a weight, like a large can of crushed tomatoes.  Let it stand for 3 hours, then drain.

In a large pot (stainless steel, glass, ceramic, or enamelware), combine 2-1/2 cups of sugar, 2-1/2 cups of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of mustard seed, 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric, and 1/2 teaspoon of whole cloves.  Bring this mixture to a boil.  Add the vegetables and heat JUST to the boiling point.  Do Not Boil.  Remove pot from heat.

Fill the jars to overflowing.  Wipe the rims carefully, top with a lid, and screw the band on tightly.  Let the jars cool, then check the seal of the lid by pressing on the top.  If it pops up and down, it isn't sealed.  Tighten the band again and put the jar in the refrigerator.  If the seal is good, put the jars away in the pantry.

Then wait a couple of weeks before serving, to allow the flavors to meld.