Why Choose Organic Meat?

Stock Photography

There’s more to eating organic meat than simply making a healthier choice for your body, although this in itself is an excellent reason!

Choosing organic meat over conventionally raised meat is a better choice for the animals, the farmers, and the environment.

Here are our top reasons why choosing organic meat is the better option:

No Hormones or Antibiotics

Animals raised organically are not allowed to be fed antibiotics, the bovine growth hormone (rBGH), or other artificial drugs. Animals are also not allowed to eat genetically modified foods. Limitation of antibiotics could result in fewer antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, which can contaminate conventionally raised meat. This may also be better for the environment as antibiotic-laden run-off could be poisonous to wildlife and could make its way into the water supply.

Free Range and Grass Fed

When you see “organic”, “free range” and “grass fed” this usually indicates that the animals were raised in a more humane way, and their diet tends to be more well-rounded. The animals are not confined and spend time outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine. Not only is this good for their health, animals that eat more grass have lower fat levels and higher omega-3 levels than animals fed more grain, which is also good for you!

Environmental Sustainability

Animal agriculture produces surprisingly large amounts of air and water pollution, and causes 80 percent of the world’s annual deforestation. It also requires large amounts of water, and livestock worldwide consumes half of the world’s total grain harvest. Conventional farming certainly takes its toll on our natural resources, and this has gained more media attention in recent years with growing concerns about climate change.

On small diverse farms, things are done differently. Manure is used as natural fertiliser and organic agriculture aims to create a healthy balance of the soil including using crop rotation and other techniques to improve soil fertility, instead of controlling the environment with chemicals. This safeguards groundwater, topsoil, habitats and neighbourhood health. Industrial farms produce so much manure, on the other hand, that is poses a health risk to humans.

Synthetic pesticides and fertilisers are not used on the food or land. This is good for you, the animal, and the farmer with lower exposure to chemicals. Residues of some chemicals and many pesticides concentrate in animal fat. Eating organic animal fat reduces your exposure to these chemicals.

Organic farms also use less energy than conventional farms with careful ecological management including using natural ecological balances to solve pest problems. It’s estimated that organic farms use 70% less energy than industrial farms. Buying animal products from local farms further reduces energy by reducing the amount of kilometres the food travels to your table.

Vote With Your Dollar

When talking to people who usually buy conventionally raised meat, they often say higher prices prevent them from purchasing organic meat. It is true that organic meat fetches a higher price, but not only is each dollar an investment in your health, it’s a vote for a more sustainable future where animals are treated ethically and humanely, and the environment isn’t taken for granted.

After all, we only have one body and one planet. We need to take care of them like our lives depend on it, because they do. Choose organic!

Original article: http://www.themeat-tingplace.com.au/why-choose-organic-meat.html

How to Naturally Support Your Immune System This Winter

It’s that time of year when staying on top of colds and flus can be challenging.

Here are some easy steps you can take to naturally support your immune system.

Protective Supplements
Echinacea, Vitamin C and Zinc are helpful in protecting against colds and flus. Increasing your Vitamin C dosage is one of the easiest ways to boost immune function. Your body also needs zinc for immune support, and you can find this in quality organic grass-fed beef, chicken and lamb.

VitaminC

Garlic and Onion
Get plenty of garlic and onion onto your plate. Garlic is rich in antioxidants and selenium, and is also antibacterial and antiviral.

onion-garlic

Shiitake Mushrooms
A recent scientific study shows increased immunity in people who ate a cooked shiitake mushroom every day for four weeks. Not only was the immune system enhanced, but inflammation was also reduced. Shiitake mushrooms are native to Asia and are cultivated for their culinary and medicinal value, so perhaps try a new Asian dish this week.

shitake-mushrooms-small

Probiotics
Probiotics boost good bacteria in the gut and can help the body fight off pathogenic bacteria and trigger appropriate white cell reactions to invaders. Raw milk and raw cheese, fermented foods and kefir are good to include in the diet. There are probiotic supplements as well, which are especially important if you’ve taken antibiotics.

kefir

Chicken Soup
There is a reason chicken soup is a go-to for cold and flu season. The chicken provides cysteine and amino acids that break up congestion, while the hot soup can strengthen the movement of white blood cells and the broth is ultra hydrating.

chicken-soup

Essential Oils
Essential oils can be used topically, internally or diffused in the home to support the immune system. Many oils have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Oregano, tea tree and frankincense can support the immune system, while eucalyptus, lemon, rosemary and cypress can support the respiratory system and aid against congestion and chesty coughs.

