20 July 2013

20 July - St. Margaret; Tarragon Vinegar

Weather - If St. Margaret's Day be dry, God will give us a fine autumn.

Farming and Gardening – Start harvesting on St. Margaret’s Day.


“At Antioch, Saint Margaret, virgin and martyr” of which you can read more here.

                     To St. Margaret

"Hail, Saint! Whose form the pencil yet portrays,
Calling our minds to hallowed times of old,
When pastors grave, to guard their wandering fold,
From prowling Wolf that on meek virtue preys,
Gathered their flocks on holy ground to graze,
By fountains pure, where sacred waters rolled.
And when at eve the vespers bell had tolled,
Around their hopes the pen of faith did raise,
Inspire me to exhort our faltering race;
To strive with him thou, martyred virgin, trod.
Then cheer thou with thy form and tranquil face,
Christ’s sheep awaiting his directing nod,
Who whylome [formerly] held on earth the heavenly mace,
And brought them back to their appeased God."

(This sonnet was published in 1820, and it is said that the unnamed author wrote it upon viewing Raphael’s picture of Saint Margaret.)


And Poppies a sanguine mantle spread,
For the blood of the Dragon St. Margaret shed.

On St. Margaret’s day, Dragon’s Breath Chili would be appropriate.   It has 26 different ingredients, not counting the French-fry base, or the cracker-green onion-cheddar garnish, so it might be a bit much.  Make your own favorite chili, and if it is on the mild side, call it “Dragon’s-Breath-After-A-Breath-Mint Chili.”

“The Every-Day Book” (1838) dedicates Virginian Dragon’s Head (Dracocephalus Virginianum) to Saint Margaret.  Any of the Dragon’s Head family, like the one pictured here, would be a pretty addition to your Mary Garden.  In my garden, I have the “little dragon”,  Artemisia Dracunculus, aka Tarragon (don’t be fooled by the little dragon name. It is a very strong herb, and a little goes a long way).  Nearby is a patch of Daisies (Daisy being a nickname of Margaret).

Tarragon is a perennial plant, and once established grows forever (or close enough).  I use this everywhere – sprinkled on roast chicken (before it goes into the oven), on baked fish (after it comes out of the oven), in mayonnaise, and just a touch on salads.  It is so good.

One of the things I make from my herbal harvest is TARRAGON VINEGAR, used especially in the recipe for Green Goddess Dressing.  Anchovies and Tarragon!  Heavenly days!

You will need approximately 2 cups (1 pint) of tarragon leaves.  If you need to wash them, do so very gently in a basin of cool water.  Pat dry, and then air dry thoroughly.

Cut 1 clove of garlic in half.  Heat 2 to 3 cups of white wine vinegar to just below boiling.

Crush the tarragon leaves lightly between your hands to release the oils and put them in a bowl (use a bowl that you won’t need for a while).  Add the heated vinegar, the garlic, and two whole cloves.  Cover the bowl and allow it to stand for 24 hours.  Take out the garlic, put the cover back on, and let it stand for 14 days.  Yep, two weeks.

When time is up, strain the mixture until all the herbal residue is gone and the vinegar is clear.  I use paper filters, but cheesecloth also works.  Put a sprig (or several) of tarragon in the sterilized vinegar bottle and pour in the strained vinegar.  Cork it tightly.

Another recipe says to pack the leaves into a quart jar, and pour unheated vinegar over them to within 1” from the top.  Use a wooden spoon to bruise the leaves and release the oils.  Cover the opening with plastic wrap, then screw on the jar lid.  Label it if you need to; store it in a cool, dark place for 4 to 6 weeks.   Proceed as above to strain and bottle the resultant nectar.

This works with other herbs as well.


Raphael, c1518.  Saint Margaret of Antioch. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.  Swiped from Wikipedia.  I don’t know if this is the Raphael St. Margaret that inspired the poem, but I prefer it to the one in the Louvre.

Dracocephalum ruyschiana, swiped from Wikipedia.

"Death of Saint Margaret" from Pictorial Lives of the Saints by John Gilmary Shea (1889)

“Saint Margaret”, woodcut, c.1489, from The Golden Legend.

17 July 2013

17 July - King James tightens his belt; A Grande Sallet

In 1604, King James I of England found it necessary to reduce his household expenditure (which his loving subjects must have applauded) and announced today:

“We are truly informed by our Privy Council, that if some reasonable order be not taken to abate the great and daily charge of our household, which of necessity hath been much more increased since our coming to the crown, than it was in our dear sister’s time; and that to provide the same increase of provision will not only fall out more chargeable that we like of, but prove more burthensome and grievous to our loving subjects, whose quiet and welfare we greatly desire; First, therefore, to diminish our said daily charge, whereas ourself and our dear wife, the Queen’s majesty, have been every day served with thirty dishes of meat; now, hereafter, according to this book signed, our will is to be served but with twenty-four dishes every meal, unless when any of us sit abroad in state, then to be served with thirty dishes, or as many more as we may command.”

