June 24

 

Saint of the day:
The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Nativity means Birth


Patron Saint of Baptism

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Saint John the Baptist’s Story

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).

John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life. His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His baptism, he said, was for repentance. But one would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John was not worthy even to untie his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. Jesus thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, when he was in prison he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/solemnity-of-the-nativity-of-saint-john-the-baptist/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nativity_of_Saint_John_the_Baptist

https://herbsocietyblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/24/st-johns-wort-and-midsummer-celebrations/

Prayer:

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Visit:

Ein Karem, Jerusalem

http://www.custodia.org/default.asp?id=1884

 

Tradition:

Italy (Florence)

  • Sagra di San Giovanni is the oldest historic event on Lake Como. Hundreds of tiny lamps float in the lake and there's a big fireworks display the evening. The following morning brings a boat parade with traditional boats decorated with flowers followed by folk dancing and flag throwing competitions. Events are held the weekend closest to Saint John's Day.

  • San Giovanni Feast Day is celebrated in Florence the Sunday following June 24 with a medieval tournament followed by music, drinking, and feasting. In the evening on the Arno River, there is a palio of rowboats carrying lit candles followed by fireworks.

  • Palio di San Giovanni is a 4-day event in Fabriano, in central Italy's Marche region, culminating on June 24 with a beautiful infiorata, tapestries made of flower petals. Events include traditional medieval competitions with participants dressed in period costume, flag throwing performances, and crafts and food stands. 

Sicily

The night before the birth of Saint John the Baptist is considered one full of blessings, and propitiatory and purifying rites are celebrated.  The blessing is linked to the summer solstice which marks the beginning of the new summer, but according to the legend it's necessary to make the right rites to avoid and to ward off adversities! 

 

Propitiatory bonfires are made that represent the sun and Saint John's water is prepared to collect the dew, or the dew of God, which symbolizes the moon. 

 

The water of San Giovanni or Saint John brings luck and prosperity thanks to the incredible power of the flowers and would be able to protect crops and warding off calamities. The legend says that the water of Saint John would bring luck and prosperity thanks to the incredible power of the flowers and would be able to protect crops and warding off calamities. This blessed water also possesses protective healing virtues and it brings health, luck, and love!

 

To prepare the blessed water:

Collect mixed herbs and wild flowers such as the flowers of hypericum, lavender, mugwort,  mallow flowers, and leaves of mint, rosemary, sage,   basil, thyme, cornflowers, poppies, rose petal, chamomile, brooms flowers, also leaves of Mary's wort, elderberries, amaranth, walnut, fennel and oats. ••••• Of course according to the blooms present in your territory and respecting nature take only the herbs and flowers you need and without uprooting the roots.

AFTER SUNSET Place the collected herbs and flowers into a bowl of water, say the Lord's prayer and the Hail Mary prayer and leave outside for the entire night so that the mixture can absorb the morning dew. Once the mixture of herbs has collected the dew it will have acquired the blessing from God. On the morning of June 24th, which is the celebration day of Saint John, the water of San Giovanni  is used to wash one's hands and face in a sort of propitiatory and purification ritual that will bring love, luck, and health. ENJOY!

Saint John’s Wort was carried in one's pocket and it would protect one from thunder. Smelling the leaves or drinking a mixture made from the plant would cure you of madness. In Medieval times, it was hung over doors, windows and religious icons to keep evil spirits away. 

 

 

Rome, Italy

The night before Saint John's day it is called the night of the witches!  Indeed until the end of the 19th century on the 24th June one of the main religious holidays was Saint John’s Day. Saint John is also the patron Saint of Rome! This holiday begins the night before on the night of the witches.

 

According to a LEGEND, WITCHES were summoned to the Lateran meadows by the ghosts of HERODIAS and her daughter SALOME. They were damned for causing the beheading of Saint John. They would go around the city to capture souls so it was essential to resort to prayer, rituals and all kind of rites. One tradition was blessing one's bed and the front doors. The towns people would also walk about Rome holding lanterns and torch light so when they arrived at the main square they could lit bonfires to drive away the bad forces. They prayed and ate snails for protection as well.

Some families would even bring snails from home in a a huge saucepan full of snails with sauce. According to the legend eating snails with horns or tentacles represented discord and distress was equivalent to defeating adversity. 