Essential-oils-small

Reduce Sugar Intake
A few grams of sugar can destroy your white blood cells’ ability to resist infections for several hours. Sugar inhibits phagocytosis, the process by which viruses and bacteria are engulfed and then literally chewed up by white blood cells.

Sleep, Sunlight and Stress
The three “S”s – sleep, sunlight and stress – impact on your body’s ability to stay healthy. Good quality sleep assists the immune system, so make sure you’re getting enough. Sunshine is the best source of vitamin D, so make some time to get outside for 20-30 minutes every day. Stress and anxiety is considered a leading cause in decreased immunity, so perhaps try some yoga, exercise or meditation.

stress sleep sun small

 

Get Moving
A sedentary lifestyle has been proven to have negative effects on health and the immune system. Exercising for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week is recommended. Experts say that it takes a half-hour of aerobic exercise to sweep white blood cells, key immune system components that are stuck on the blood vessel walls, back into circulation. But don’t think you need to sign up to that intense step class- moderate exercise is the key. If your exercise is too intense for your fitness level, it can actually suppress your immune system.

move

If all your preventative measures haven’t pulled through for you and you’ve ended up with the dreaded flu, this may be worth a try:

Black Elderberry Extract
Black elderberry extract has been clinically proven to help get over the flu within a couple of days. It is inexpensive and has no side effects, so it’s a great remedy to make at home. Antioxidants in elderberry called flavonoids stimulate the immune system. Other compounds in elderberry, called anthocyanins, have an anti-inflammatory effect which eases aches, pains and fever associated with the flu.

black elderberry

We’d love to see you in store for some fresh seasonal veggies and an organic chicken for your home made soup!

We also have everything you need to know about making your own chicken broth here.
Sources:

http://www.foodmatters.com/article/10-simple-steps-to-survive-the-winter-and-stay-healthy
http://www.foodmatters.com/article/10-natural-immunity-essentials
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150416112826.htm
http://allinsacredwomb.com/2016/02/07/doterra-essential-oils/
http://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/habits-hurt-your-immune-system
http://www.naturalnews.com/026354_flu_Tamiflu_elderberry.html

Food Sensitivities and the Elimination Diet

gut-issues

The foods we eat will either feed digestive problems or feed a healthy gut, says Dr. William Cole, a functional medicine practitioner. Millions of people eating a standard Western diet suffer terribly from stomach pain, bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, GERD, constipation, diarrhoea and IBS.

An elimination diet can assist in identifying which foods are causing digestive issues by removing the most common inflammatory “trigger” foods for a period of time, then reintroducing them one by one to monitor the body’s response.

As well as healing the gut, elimination diets can also help people overcome other issues such as fatigue, cravings, sleep disturbances, headaches, mood swings, difficulty losing weight, thyroid issues, hormone imbalances and skin problems.

Although it’s called an elimination “diet”, it’s not about restricting calories, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

The aim of the diet is to fuel the body with nutritious foods that aren’t likely to cause digestive issues so the gut has time to heal. The body has a “break” for around eight weeks, then potentially inflammatory foods are reintroduced one by one to see which foods your body has no problem handling and which ones you have an intolerance to.

Here are the most common food culprits that could be hurting your digestive health:

1. Grains

Grains (both gluten-free and those containing gluten) may be harmful, causing inflammation and hindering nutrient absorption in the body.

2. Alcohol

Alcohol can be a trigger for leaky gut syndrome and gut inflammation.

3. Legumes

All beans, lentils, peanuts, edamame and soy products can irritate the digestive system.

4. Dairy

Many people with gut issues can be more sensitive to casein, the main milk protein, however fermented dairy such as grass-fed kefir and yogurt is usually better tolerated and also offers beneficial bacteria for the micro biome.

5. Sugar

Sugar can encourage the growth of bad bacteria in the gut. An imbalance of bacteria can lead to negative effects on your body’s metabolism and immune responses, and can cause inflammation leading to an autoimmune-inflammatory response.

6. Nuts and Seeds

The roughage of nuts and seeds can irritate some people’s systems. Many store-bought nuts are also coated in inflammatory industrial seed oils such as soybean and canola oil.

7. Fermentable Sugars (FODMAPs)

Short-chain sugars found in some vegetables, fruits, dairy, grains and nuts are not fully digested in the gut and can be excessively fermented by your gut bacteria, leading to major IBS symptoms.