Sounds like he was making a real sacrifice.

Robert May wrote down a life-time’s experience of cooking for the Elizabethan and Jacobean nobility in his 17th-century book, The Accomplisht Cook, or, The Art and Mystery of Cookery (which you can read at Project Gutenberg).   He also gave bills of fare for every month and several ‘feast’ days, when the groaning board would be festively augmented. 

His suggested menu for Christmas Day looks like what the King was reducing, even though there are only twenty-one dishes per course:

     1st Course
A collar of brawn
Stewed Broth of Mutton marrow bones
A grand Sallet
A Pottage of caponets
A breast of veal in stoffado
A boil’d Partridge
A chine of beef, or surloin roast
Minced Pies
A Jegote of mutton with anchove sauce
A made dish of sweet-bread
A swan roast
A pasty of venison
A kid with a pudding in his belly
A steak pie
A haunch of venison roasted
A turkey roast and stuck with cloves
A made dish of chickens in puff paste
Two bran geese roasted, one larded
Two large capons, one larded
A Custard

     2nd Course
Oranges and lemons
A young lamb or kid
Two couple of rabbits, two larded
A pig souc’t with tongues
Three ducks, one larded
Three pheasants, one larded
A Swan Pye
Three brace of partridge, three larded.
Made dish in puff paste
Bolonia sausages, and anchoves, mushrooms, and Cavieate [caviare?], and pickled oysters in a dish
Six teels, [teals] three larded
A Gammon of Westphalia Bacon
Ten plovers, five larded
A quince pye, or warden pie
Six woodcocks, three larded
A standing Tart in puff-paste, preserved fruits, Pippins, etc.
A dish of Larks
Six dried neat’s tongues
Powdered geese

For days in Lent and fast-days throughout the year (there were several besides Fridays), the menu dropped down to sixteen dishes per course with no meat in sight.  Truly penitential!

Below is his recommended (and much lighter) bill of fare for July:

           1st Course
Pottage of Capon
Boil’d Pigeons
A hash of Caponets
A Grand Sallet
A Fawn
A Custard

          2nd Course
Pease, or French Beans
Four Gulls, two larded
Eight Pewits, four larded
A quodling [green cooking apple] Tart green
Portugal eggs, two sorts
Buttered Brawn
Selsey Cockles broil’d

On hot July days, a GRAND SALLET would be easy, satisfying, and cool:

“Take a cold roast capon and cut it into thin slices square and small, (or any other roast meat as chicken, mutton, veal, or neat’s tongue) mingle with it a little minced taragon and an onion, then mince lettice as small as the capon, mingle all together, and lay it in the middle of a clean scoured dish. Then lay capers by themselves, olives by themselves, samphire by itself, broom buds, pickled mushrooms, pickled oysters, lemon, orange, raisins, almonds, blue-figs, Virginia Potato, caperons, crucifix pease, and the like, more or less, as occasion serves, lay them by themselves in the dish round the meat in partitions. Then garnish the dish sides with quarters of oranges, or lemons, or in slices, oyl and vinegar beaten together, and poured on it over all.  On fish days, a roast, broil'd, or boil'd pike boned, and being cold, slice it as abovesaid.”

[Sounds like a Salade Niçoise, or a classic Chef’s Salad.] 

To modernize May’s recipe, cut up roast chicken into small pieces, and mix with minced onion and tarragon (how much depends on your taste or the amount of chicken you are using, but a little tarragon goes a long way).  Tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces and mix together with the chicken.  Pile that in the middle of your salad dish.  Around it put various salad fixings: pickled capers, pickled mushrooms, olives of whatever kinds suit your fancy, small potatoes (cooked and chilled), peas and/or green beans (also chilled, marinated if desired), artichoke hearts, radishes, sliced cucumbers, tomato wedges, red-onion rings, etc.  If you want to be really Jacobean, do as May says and add clusters of raisins, almonds, figs, and citrus fruit to the nimbus around the lettuce (oh, and oysters…).  Edge the whole dish with half-moon slices of oranges or lemons.  Mix together ‘oyl and vinegar’ (1/2 cup of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of vinegar) and beat until well-blended.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, if desired.  May says to pour it on the sallet; I prefer to have it in a separate container and let the diner calculate the amount he needs.

King James I at dinner, swiped from Wikisource
Woodcut, c. 1600, from the "Roxburghe Balades", found in Phillip Stubbes' Anatomy of Abuses in England.