Tradition also states that Saint John’s dew has healing powers while according to another legend,  if you don’t not buy garlic on Saint John's Day you will be poor all year round! During the night, the Tiber baths,  were also opened to the public and the inhabitants of the city could bathe in the FOUNTAIN OF SAN GIOVANNI it was believed that during the day of his feast the Saint would give more miracles than the rest of the year!!!! The people used to turn out in droves eating, drinking,  and celebrating with their horns, trumpets, bells, tambourines, and firecrackers so as to scare and ward off the bad spirits. The feast drew to a close when the Pope arrived at San Giovanni in Laterano to celebrate mass after which he threw from the cathedral’s loggia gold and silver coins to delight the wild crowds below!!!! Today the ancient traditional feast of Saint John has lost all of its early legendary background even though recently it's been revived some events thanks to the few historical organizations!


 

According to the folklore evil spirits would appear on the summer solstice! To ward off evil spirits people would wear protective garlands of herbs and flowers. One of the most powerful of these plants was known as chase devil, today it’s called Saint John’s Wort! Because of its association with Saint John’s Day, the scientific name is Hypericum perforatum. One last summer solstice traditions hold that the ashes from a midsummer bonfire, when spread across one’s garden, will bring a beautiful harvest, ENJOY!

In Spain

Sain. John’s wort was also considered a special plant on this day because its bright yellow flowers looked like the sun, which was a significant coincidence around the longest day of the year. The flowers have five petals and long stamens that look like the rays of the sun. The stamens are topped with little golden balls of pollen giving the appearance that each flower is a sunburst. Also, it is said that the flowers are heliotropic, following the sun from east to west as it crosses the sky, which was considered a supernatural phenomenon in olden days. 

 

Saint John’s Eve is celebrated with bonfires and is marked with the gathering of the herbs of midsummer. In some Spanish villages, special bouquets called herbas de San Xoán are made up and sold for this day.

In northern Spain’s Galicia, it is the custom for women to place Saint. John’s wort and other herbs in a bowl of water after sunset on Saint John’s Eve. The bowl must be left outside all evening so that dew can collect, adding its special elements to the water.

 

According to Lithuanian custom, the dew on Midsummer Day was said to make young girls beautiful and old people look younger. On Saint John’s Day, women splash the scented infusion on their face and let it dry. It is said the infusion will stop all wrinkles. The Spanish says that it won’t cure existing wrinkles but it will prevent future ones. Who knows if it works, but the women in the north of Spain, in Galicia are amazingly beautiful!

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Also, on the night of June 23 and on day of the 24th, Saint John is celebrated as the patron saint of Porto, the second largest city in Portugal. Porto's Festa de São João is one of Europe's liveliest street festivals.

 

Recipe:

Apple Cider Risotto Cheesecake


Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 4 tablespoons melted butter


Cheesecake Filling:

  • 4 cups apple cider

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 cup arborio rice

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 16 ounces cream cheese

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Topping:

  • 3 medium apples, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • 2 tablespoons butter



Directions:

To make the crust:

  1. In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter.

  2. Press into an even layer on the bottom and about 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.


To make the risotto:

  1. In a saucepan, bring the apple cider to a simmer, then reduce the heat just to keep the cider warm.

  2. In another saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add the rice and cook for 2-3 minutes or until it starts to look translucent.  Add one cup of the warm apple cider, stirring often until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding the cider, one cup at a time, until all the liquid is absorbed.  When adding the final cup of cider, also add the teaspoon of cinnamon.  The entire process will take about 25 minutes, so be patient.  Remove the rice from the heat and allow it to cool.  The rice must be completely cool before adding it to the remaining filling ingredients.

  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  4. Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil and reduce to a simmer (this will be used in the oven when the cheesecake is baking).


To make the cheesecake filling:

  1. In  the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the sour cream and vanilla; beat until well blended.

  2. Gently stir in the cooled risotto until evenly incorporated.

  3. Pour the cheesecake filling into the graham cracker crust.

  4. Place a roasting pan or oven-safe baking dish on the lowest rack in your oven.  Pour the 4 cups of  hot water into the pan.  Place the cheesecake pan on the middle rack above the water.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.

  5. The top of the cheesecake should be just starting to brown and the center will still be a little jiggly.  Remove the cheesecake for the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 1 hour.