How it works

An elimination diet has five basic phases:

1. The assessment phase includes keeping and analyzing a food and symptom tracker.
2. The planning phase involves preparing yourself, your household, your kitchen, and your grocery lists for what you’re about to do.
3. The avoidance phase is when you eat according to the elimination diet, and you put a lot of your preparation and planning into action.
4. The challenge phase is when you start to reintroduce foods, one at a time, into your diet to determine whether they are safe for you.
5. The change phase is when you incorporate changes to the way you will eat for the long term, so that you can keep your symptoms at bay.
What to eat on an elimination diet

While it’s easy to summarise what NOT to eat on an elimination diet, it can be tricky figuring out what you CAN eat during the eight week period.

Dr. William Cole has a few suggestions and emphasises that you can still eat tasty food on the elimination diet.

Breakfast: Organic pasture-raised pork sausage with organic kale dressed with olive oil and sea salt, and fried sweet potatoes in grass-fed ghee (clarified butter).

Lunch: Salad of organic lettuce, organic grass-fed skirt steak, sliced avocado, cucumber, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Side: Organic blueberries and raspberries.

Dinner: Wild caught scallops cooked in organic tallow, steamed rainbow carrots and organic lettuce with olive oil and vinegar.

Snack: Medjool dates wrapped in organic pasture-raised bacon.

Ready to get started?

We recommend working alongside a registered dietician for professional support and advice.

We’d love to see you in store for all your organic meat and produce.

Three DIY Beauty Products Your Mum Will Love for Mother’s Day

When was the last time you made Mum something for Mother’s Day? Maybe it was a card, some jewellery, or maybe it was just breakfast. We bet she loved it because it was made by you.

If it’s been a while and the last thing you remember making Mum was a dried pasta necklace in primary school, then surprise her with some of these gorgeous homemade beauty products (and maybe make a batch for yourself, too!).

Face Moisturiser by Kayla Domeyer

Face Moisturiser1

Try this non-greasy light facial moisturiser with no dyes, no chemical preservatives and no scents.

What you’ll need:
1 cup aloe vera gel
20 grams beeswax – you can buy this in a bar and grate it, or you can buy it in pellets – just make sure you get the wax for cosmetics, not candles.
1/4 cup almond oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
10 drop of your Mum’s favourite essential oil

Double Boiler
Blender

How to make it:
1. Melt the beeswax and coconut oil in the almond oil using a double boiler or suitable substitute.
2. Pour the melted oils into your blender and let cool. Cooling may take 1-2 hours, but it is essential to let the mixture cool before blending. For optimal results, leave the mixture until it is just slightly warm to the touch.
3. Mix the essential oil into your cup of aloe vera gel.
4. When the oil and wax mixture is at the perfect temperature, heat the aloe vera mixture for about 10 seconds in the microwave so it’s slightly warm.
5. Blend the cooled oil mixture and VERY slowly poor the aloe vera gel with essential oil into the blender as it whips. It will transform from a thick oil to a light and fluffy white lotion. Scrape the bottom of the blender several times during this process as oils and wax tend to sink to the bottom creating a watery consistency in the lotion.
5. That’s it! Package up nicely for your Mum with a handwritten label. She’ll be sure to love it.

Uplifting Shower Bombs by Sarah Lipoff

Shower bombs 1

Your Mum will use these shower bombs more frequently than the dusty bath bomb she’s been keeping for that perfect relaxing bath. They’re refreshing and invigorating, and super easy to make! Just throw one in the shower and enjoy the smells that envelope you as you get ready for the day.

What you’ll need:

1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup citric acid
1/2 cup cornstarch
30 drops orange essential oil
30 drops lavender essential oil
30 drops lemongrass essential oil

Small mixing bowl
Spray bottle filled with water
Silicone mold

How to make them:
1. Mix baking soda, citric acid and cornstarch in a small mixing bowl, breaking up any lumps.
2. Slowly add essential oils and mix. Give the mixture a spritz of water, then stir. Continue spritzing and stirring until the mixture resembles wet sand.
3. Press mixture into silicone molds and let set until dry which can take up to 8 hours. Carefully remove from molds.
4. All done! Just toss a shower bomb into the bottom of the shower, and you can even use them as bath bombs.

Zesty Eye Cream by Bele Masterman

eye cream 2

It’s all in the eyes, so Mum will be thankful you thought of hers with this gorgeous lemon eye balm.