15 July 2013

15 July - Saint Swithin; Rainbow Parfait

"How, if on Swithin’s Feast the Welkin lours,
And every Penthouse streams with hasty Show’rs,
Twice twenty Days shall Clouds their Fleeces drain,
And wash the Pavement with incessant Rain."
John Gay, (1716) Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London

Today we celebrate the Translation of Saint Swithin, of which you can read more here.

Well, we may get incessant Rain or very nearly, but rain brings rainbows, so while praying for just enough rain and no more, celebrate with RAINBOW PARFAIT (a cool treat for hot weather).

The original recipe calls for a little raspberry sauce at the bottom of a tall glass (a couple of spoonfuls will do) but it you don’t like raspberries, use a sauce made from blueberries, cherries, strawberries, lemons, limes or oranges.  Remember that there are several colors in the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet are the usual, although for some reason indigo is often left out.

Pour a little sauce (your choice) into the bottom of a tall glass.  On top of that, layer various fruit sherbets or ice cream to the top of the glass.  Top with a piece of fruit – a raspberry, blueberry, cherry, strawberry, or twist of lemon, lime, or orange.

And serve with a tall spoon.

09 July 2013

9 July - Anne of Cleves is free

Farming and Gardening – St. Kilian sets the reapers going [i.e., the grain harvest starts today]

Today in 1540, King Henry VIII of England annulled his marriage to Queen Anna von Kleve.  This may have been an unmitigated blessing to Anna, who had spent the previous six months being alternately praised and scorned, feted and ignored, and finally put in the terrifying position of wondering when her head would be forfeit.

Around the 23rd of June, Anna was ordered by her husband to retire to the better air of Richmond, on the grounds that there was plague in London.  Henry then proceeded to consult his Archbishop of Canterbury concerning his doubts about the validity of the marriage undertaken the previous January.  On the 6th of July, six months to the day after the wedding, the King’s doubts were presented to Parliament, which dutifully wagged its tail and petitioned their gracious King to allow the convocation of the clergy to investigate the marriage’s legality.  He was graciously pleased to grant their request “for he had no other object in view but the glory of God, the welfare of the realm, and the triumph of the truth” [and Katherine Howard].  A deputation was sent to Anna in Richmond the same day to express the same doubts and to find out if she would let the English clergy decide the question.  Believing that she was not only helpless but in danger, Anna agreed.  Convocation dutifully wagged its tail and after three days of investigation pronounced the marriage to be null and void on 9 June. 

On 10 June, Cranmer reported this to the House of Lords, and the King’s Commissioners (Suffolk (Lord President of the Council), Southampton (Lord Privy Seal), and Wriothesley, (the King’s Secretary) went to Richmond to convey the news to Anna.  She, understanding little English, but fully aware of the fates of her predecessors, fainted in terror, and it was some time before the commissioners could make her understand that the king proposed to adopt her as his sister, giving her precedence of every lady in the court, except his daughters and his future consort, and endowing her with estates worth £3000 a year and the household of a royal princess.  When she was finally convinced that they were not here to escort her to the Tower, she resigned her position and her husband with an alacrity just short of insulting.  On the following day, she sent a letter to Henry, in which she acquiesced to the decision of Parliament and subscribed herself, “Your majesty’s most humble sister and servant, Anna, of Cleves.” [Of course, the shadow of the Tower might have influenced the quick acquiescence.  Subsequent letters to her family warned them nicely that any attempts on their part to upset the status quo would most likely be visited on her head.]

On July 13th, a mere eight days from the start of this disgraceful business, a bill to invalidate the marriage passed unanimously.  Again she was visited by the commissioners, who brought her a down payment of £500; in return she sent her wedding ring with its inscription “God Send Me Well to Keep” back to Henry.  Her household was broken up on 17 July, those who had sworn to serve her as Queen were dismissed, and a new set of servants chosen by Henry arrived.  Prior to this she had again written to her quondam husband, thanking him for his goodness to her:
“Most excellent and noble prince, and my most benign and good brother, I do most humbly thank you for your great goodness, favor and liberality, which as well by your majesty’s own letters, as by the report and declaration of your councilors, the lord great master, the lord privy seal, and your grace’s secretary, I perceive it hath pleased you to determine towards me.  Whereunto I have no more to answer, but that I shall ever remain your majesty’s most humble sister and servant.”