  6. Run a sharp knife around the inside perimeter of the springform pan to loosen the cake and then remove the side of the pan. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving.  Add the apple topping when the cake is cooled.  You can also top the cake with a fruit or caramel sauce or a simple dollop of sweetened whipped cream.


To make the topping:

  1. Place the apple slices into a bowl with the brown sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch and lemon juice.  Use your hands to gently toss the apples until they are well coated with the other ingredients.

  2. In a large skillet, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.

  3. Add the apple slices and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until the apples are just slightly tender.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Arrange the slices in concentric circles on top of the cheesecake starting from the outer edge to the center.

     

Italian Apple Crumb Cheesecake


(Makes one 9-inch cheesecake)

This is not a typical cheesecake with the fruit simply poured over the top of the cake.  In this recipe the apples are first gently cooked in a brown sugar and spice sauce to develop their flavor.  Then the apples are folded into the cheesecake mixture and poured over a graham cracker crust.  The crumb topping is added to create a  crunchy contrast to the creamy interior.  There are a number of steps involved in making this cheesecake but it makes a beautiful dessert.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 16 squares)

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted


Apple Mixture:

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar

  • 2 pounds Macintosh,or similar, apples (about 4 apples)

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice


Crumb Topping:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped


Cheesecake:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 cup heavy cream


Garnish:
Confectioners' sugar


Directions:

To make the crust:

  1. Combine the melted butter, crumbs, and sugar.

  2. Press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan.  

  3. Set aside.


To make the apple mixture:  

  1. Peel and core the apples; cut the apples into 1/2-inch dice.

  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat.

  3. Add the brown sugar, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

  4. Cook until the apples are soft but still holding their shape, 7 to 8 minutes.

  5. Transfer the apples to a colander to drain off excess liquid.

  6. Set aside to cool.


To make the crumb topping:

  1. In a small bowl, use a pastry blender to combine the topping ingredients.

  2. Use your fingers to form the mixture into crumbs.


To make the cheesecake:

  1. Using an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, and sugar until 

  2. light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and then add the cream.

  3. Continue beating until the mixture is thick and creamy.

  4. Gently stir in the cooled apple mixture by hand.

  5. Pour the cheesecake batter into the spring form pan.

  6. Spread the crumb topping over the top.

  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

  8. Allow to cool to room temperature before removing the sides of the pan.


Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Sprinkle the top with confectioners' sugar right before serving.




Wakes Cakes

The origins of Wakes Cakes dates back to the 7th century. Wakes days (and later weeks) in Britain were periods of localised celebration in honour of a patron saint of a particular church or parish. It was traditional to keep watch, or ‘wake’, in church on the eve of the dedication day, but over time the wake became an evening of feasting, often in the church-yard.

This gradually degenerated into drunkenness and rowdy celebrations, and increasingly wakes became more secular in character as the churches condemned the behaviour on its premises.

Wake Days became linked eventually with fairs, holiday days, then eventually in the 19th century to short holiday periods for workers in the factory towns of Northern England and Scotland.
 

Ingredients

  • 8oz plain flour

  • 6oz butter

  • 1 egg, well beaten

  • milk (to mix)

  • A good cupful mixed dried fruit (about 4oz)

  • 3 - 4oz white sugar
     

Directions:​

  1. Mix flour and salt, rub in butter, add sugar and dried fruit.
    You can more or less dried fruit according to taste - I opt for more.
    I usually cut down on the sugar though, to 3oz, rather than 4.
    If you have a sweet tooth, stick to 4oz.

  2. Mix to a stiff dough with beaten egg, add a little more milk if necessary

  3. Knead the dough lightly, then roll to the thickness of a coin
    (about an eighth of an inch).

  4. Cut into rounds the size of a small saucer - approx. 5" in diameter

  5. Bake in a moderate oven for 15 minutes, or until golden.

  6. Cool, then sprinkle with sugar

  7. Enjoy! Will keep for a few weeks if wrapped in foil.

     

Variations

 

You can find variations to the basic ingredients around Lancashire and Yorkshire, according to the mill town.