What you’ll need:
4 teaspoons avocado oil
2 teaspoons calendula oil
2 teaspoons rosehip oil
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch or cornflour
2 teaspoons / 10g melted beeswax
1 vitamin E capsule
3 drops lemon essential oil

How to make it:
1. Using a double boiler or substitute, add all ingredients except for vitamin E and essential oil to bowl and stir gently until everything is melted.
2. Take off heat and stir in essential oil and vitamin E.
3. Pour mixture into sterile jars and allow to set and cool. Put lids on and present as a beautiful gift for Mum.

Brought to you by The Meat-ting Place

 

Fermentation for Beginners

Sauerkraut_on_Table_700px

Fermentation – Then and Now

Fermentation has been used to preserve food for thousands of years. The diets of every traditional society have included some kind of lacto-fermented food. Europeans eat lacto-fermented dairy, sauerkraut, grape leaves, herbs and root vegetables. The Alaskan Inuit ferment fish and sea mammals. The Orient is known for pickled vegetables, sauces and kimchi. Farming societies in central Africa eat porridges made from soured grains, and pickles and relishes are a part of the American food tradition.

Kimchi in Korea

You may be wondering why then, in our modern world, would we want to continue fermenting certain foods? After all, we have fresh produce available daily at the local supermarket and we have fridges and freezers to store it in. Even then, if we wanted to use preserved foods we could just buy some canned vegetables, right?

There are advantages of lacto-fermentation over other methods of food preservation, and there are health benefits of eating fermented vegetables, too.

– Lacto-fermentation can enhance the nutritive value of food as many enzymes and probiotics are created.
– Fermented foods are filled with “friendly” or “good” bacteria which are healthy for the gut.
– You may absorb more nutrients from the food as the good bacteria “pre-digests” certain food components, making it easier for the gut to assimilate.
– People who are lactose intolerant usually tolerate yogurt or kefir, because the lactose sugar in these products has been partly broken down by the bacteria.
– Making cabbage into sauerkraut or kimchi increases glucosinolate compounds believed to fight cancer.
– Introducing friendly bacteria into your digestive system may help keep illness away as the gut is the largest component of your immune system. Evidence suggests that gut health could affect inflammation, allergies and autoimmune disorders in the body as a whole.
– Most store-bought products use vinegar which offers a predictable result, but doesn’t produce lactic acid which is the most beneficial part of the lacto-fermentation process.
– Making your own ferments is much more cost-effective than buying them at the store.
– Lacto-fermentation is a simple process- much simpler than the canning process. Less energy is used in terms of gas and electricity, so it’s more sustainable.

What is Lacto-Fermentation?

Most people think about beer or wine when they hear the term fermentation. While certain yeasts are used to convert the sugars in grape juice or grains into alcohol, it is bacteria that are responsible for lacto-fermentation. The “lacto” portion of the term refers to a specific species of bacteria, namely Lactobacillus. Various strains of these bacteria are present on the surface of all plants, especially those growing close to the ground, and are also common to the gastrointestinal tracts of humans and other animal species.

Lactobacillus bacteria have the ability to convert sugars into lactic acid. The Lactobacillus strain is so named because it was first studied in milk ferments. These bacteria readily use lactose or other sugars and convert them quickly and easily to lactic acid. However, lacto-fermentation does not necessarily need to involve dairy products.

Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Beyond preservation advantages, lacto-fermentation also increases or preserves the vitamin and enzyme levels, as well as digestibility, of the fermented food.

Getting Started – A Simple Sauerkraut Recipe

Fermentation is a relatively easy process, but it can be intimidating for first-timers. Basic sauerkraut may be one of the most popular ferments, and it is such an easy recipe that it works great for beginners. Follow this simple sauerkraut recipe to get used to the process and you’ll be progressing beautifully with your ferments in no time!
INGREDIENTS:
• 1 medium head of cabbage
• 1-3 tablespoons sea salt
Instructions:
1. Chop or shred cabbage. Sprinkle with salt.
2. Knead the cabbage with clean hands, or pound with a potato masher or Cabbage Crusher about 10 minutes, until there is enough liquid to cover.
3. Stuff the cabbage into a 1 litre mason jar, pressing the cabbage underneath the liquid. If necessary, add a bit of water to completely cover cabbage.
4. Tightly close the lid.
5. Culture at room temperature (15-20°C is preferred) until desired flavour and texture are achieved. Burp daily to release excess pressure.
6. Once the sauerkraut is finished, move to cold storage. The sauerkraut’s flavour will continue to develop as it ages.
Makes approximately 1 litre.