Henry wrote his own version to his ambassadors, making the whole thing sound simple and reasonable: “As We could no longer entertain her as our Queen, We could nevertheless, for the honour of her house and parentage, and in respect of her truth and conformable behavior, entertain her in our Realm as our sister, and endow her with such a state of honor, as all her friends and allies should have just cause to be contented, pleased and satisfied…. And so she dismissed from her, in a very quiet, genteel and honorable fashion, such as had waited and attended upon her in the state of a Queen, and remained then as in her own house, by our assignment, still at Richmond, where she yet continues, accompanied with her officers and servants, agreeably to her present state… with a good cheer and manner, devising daily the politic order of the state she now has and enjoys….”

Anna was given the palace at Richmond and a house in Chelsea, along with several other properties, many from the estate of the lately executed Earl of Essex, formerly Thomas Cromwell, the architect of her marriage.  All this was given to her on the condition that she not leave the country, and in spite of the constant watchfulness where Henry was concerned, she accepted, was naturalized an English subject, and settled down to enjoy life.  Henry’s daughters Mary and Elizabeth visited her; so also did Henry, now married to Katherine Howard, and the royal pair often invited her to Hampton Court. 

This led to one of those delightful scandals that no novelist could ever use and few people realize: at the same time that rumors of Queen Katherine’s behavior reached the king, rumors also reached him that Lady Anne had given birth to a ‘fair son’ whose father was purported to be Henry himself.  Henry was no end alarmed by this, and for two weeks two commissions sifted the evidence about two wives (one of them an ex, and styled ‘sister’).  The rumor seems to have started when Anna took to her bed with an undisclosed illness at the time of the queen’s downfall.  In Anna’s case, the commission found that it was merely scandalous gossip and committed two of the gossips to the Tower.  Katherine Howard wasn’t so fortunate.

After Katherine’s execution, Anna’s brother of Cleves seems to have broached the subject of the king’s remarriage to his sister, but the suggestion was ignored and quietly died, and I’m sure Anna breathed a sigh of relief.

The rest of her life was spent very comfortably in England.

Madame of Cleves has a more joyous countenance than ever.  She wears a 
great variety of dresses, and passes all her time in sports and recreations.”   
Marillac, Ambassador of France, Sept. 1540.

 Artwork: Anne of Cleves, c. 1540, attributed to Barthel Bruyn the Elder.  Swiped from Wikipedia.

05 July 2013

5 July - St Zoe of Rome

“At Rome, St. Zoe, martyr, wife of the blessed martyr Nicostratus.  Whilst praying at the tomb of the apostle St. Peter, during the time of Diocletian, she was seized by the persecutors, and cast into a dark dungeon; then being suspended on a tree by her neck and hair, and suffocated by a loathsome smoke, she yielded up her soul in the confession of the Lord.”

According to the Acts of Saint Sebastian, Nicostratus, a Roman magistrate, had custody of saints Mark and Marcellian in his house during the 30 days grace given to them to renounce their faith, during which time their family members and friends could visit them and try to persuade them to return to that Old Time Religion which was good enough for their fathers and good enough for their mothers and good enough for them.  Sebastian, who had converted the twins, also entered the house, and in an hour-long exhortation urged the prisoners to remain faithful, promising them a crown of glory and everlasting life.  At this point, Our Lord appeared with his angels in a golden light and commended St. Sebastian.

From a 1526 Martyology “in Englysshe after the vse of the Chirche of Salisbury”: “The .v. day of Iuly.  At Rome ye feest of ye reuerend matrone saynt Zoe, that bycause she praysed the vertue of saynt Peter was put in harde prison & after many cruell turmentes she was hanged with her owne heere & a grete stynkynge smoke made vunder her & so put to martyrdom.”

Zoe (Mrs. Nicostratus) was present during the homily and also was given the grace to see the light and the angels.  Because an illness had robbed her of her voice and her strength six years previously, she could only kneel at Sebastian’s feet and indicate her belief and her wish to be baptized by use of her own sign-language.  Sebastian made the Sign of the Cross on her mouth and said, “If I am a true servant and soldier of God, He will restore your speech to you, even as He opened the mouth of His prophet Zacharias.”

Upon which Zoe exclaimed, “Blessed art thou, and all who believe on the Lord Jesus!”  or in the longer version: “The word that thou hast said is very true, and blessed be thou and the word of thy mouth, and blessed be all they that by thee believe in Jesus Christ the son of God, for I have seen certainly seven angels before thee holding a book, in which was written all that which thou hast said, and cursed be they that believe thee not.”

[I guess after six years of silence, she felt the need to say as much as she could.]

When anyone could get a word in edgewise, Nicostratus, seeing this miraculous cure of his wife, also converted, and then said to Mark and Marcellian, “You are free to depart, and if the emperor insists on punishing me for this breach of duty, I will gladly lay down my life for your sake.”  He and Zoe and several others in the house, including sixteen prisoners, were baptized.  His martyrdom and birthday into heaven is celebrated on 7 July.

