Butter :: Recipe

Bread and Butter.

Even in the home of a baker, where the bread was good enough to eat without any embellishments, we always had butter on the counter, soft, ready for spreading.

My dad would come home from the bakery with an armload of fresh baguettes, or a beautiful sourdough jaco, or maybe on occasion some kaiser rolls. The bread always went straight to the kitchen counter that separated the breakfast nook from the cooking area. We didn’t use bread knives, just tore off pieces as my mom was making spaghetti, or a turkey soup was slowly boiling. Every evening before dinner this happened, for as long as I can remember, and the bread was never eaten without butter. Spread thinly, sometimes not so thinly, I once questioned my dad about butter, knowing the bread could stand alone. He just laughed. It enhances all of it, Janie. The flavors, the wheat and the salt and the starter… What would bread be without butter?

Knowing what I know now, not only is bread better with butter from a taste standpoint, but mixing those carbs and fats are better for us as well. Butter is good for you! Haven’t you heard?!!!

Anyway, on this eve of Saint Brigid’s feast, we are making up a little bit of butter just for the fun of it. We already have some in the fridge, but in memory of a beloved and faithful dairymaid, we are butter churners tonight.

Here’s how you do it :

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Find a cute small jar with a lid.

Add the heavy cream–not too full–only half–so that there’s room for shaking. Just cream, nothing else.

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Shake–with or without music–with or without cousins… (My drama girl is always up for shaking…)

20 minutes (or less) of shaking. Shake, shake, shake! (At some point you will feel like nothing in there is moving, that’s because you  have now made whipped cream! Just keep shaking, trade off between little ones and grown ups so it’s not a chore, and some bit of time after this you will hear that the butter has separated. You can shake some after this, we do, but I’m not sure it’s really necessary…)

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And you have butter, and a wee bit of buttermilk, too. Strain off the buttermilk to use, or drink, (do NOT pour it down the drain; it’s too delicious) and enjoy  the wonderful fruits of your shaking!

Here’s an excerpt from The Life of Saint Brigid--Brigid, a woman of Christ whom I long to emulate!

Brigid saw Christ in everyone she met, and had a particular love for those less fortunate than herself.

When the poor came knocking at the kitchen doors, Brigid handed out loaves of bread, jars of butter and jugs of milk.

With her heart and hands opened wide, she even gave away the food meant for the chieftain himself!

Cheers, dear friends. Enjoy a moment of dairy-maiding!

Pray for us, Holy Brigid

Illustration from "The Life of Saint Brigid"

Illustration from “The Life of Saint Brigid”

In years past I have spent the week before the feast of Saint Brigid preparing for a big party that we have with family and friends here at our home. We typically invite different people every year, and do lots of Irish-like things: eating beef stew, drinking ale, mixing up batches of soda bread, weaving crosses and the like. It is such fun.

This year, we are simply asking for prayer. Our house has been overtaken by the flu–with children coughing and waylaid by fevers, with mamas making chicken soup, and grandmas calling every few minutes to see if we need anything from the store.

By the eve of the feast, Thursday, we may just be well enough to weave a cross. I’m hopeful! And if we are feeling especially energetic, I’m wanting to make homemade butter, just for the fun of it. Saint Brigid was a dairymaid and I think bread and butter sounds pretty good right about now.

And on Friday, February first, we have our house blessing scheduled, but the party will be a small one, I’m afraid. Just us and the priest and his wife, singing our hearts out, asking Saint John the Baptist and Saint Brigid to team up on that day, follow us about our home as the holy water finds its way north-south-east-west, and humbly intercede for us.

This is a good reminder for me–to release the hold of past expectations and simply follow the needs of the moment. I have decided not to be disappointed by the turn of events, but to allow space for the prayer, and the healing, and maybe, just maybe, a little butter will be made.

Enjoy the feast, everyone!

February First Giving

The Eve of Saint Brigid was all about it being a Tuesday. Phew! How many times have we missed out on corned beef and cabbage because Saint Patrick’s Day lands during Lent? Well, we solved that problem. Our yearly dose of the Irish came on January 31st, and what fun! Irish ale, and eating corned beef and cabbage, weaving crosses, reading and telling stories, and celebrating with Irish (-ish) friends. Very fun. Truly fun. I think my husband even stirred up a batch of Irish coffees while I built a marble track with the munchkins.

But on the actual feast day, on this Wednesday, February 1st, we tossed all the festivities aside and made it a day of giving.

Well, first we had prayers, and a bit of school.

Then, while the little one did some chores, some cleaning, some getting dressed and all, I got to mixing. Look at this be-uuuuu-tiful dough.

And from the risen dough came the shaped loaves

and while the dough slowly rose

I wove two more small crosses. Just little ones, for little hands.

We baked the bread, pulled the five packages of gummy bears from the drawer (we bought them the other day at Vices and Spices), and took to the streets.

Two loaves of bread, five bags of gummy bears and two crosses–all for giving.

Here’s the rundown.

  • My husband gave a cross and gummy bears to our goddaughter at church this evening
  • Andrew gave a loaf of bread to RJ
  • Mad gave gummy bears to Ashley
  • I gave gummy bears to Austin on our ride home
  • John Ronan and I gave gummy bears and a cross to the Keller boys while in the school parking lot
  • And John Ronan gave one loaf of bread to a homeless woman and her baby at the library. That was the hardest. That one.

And that’s probably where Saint Brigid would have stayed. There, at the library, in the corner where the woman and her baby were ensconced. We didn’t stay, we couldn’t–we had gads of kids to pack into our car for the drive home–but I’m hoping that our prayer for her, that the bread with the prayers kneaded in, added something better to her day.

