24 August 2011

24 August - St. Bartholomew; Fruit Leather

Weather: As on Bartholomew's Day, so the whole autumn.

If Bartelmy's day be fair and clear
Hope for a prosperous autumn that year.

If it rains on Bartholomew's day, it will rain the forty days after.
St. Bartholomew's mantle wipes dry
All the tears that St. Swithin can cry. [St. Bartholomew comes 40 days after St. Swithin]

Thunderstorms after Bartholomew's day are more violent.

If the day be misty, the morning beginning with a hoar frost, the cold weather can soon be expected and a hard winter [and goodbye to the grape harvest and any further tomatoes]

St. Bartholomew
Brings the cold dew.

Saint Bartholomew shortens our afternoons.

Gardening: The sunflower is also called "St. Bartholomew's Star".

Nature: This is a traditional day to hunt quail.

Today is the feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle and Martyr, "who preached the Gospel of Christ in India.  He passed thence into the Greater Armenia, where, after converting many to the faith, he was flayed alive by the barbarians, and beheaded by order of king Astyages, and thus he terminated his martyrdom.  His sacred body was first carried to the island of Lipara, then to Benevento, and finally to Rome in the island of the Tiber, where it is venerated by the pious faithful". Roman Martyrology, 1916

Michelangelo, 1541
By virtue of his martyrdom of being flayed alive, he is the patron of those who procure or work with leather - butchers, tanners, shoemakers, bookbinders, etc.  His emblem in the old clog almanacks was a knife, and he is often depicted with it and his flayed skin, as in the painting of The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, above [the face on the flayed skin is supposed to be that of Michelangelo].

In his honor, FRUIT LEATHER would be a good thing to make today.  Basically it is ripe fruit mashed or pureed into a pulp, sweetened if necessary, then spooned onto a flat surface - a plate or cookie sheet (lined with waxed paper or foil if you want your life to be easier) - then placed in the sun or in a slow oven to thicken and dry.  Once that is done you can sprinkle on powdered sugar, cut the whole mass into strips, roll them up, and store them in something airtight.  And eat them.

The easiest recipe I've found is here.  It uses only four cups of fruit at a time, and dries the leather in the oven.

This is an old recipe that has worked for me.  It can be cut in half:
Prepare enough fruit to equal 10 cups.  This means pare, peel, core, de-stem, wash, and cut up fruit as needed.  Cherries just need to be washed, de-stemmed, pitted, and cut in half. 

Put the fruit in a large saucepan with about 1 cup of water; bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is cooked and very soft.  Use a masher or the side of a spoon to break up the pieces. 

Remove from heat and when cool enough, taste the mixture to see if you will need to add sugar (sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Really ripe fruit tends to have a lot of sugar).  Add sugar a little at a time until it is sweet enough for you.

Pour the mixture, in batches if necessary, into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Or go the really old-fashioned route and use your own arm muscles to mash and stir until it is smooth.

Cover baking sheets with waxed paper, parchment or strong plastic wrap (and we're talking lipped baking sheets here, with about 1/2-inch or higher walls).  Pour some the puree in each and spread it to about the depth of 1/4 inch.  If you don't want one giant piece of leather, pour the puree in small amounts like pancake batter.  Makes a nice snacking and storing size.

You can dry it in a slow oven overnight if you prefer.  I carry the pans outside to the picnic table (which has been moved into the middle of the yard, away from trees and shade), carefully tent them with cheesecloth to keep off bugs and anything else that might drop from the air, and let the sun dry them.  If they still need drying at the end of the day, they can be finished in the slow oven (150° F).  When the top is dry and smooth, the leather is done.  Test by lifting an edge from the lining material.  If it peels off easily, it is done.

Before peeling, dust the tops with powdered sugar.  Slice the leather into more manageable sizes if desired.  Roll up the leather and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap.  This will last about a year in the freezer, about four months in the refrigerator, or about a month on the kitchen counter.

Or a day, if there are lots of kids around.