From a Martyrology “according to the reformed Calendar” in use in 1627 [not 1969]: "At Rome of S. Zoa Martyr, wife to S. Nicostratus alfo a Martyr, who paying [sic, probably ‘praying’] at S. Peters body, vnder Diocletian Emperour being apprehended by the perfecutors, and caft into a darke, and filthy pryfon; being afterward hanged on a tree by her hayre, and neacke, & a moft loathfome fmoke rayfed vnder her, in the confeffion of her fayth, gaue vp the Ghoft.”

Zoe did not have long to enjoy her restored health and voice.  While praying at the tomb of Saint Peter, she was apprehended by local law enforcement who ordered her to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods as the law required.  With her newly acquired voice she resisted the command, showing such contempt for the pagan gods that she was immediately sent to prison; unlike Mark and Marcellian, she was not given the white-collar prison of her own home.  She lay in a stinking dungeon without light and without food, hearing only the taunting voices of her inhuman jailers saying that she would be left there to starve.

Finding that she would not apostatize, the local prefect ordered her death. Those Romans being an imaginative lot, they chose to hang her by her hair over a fire of damp straw so that instead of a relatively quick death by burning, she was both slow-roasted and suffocated, after which her body was dumped in the Tiber.  As the first of that company of converts to suffer death, her example encouraged the rest, who soon followed her in gaining the heavenly crown.

In honor of Saint Zoe, I think tonight’s dinner will include Angel Hair pasta and something smoked – today being a Friday, probably smoked salmon (which is good any day of the year).  Next year, perhaps a version of Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.

Artwork: Italian devotional card, swiped from Wikipedia

04 July 2013

4 July - St. Ulrich of Augsburg; Grilled Fish Steaks

This is also the feast of the translation of the relics of Saint Martin of Tours, given the appellation “St. Martin Bullion” (very hot) as a way of differentiating it from the feast of Saint Martin in cold November.

Weather - If Bullion's Day be dry, there will be a good and early harvest.

If the deer rise up dry and lie down dry on Bullion's day, there will be a good harvest.

If it rains on Bullion's Day, it will rain for forty days.

If it rains on the fourth of July, there will be no grapes that year.

At Augsburg, in Bavaria, St. Uldaric, a bishop illustrious for extraordinary abstinence, liberality, vigilance, and the gift of miracles.

This sickly and weak scion of a noble family connected with the Emperor Otto was born in 890 and not expected to live long.  His parents sent him to study first at the monastery of Saint Gall in his native Switzerland, and then sometime in his teens to the tutelage of his uncle, the Bishop of Augsburg, for whom he served as chamberlain.  His piety and humility were already remarked upon, and his saying, “Take away the fuel, and you take away the flame” (referring to avoiding even the shadow of temptation) set him apart from his fellow clergy who were not quite so scrupulous.  When his uncle died, he returned home, but when his uncle’s successor, Bishop Hiltine died in 923, the influence of Ulrich’s family got him the preferment.

"Cook this"
As Bishop of Augsburg, he set about reforming the clergy of his See, but since his personal habits included such austerities as one small meal before the end of the day (which was shared with the poor and never included meat (which Ulrich never touched) unless strangers were present), three to four hours of sleep on a thin straw pallet, and even more frugal diet and added devotions during Lent, I’m sure they weren’t in the least grateful for his example.   Father Butler describes his episcopal day as one of prayer, devotion and Mass until about 3:00 pm, when he would visit the local hospital to comfort the sick and gave alms.  After that he would preach, teach, visit the sick and poor, and take care of pastoral business, visiting his whole diocese once a year and building churches where they were needed.

The wars against the Hungarians had left Augsburg in a deplorable state with the cathedral plundered and destroyed.  Ulrich rebuilt the cathedral in 962, dedicating it in honor of Saint Afra.  At this point, he was 72 years old and very tired, but his desire to resign the bishopric to a more energetic man and retire to the monastery where he spent his earliest years was opposed, and he continued his work among the faithful of Augsburg.  Finally, God called His servant home in 973.  Twenty years later, he was canonized by Pope John XV, the first instance of an official canonization (prior to that, saints were made by popular acclaim, which led to the odor of sanctity being spread pretty thin on some not-so-sanctified people.)

Several legends arose, including that earth from his tomb at Augsburg Cathedral was efficacious in driving away rats and mice if sprinkled in the house or on the fields.

His depiction with a fish comes from a story told in a couple different ways. In one, Saint Ulrich and Saint Conrad of Constance were walking and talking so earnestly on the eve of a fast-day (probably a Friday) that they lost track of time and forgot to eat their evening meal until after midnight.  Even though Ulrich is said never to have touched meat, the picnic dinner included something verboten on a day of fast and abstinence, but with two saints about, what else could happen but that the meat turned into fish?

