In Italy, the feast of St. Joseph is in March – SAT MARCH 19 – and is usually celebrated with a huge feast of food set upon a special altar around the world but especially in Italy. So why celebrate St. Joseph in this way?
There’s a legend surrounding this feast day. There was a famine in Sicily hundreds of years ago. The people prayed to St. Joseph to help, and he ended the famine, and, in thanksgiving, they held a special feast with a special altar honoring him. Today they still celebrate, and the table is overflowing with an abundance of food.
Then in the villages, different people portray the holy family and the 12 apostles, as well as some angels so its quite a celebration. The table design is unusual. There are steps leading up to the table that represent the ascent from earth to heaven. On the top step you’ll see a statue of St. Joseph or a picture of the Holy Family. The table is covered with white linens and vigil lights are placed upon it.
The lights are green, brown and deep yellow, and they represent St. Joseph’s clothes.
Foods that represent the harvest are included, and so are Fava beans. Fava beans, or “lucky beans” are particularly associated with St. Joseph because they sustained the Sicilians throughout famine.The day ends with each participant taking home a goodie bag that includes a blessed fava bean. Keep your “lucky bean,” and let it remind you to pray to St. Joseph.
Pastries are abundant, too.
St. Joseph is also the patron saint of pastry cooks, among others. So I’m sharing a nice recipe for zeppoles which are a yummy Italian fried pastry. (accent on the first syllable!)
Also known as fritters, these are deep fried in oil and quick to make since you use instant or rapid-rise yeast.
This recipe is slightly adapted from Cooks’ Illustrated (cooks illustrated.com) and I added vanilla and almond flavoring, since almonds represent St. Joseph. You can add only vanilla if you like. Recipe is detailed for success!
Makes 15 to 18 zeppoles
1 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (almond is optional)
1cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
Confectioners sugar for dusting
If you own a 4-cup liquid measuring cup, you can combine the batter in it to make it easier to tell when it has doubled in volume.
Whisk together flour, sugar, yeast, baking powder and salt in bowl.
Whisk water and flavorings into flour mixture until blended well.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled at room temperature. This takes only 15-20 minutes or so. As suggested by Cooks, I put mine in a 4 cup measure to make it easy to see when it has doubled.
Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and line rack layer of paper towels.
Heat oven to 200 degrees – this will keep the zeppoles warm as you fry all of them.
Add peanut or vegetable oil (not olive oil) to large Dutch oven until it measures about 1 1/2 inches deep and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.
Using sprayed tablespoon measure, add 6 heaping tablespoonfuls of batter to oil. (Use dinner spoon to help scrape batter from tablespoon if necessary.)
Fry until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of zeppole comes out clean, 2 to 3 minutes, flipping once halfway through frying. You may need to adjust heat as you fry zeppoles.
Using slotted spoon, transfer zeppoles to prepared wire rack.
Transfer sheet to oven to keep fried zeppoles warm until you’ve fried all the zeppoles.
Dust with confectioners sugar and serve warm.