Other regional recipes can include:

  • ground almonds

  • caraway seeds

  • discreet amounts of spices, like nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon

  • brandy or rum soaked dried fruit

  • lemon peel

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June 24 is the Feast Day of San Giovanni (St. John the Baptist), the patron saint of Florence, and traditionally it's also the day when unripe green walnuts (noci) are gathered for making nocino, a complex, nutty, and slightly bitter dark-brown liqueur.

Walnut Dream / Plaisir Aux Noix Pastry

Plaisir Aux Noix / Walnut Dream 
Le Plaisir aux noix is a creation of Gaston Lenôtre. He was a French pastry chef known
as a possible creator of the opera cake, the founder of "Lenôtre" a culinary empire…
The original plaisir aux noix filling is based on crème Anglaise buttercream lightened
with some Italian meringue. It can also be achieved using mousseline cream.
This version is based on creme diplomate; easier to execute, lower in fat and sugar.

Serves 8 +

Walnut praliné

  • 230g walnut halves, chopped

  • 150g powdered sugar

Method: 

  1. Toss walnuts in sugar and cook to caramel; stirring constantly.

  2. Cool.

  3. In a running food processor, blend caramelized walnuts to fine coarse and save 2.7 ounces (80g) for the succes biscuit.

  4. Continue to blend the remaining mixture until it forms a paste (praliné). Set aside.


Crème Diplômate (Walnut Diplomate Custard)

  • 300ml milk

  • 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla paste or extract

  • 4 ea. yolks (80g), save egg whites for the succes biscuit

  • 2 ounces (60g) brown sugar

  • 1.5 Tbsp (20g) corn starch

  • 6 grams gelatin sheets, softened in cold water

  • 7 ounces (220g) mascarpone

  • 10 ounces (300g) walnut praliné

  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) rubby Port or walnut wine (vin de noix)

  • 2/3 cup (170g) whipped cream

Method

  1. Heat up milk and vanilla.

  2. Meanwhile, beat yolks, sugar and starch.

  3. When milk is boiling, turn the heat off – temper yolk-mixture with one-third of the hot milk.

  4. Add yolk-mixture into remaining hot milk – bring to boil and cook for 2 minutes; whisking constantly.

  5. Turn off heat, mix in the softened gelatin and mascarpone.

  6. Transfer onto baking tray lined with plastic wrap; film in contact – cool and chill completely.

  7. Beat chilled custard on high speed, add walnut praliné, port and the whipped cream. Set aside.
     

Succès Biscuit (Macaron)
Meringue

  • 4 ea. (120g) egg whites, at room temp

  • 1/2 tsp (1g) cream of tartar or a few drops of lemon juice (it stabilizes the meringue)

  • 4 ounces (120g) fine white sugar

  • 2.6 ounces (80g) almond meal


Or,

  • 1.3 ounces (40g) almond meal

  • 1.3 ounces (40g) walnut meal

  • 2.7 ounces (80g) powdered sugar

  • 2 Tbsp (30ml) milk.

  • 2.7 ounces (80g) caramelized walnut meal.
     

  • A couple tablespoons of toasted sliced almonds (toast them quickly in a frying pan).
     

Method

  1. In a food processor, blend almond meal and powdered sugar to combine and add milk.

  2. For the meringue, beat to stiff peaks: egg whites with cream of tartar and one-third of the fine white sugar –

  3. Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond-sugar mixture. Add remaining meringue and the previoulsy saved caramelized walnut meal.

  4. Turn oven on. On a baking tray lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper, pipe out two 8 -inch (20cm) diameter disk using the #808 pastry tip (one penny /16mlmØ). Make 2 extra smaller disks with remaining mixture if so.
     

Baking

  1. Bake succes biscuit at 260ºF (130ºC) for 1 hour and 10 min.

  2. Turn oven off and leave succes to dry out for 20 to 30 minutes more. It should be firm to the touch.

Assembly

  1. Place a succes biscuit (flat side down), pipe out 12 large dollops of walnut diplomate cream from the edge of the succes and fill up the center.

  2. Coat the surface of the second succes biscuit (flat side up) with a thin layer of filling and top with toasted sliced almonds.

  3. Place it on top of the cake like a sandwich and refrigerate it for 6 hours before eating (best overnight).

  4. Dust with powdered sugar or snow sugar (it wont melt).

  5. Walnut dream cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or kept frozen for up to 3 months. Bon appétit!

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