Another version says that a messenger to the two saints (or just Ulrich) was allowed to take part of the meal with him as sustenance for his journey home, but arriving there on Friday, the meat entrée turned into fish.  That the courier might have been dishonest and taken the meat to discredit these holy men (“yeah, look what they eat when nobody’s looking.  Real holy they are!”) only to be discredited himself, is an added amusement.

One of the traditions of Saint Ulrich’s feast day was to bring fish to his shrine, and for this purpose, a person sat in or near the church selling fish to be used as offerings.  Of course, this sort of thing is open to dishonest practices, but whether Naogeorgus was correct in affirming that dishonesty was rampant, or whether he was just being his usual sour anti-Catholic self, is matter for conjecture.

“Wheresoever Ulrich has his place, the people there bring in,
Both Carps, and Pikes, and Mullets fat, his favor here to win.
Amid the Church there sits one, and to the altar nigh,
That sells fish, and, and so good cheap, that every man may buy:
Nor anything he loses here, bestowing thus his pain,
For when it has been offered once, ‘tis brought him all again,
That twice or thrice he sells the same: ungodliness such gain
Does still bring in, and plenteously the kitchen does maintain.
Whence comes this same religion new?  What kind of God is this
Same Ulrich here, that so desires, and so delights in fish?
Which never any heathen God, in offering did receive,
Nor any thing unto the Jews the Lord hereof did leave.
Much folly and iniquity, in every place they show,
But we the chiefest will declare, and write but of a few.”

So, naturally, fish should be the entrée of the day, and since it is (in the Northern Hemisphere) a good day for grilling, try GRILLED FISH STEAKS, which even Saint Ulrich would enjoy (although he would probably double his austerities for months afterward).

[For those heading into the depths of winter, grill indoors or choose your own favorite non-grilled fish recipe.]

You want a large, firm-fleshed fish for this, like salmon, tuna, halibut, or swordfish.

Cut steaks 1” to 1½” thick, (one steak for each person).  Melt butter – how much depends on how many steaks you have, but one tablespoon of butter per steak is a good start.

Dip steaks in melted butter – or brush both sides with same – and arrange in a long-handled, hinged grill basket.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Make the basting sauce by melting ½ cup of butter in a saucepan, then adding ¼ cup of lemon juice and 1½ tablespoons of minced parsley.

Grill about 4” to 6” from the coals for 5 to 7 minutes per side, or until the interior center has lost its translucency (use a knife to test the center).  Don’t overcook.  While grilling, baste often with the lemon-butter sauce.

When done, serve with the remaining sauce.

Well, yes, you may have to join Saint Ulrich and double your diet austerities for a while, but the pleasure of grilled fish is worth it.
Artwork:  Leonhard Beck, “Saint Ulrich of Augsburg”, circa 1510, Veste Coburg Castle.  Swiped from Wikipedia.

03 July 2013

3 July - Dog Days

Dog Days begin

Weather - As the Dog Days commence, so they end.
 If it rains on the first Dog-Day, it will rain for forty days after [or for thirty days after.  Take your pick]
Dog Days bright and clear, indicate a happy year.
But when accompanied by rain, we hope for better times in vain.

[Well, it is bright, sunny, and HOT in the Smallest State, so by gum! it had better be a happy year!]

01 July 2013


“As the fifth month in the old Roman year, this was called Quintilis, or fifth.  It was the birth-month of Julius Caesar, and after his death Mark Antony named it Julius in his honor.  In the old Alban calendar it had thirty-six days.  Romulus reduced the number to thirty-one, and Numa to thirty, but Julius Caesar again made it thirty-one.  The early Saxons called it Hegmonath, it being the month in which they usually mowed and made their hay-harvest.”     William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898) p. 586.

Astronomy for July: Full Buck Moon on the 22nd.

Meteor Shower: The Delta Aquarids start in mid-July and peak around the 30th.  This year, the waning moon will not have waned enough by the end of July to make viewing easy, but EarthSky says to keep watching through early August.  It will be easier to see the meteors (and the start-up of the Perseids) as we get closer to the New Moon on August 6th.  Look south in the pre-dawn hours.