May holy Brigid pray for us.

Blessed feast, Everyone!

 

2012–Preparing for the Feast of Saint Brigid

My husband and I are planning a menu for our favorite Irish feast of the year. Thankfully, the eve of Saint Brigid’s feast day, when we do all our cross weaving, falls on a Tuesday! Corned beef and cabbage, (and Irish soda bread) here we come…

Here’s the order of events:

Today! Order the wheat for weaving. For the last several years I’ve been so pleased with the wheat from Dale Scott. I order the starter kits (just $22 including shipping) and that’s all I need to make several crosses. You can also order one of her handmade Saint Brigid crosses. They are lovely…

Soon. Clean the house–especially take down the Christmas cards that line the back wall. (And, put away all the ornaments that are all over the coffee table in the living room. And… finish writing the last of the Christmas cards!) Oh, my.

January 31st. Have a party! Wheat weaving, Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and a wee bit of Irish ale. There are great instructions on how to weave a Saint Brigid cross on this old post of mine.

February 1st. Bake bread and take it out into the community, Saint Brigid style. I’m looking forward to that day…

Note: If you’d like a signed copy of The Life of Saint Brigid to read to your munchkins or to send to some other child, just leave a comment or email me at jane@janegmeyer.com and I can sign and send you one. They are $15 including shipping if you contact me by the 20th of January. Otherwise, you can buy one from:

Amazon

Conciliar Press

Or order it from your local bookstore…

Or… you can simply listen to the book on my website–here’s the link to my page. There’s an audio file in the little swirly thing, read by my super favorite British accent friend, and fellow author, Chrissi Hart.

Happy upcoming feast!

Saint Brigid and Her Feast

Mixed and baked two loaves of my Never-Been-to-Maine Pumpkin Bread (recipe coming later this week–you’re gonna love it!)

Gave one loaf to an old schoolmate just diagnosed with cancer 😦

Researching and writing The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare was one of the most rewarding writing experiences I’ve had yet. Not only did I enjoy getting to know fifth century Ireland, learning about the foods and habits of people of that time and about the budding days of Christianity where the people were so receptive to Christ’s love–but I absolutely came to admire this young girl named Brigid–this open-hearted daughter of a slave, who loved man and beast, rich and poor, and who always held Christ foremost in her heart.

Celebrating her feast day each year has enriched our lives and brought about some good and healthy family fun, plus a lot of introspection….So much of celebrating Saint Brigid happens on the eve of her feast day–January 31st… and yesterday being that day, I’d like to share with you some of what went on.

First, I read the story of Saint Brigid to our little one early in the day. We cuddled and he asked questions, and that set the tone for all that happened afterward. In the late afternoon, we baked, making pumpkin bread to share, and Saint Brigid oatcakes for our meal, placing a portion for her on the windowsill.

For our evening meal we ate roasted chicken (fifth century folk did a lot of roasting on feast days) and made colcannon, a traditional potato, leek, cabbage mixture. There were the Saint Brigid oatcakes, too, along with honey butter and jams. I had a few sips of ale too, which made me feel especially Irish.

And after dinner we washed up, then prepared the table for making crosses. John Ronan and I broke the seed heads off the stalks, we soaked the stalks in warm water for about an hour, then brought everyone to the table and started weaving. Morgan, our favorite neighbor friend joined us. She wanted me to make sure I mentioned how she was part of the cross weaving gang!

I was the weaving manager, giving lessons round the table. My husband and daughter are especially proficient, making better crosses than I can, but the two boys struggled. Andrew threw several wheat shafts up into the air after an attempt or two, and John Ronan, using pipe cleaners, still fumbled and didn’t quite get the gist of it. Morgan, a perfectionist at times, also spent a bit of time moaning about her non-cooperative fingers. But we didn’t give up! Aid arrived, and everyone ended up making something that resembled a cross. John Ronan was so proud of his creation that we immediately hung it over his bed. Love the way little people think with their hearts…

So on this beautiful day of the feast of Saint Brigid, I leave you with this prayer of hers that I love…

O God, bless my pantry!

Pantry which the Lord has blessed.

Mary’s Son, my friend,

come and bless my pantry!

Preparing for Saint Brigid’s Feast

Shared a loaf of rosemary bread with a homeless man who attends our church…

In the spirit Saint Brigid and her love for those in distress, I’m asking your prayers for the man I shared my last loaf of bread with, and for my hesitancy to give him more than bread. He could use a new sweater (his has gaping holes in the elbows) and a good shave, and probably a good meal in a warm home. Though giving bread to neighbors and strangers isn’t always easy–it also is a very small commitment on my part. I’m feeling prodded to move a bit deeper–and what a perfect time to do that as the feast day of Saint Brigid draws near!

The wheat is on its way and I’m beginning to look toward the eve of January 31st when our family will be weaving Saint Brigid crosses. If you’re interested in weaving a cross at home, I’ve found the wheat from Dale Scott to be extremely easy to work with. I’m not a wheat weaver by ANY stretch of the imagination, but her instructions are simple, and the wheat is clean and smooth and ready to work with… She is currently in the middle of a move from Idaho to Arizona, so shipping may be a tiny bit slower than usual, but there’s still plenty of time to order before the 31st rolls around!

Also there are many tutorials for learning to weave. Last year I posted a video, and along with that post are some written instructions that I found helpful.

Dale also weaves her own Saint Brigid crosses, and I purchased one last year; it is stunning.

If you want to know more about Saint Brigid and her wonderful life, here are some musings about her on my website, and you can also find out more about my children’s book The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare here. She’s worth getting to know.

If you’d like to weave a cross from another material than wheat–it can be done!

So, will you be weaving with me on the eve of 31st?