July is dedicated to The Precious Blood of Jesus

Liturgical Celebrations
Blessed Junipero Serra………   1 July
St. Elizabeth of Portugal……..  4 July (Canada), 5 July (USA), 8 July (traditional calendar)
Saint Maria Goretti …………   6 July
Translation of Saint Benedict    11 July
Saint Henry ………………..    13 July (15 July, traditional)
Saint Bonaventure .………....   14 July (traditional; 15 July new calendar)
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha ……  14 July
Our Lady of Mount Carmel…  16 July 
Saint Mary Magdalene ……..   22 July
Saint Bridget of Sweden …...    23 July
Saint James the Greater …….   25 July
Saints Joachim & Anne …….   26 July
Saint Martha ………………     29 July
Saint Ignatius of Loyola ……   31 July
Novenas for July
Saint Maria Goretti …………. Continues from 27 June
Holy Face of Jesus …………. begins 3 July (St. Veronica)
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha …….begins 5 July (in USA)
Our Lady of Mount Carmel … begins 7 July
Saint Vincent De Paul ……… begins 10 July (traditional calendar)
Saint Anne ………………….. begins 17 July, also here
Saint Martha ………………... begins 20 July, also here and here
Saint Peter Julian Eymard ….. begins 24 July
Transfiguration ……………... begins 28 July
Saint Dominic ………………. begins 30 July
Saint John Marie Vianney …... begins 30 July (traditional; 26 July in the new calendar)

Weather for July
According to the Twelve Days of Christmas: Mostly cloudy and cool.
According to the first twelve days of January: Mostly sunny and warm.
According to the Ember Days: Mostly cloudy, warm, and humid.

Weather Lore:
As July is, so will be next January
[does this refer to extreme weather? If it is really hot in July it will be correspondingly cold in January? Because, trust me, while I may want July weather in January, it doesn't happen.]

Never trust a July sky. [Indeed!  It might look beautifully clear in one direction, but turn around and notice those massing cloudbanks]

It never rains at night in July.

Rain in the third hour of a July afternoon is the heaviest of the year.

The first Friday in July is always wet.

A shower of rain in July is worth a plough of oxen.

When July alternates between rain and sunshine, the harvest will be abundant.

July thunder indicates that the wheat and barley will suffer harm [especially if accompanied by heavy winds and hail]
On the other hand
Thunder in July signifieth the same year shall be good corn, and loss of beasts.

If there is a tempest in July, the corn will be blighted with mildew.

7/1 - If it rains between the first and the fourth of July, it will rain for forty days.
        If the first of July be rainy weather, it will rain more or less for four weeks together.

        If it rains on July 1st, it will rain seventeen days in the month.

        If it rains on July 1st, there will be no grapes that year.

7/2 - If it rains on St. Mary's Day, it will rain, off and on, for four weeks.

        If it rains on St. Mary's Day, it will last until St. Mary Magdalene (July 22)

        If it rains on the feast of Saint Processus and Martinian, there will be great rain storms and hail.

        If it rains on the feast of Saint Processus and Martinian, it suffocates the corn.

7/3 - As the Dog Days commence, so they end.

        If it rains on the first Dog-Day, it will rain for forty days after [or for thirty days after.  Take your pick]

         Dog Days bright and clear, indicate a happy year.
        But when accompanied by rain, we hope for better times in vain.

7/4 - If Bullion's Day be dry, there will be a good and early harvest.

        If the deer rise up dry and lie down dry on Bullion's day, there will be a good harvest.

        If it rains on Bullion's Day, it will rain for forty days.

        If it rains on the fourth of July, there will be no grapes that year.

7/6 - The weather on St. Godelieve's day foretells the weather of the next six weeks.

         If it rains on St. Godelieve, it will rain for forty days.

         If it rains on St. Godelieve, the Lord is blessing the vegetable garden.

7/7 - Rain today means rain for the next four weeks.

7/10 - If it rains on July 10th, it will rain for seven weeks.

          As the weather is on the Feast of the Seven Brothers, so will it be for seven weeks.

7/11 – If it rains on St. Benedict’s day, it will rain for forty days.

7/15 - Saint Swithin's Day, if thou dost rain, for forty days it will remain
           Saint Swithin's Day, if thou be fair, for forty days will rain no more.

          If on St. Swithin's day it proves fair, a temperate winter will follow; but if it is rainy, stormy, or windy, then the contrary.

         If it rains today, Saint Swithin is christening the apples, and the early sorts can be picked.

7/20 - If St. Margaret's Day be dry, God will give us a fine autumn.

7/21 - If it rains on the 21st, we will have fair weather following.

7/21 – Mary Magdalene weeps for her Lord
           That is why it rains these days.

7/25 - As the weather is on Saint James' Day, so it will be on Christmas Day.

          If St. James' day is clear, then Christmas will be cold and frosty [that's a pretty good bet, either way].

          On St. James' day, the weather before noon foretells the winter before Christmas, and the weather after noon foretells the winter after Christmas.  If the sun shines, there will be cold weather; if it rains, there will be warm and moist weather; if it is between the two, it will be neither too warm nor too cold.

7/26 - If it rains on St. Ann's Day, it will rain for a month and a week [however, some people call the rain on this day "Saint Ann's Dower" and consider it a good thing].

          If on St. Anne’s day, the ants are building up their sand-hills, it is a sign of coming severe winter.

7/27 – If it rains on the day of the Seven Sleepers, it will rain for seven weeks.

            A wet Sleeper’s day is not good for barn or barrel.


Farming and Gardening:

July, God send thee calm and fair
That happy harvest we may see.

Cut thistles in July,
Then they will die.

Against St. Swithin's hasty Showers,  (July 15)
The Lily white reigns queen of the Flowers;
And Poppies a sanguine mantle spread,
For the blood of the Dragon St. Margaret shed. (July 20)
Then, under the wanton Rose, again,
That blushes for penitent Magdalen. (July 22)

7/9 - St. Kilian sets the reapers going (July 9)

7/20 – Start harvesting on St. Margaret’s Day (July 20).

7/22 – Roses begin to fade on Magdalene's day (July 22).

          On Magdalene’s day, the nuts are plentiful,

7/25 – If you plant turnips on the 25th of July
           You will have turnips, wet or dry [i.e., no matter what the weather]

7/26 – On St. Anne’s day, the July grapes are ripe.

Sow your cabbage seeds on the first Wednesday after the 29th of July.

Cassell’s Illustrated almanac 1871 for July:
Flowers.Carnations and picotees should be layered when they have done flowering. Hydrangeas may be propagated freely by cuttings or layers. As soon as pergoniums have flowered they should be cut down; and if plants in pots have done blooming, they should be transferred to the ground, where, after a short time, they will again bloom freely.
Vegetables.— Plant out your cabbages and other plants; and transplant cauliflowers in moist situations. Stake your scarlet runners, and sow your last crop of kidney beans in the first few days of the month. Plant celery in shallow trenches, and keep it earthed up as it advances in growth. Remove weakly shoots, etc, from cucumbers, and keep them well watered.
Fruit.— Cherries and plums may now be budded in the same manner as roses (see operations for last month). Select some of the strongest runners for making new plantations of strawberries, which, if put in now in showery weather, or kept well watered, will be strong plants by the winter. Keep back the summer growths of all fruit trees, except those portions which are suitable for training.

My 1817 Almanac advised its readers to "Sow Turnips and Onions to stand the Winter; as also Carrots, Coleworts, and Cauliflowers.  Keep your Garden clean from Weeds, and do not neglect to weed frequently your new-planted Quicks*.  Gather such Seeds as are ripe, as also Flowers; dry them in the Shade, then in the Sun."
   "Plant out Celery, Cabbages, and Broccoli in cloudy Weather.  Earth up Peas and Beans."
Health for July:
"Forbear superfluous Drinking.  Use Cold Herbs.  Shun boiled, salt and strong Meats, and abstain from Physic."

*Quicks: Quickset, a living plant set to grow, especially for a hedge.  Specifically, hawthorn planted to form a hedge.

July. Limbourg frères. Grandes Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry, Fifteenth century.
The calendar pages of the Grandes Heures carried more religious symbolism than that of the more famous Très Riches Heures.  Each month was dedicated to a part of the Apostles Creed, with the relevant prophecy from the Old Testament and scripture from the New Testament.  July is dedicated to the article of the Creed which says “…from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead…” Here we see (left to right) Saint Paul instructing the Colossians (although the scripture “…Who shall judge the living and the dead…” comes from II Timothy 4:1); Our Lady stands above the battlements of the New Jerusalem, holding a banner with a depiction of Our Lord’s Ascension [once again, the artists are behind by a month, and will be for the rest of the year]; the sun is now at its apex in the arc of heaven; and Leo, the Lion, astrological symbol of July, stands in a rocky landscape near a waterfall

Jan van Eyck, 1432.  Detail, “Adoration of the Lamb”, from the Ghent Altarpiece.

July. Limbourg frères. Grandes Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry, Fifteenth century.
Depicted at the bottom of the calendar pages in the Grandes Heures is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament by the articles of the Apostles Creed.  In each, a prophet (cloaked to show the obscurity of prophecy) takes a stone out of the building representing the Old Law and offers it to an apostle, who, by raising the cloak ‘uncovers’ the prophecy with an article of faith.  The Prophet Sophonius holds a banderole quoting from Malachi: “…And I will come to you in judgment and will be a speedy witness…” (Malachi 3:5), while the brick he pulls from the edifice has caused both towers to crumble and the superstructures to cave in; meanwhile St. Philip the Apostle presents the relevant part of the Apostle’s Creed, “…from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead …”

July – Haymaking. Engraving based on an 11th century manuscript. William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898) p. 586