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS:
Prior to culturing, mix 1 part shredded carrots, apple, or other vegetable to 5 parts cabbage, for a more complex flavour. Add caraway seeds, if desired.

Published by The Meat-ting Place – Queensland’s leader in fresh organic meat and produce.

 

Around The World: China

Chinese New Year Day fell on February 8 this year and is celebrated by almost 2 billion Chinese around the world. Chinese New Year is the biggest festival in China, but is also celebrated in cities across the globe.

Chinese prepare for the New Year by thoroughly cleaning their houses, symbolising the putting away of old things and bidding farewell to the old year. New Year’s Eve is a time for decorating houses with red lanterns, paintings, paper cutouts and decorations adorned with the year’s zodiac animal. This year is the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese Zodiac.

KoratChineseNewYear

New Year’s Eve also means – you guessed it – feasting! Family members travel long distances to be together for the traditional family dinner. It has also become a Chinese custom for many families to watch the New Year Gala on TV while having dinner, which carries through from 8pm to midnight and features traditional, folk and pop performances from China’s best singers, dancers and acrobats.

In major cities, and even in rural areas, fireworks and firecrackers ring in the New Year. In some areas people go to large squares or temples to ring a large bell, believed to drive out bad luck and bring good fortune.

chinese-new-year-fireworks

The fifteenth day of the New Year is the Lantern Festival. It is the traditional end of the Spring Festival celebrations. People send glowing lanterns into the sky while others let floating lanterns go on the sea, on rivers, or set them adrift on lakes.

Lanterns

Australians have a soft spot for Chinese food, so we’ve included a few popular dishes for you to try at home.

Chinese Barbecued Pork

BBQ Pork

800g pork neck
1/3 cup char siu sauce
1 tablespoon honey
Steamed jasmine rice to serve

Step 1

Cut pork in half lengthways. Cut each half lengthways into halves. Using a sharp knife, cut slits into both sides of pork in a crisscross pattern. Place char siu sauce in a shallow ceramic dish. Add pork. Turn to coat. Cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight, if time permits.

Step 2

Preheat grill on high. Place a wire rack in a roasting pan. Pour cold water into roasting pan until 2cm deep. Place pork on rack. Drizzle with half the honey. Place pan under grill 10cm from heat. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until browned. Turn pork. Drizzle with remaining honey. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until just cooked through. Stand for 15 minutes. Thinly slice (see note). Serve with rice.
Serves 4

Prawn Toasties

Prawn Toasties

350g green prawn meat
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
2 egg whites
2 spring onions, chopped
2 teaspoons light soy sauce, plus extra to serve
6 slices white bread, crusts removed
Sesame oil, to brush
Sunflower oil, to shallow-fry
Micro herbs to garnish

Step 1

Place the prawn meat, garlic, ginger, egg whites, spring onion and soy sauce in a food processor and process to a smooth paste. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then transfer to a bowl, cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Step 2

Brush one side of each bread slice with a little sesame oil, then spread that side with prawn mixture, making sure it completely covers each piece.

Step 3

Heat 1-2cm oil in a deep frypan and shallow-fry the toasts for 1-2 minutes each side until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel and slice into triangles.

Step 4

Sprinkle with micro herbs and serve with extra soy sauce for dipping.
Makes 12

Vegetable Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls

2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cups finely shredded wombok (Chinese cabbage)
1 (about 120g) carrot, peeled, finely chopped
100g green beans, topped, finely chopped
1 x 230g can water chestnuts, drained well, finely chopped
4 green shallots, ends trimmed, finely chopped
3cm-piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
65g (1 cup) bean sprouts, trimmed
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornflour
60ml (1/4 cup) water
20 sheets (20cm x 20cm) spring-roll pastry, just thawed
Rice bran oil, to deep-fry
Plum sauce, to serve

Step 1

Heat the peanut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the wombok, carrot, beans, water chestnuts, green shallot, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until just tender. Add the bean sprouts and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until just heated through. Add the oyster sauce and soy sauce and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Step 2

Combine the cornflour and water in a small bowl. Place 1 pastry sheet on a clean work surface and brush with cornflour mixture. Place 1/4 cup of the cabbage mixture diagonally across the centre, leaving a 3cm border at each end. Brush corners and sides with cornflour mixture. Fold in ends and roll up tightly to enclose filling. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining pastry, cabbage mixture and cornflour mixture.

Step 3

Add enough oil to a large saucepan to reach a depth of 5cm. Heat to 190°C over medium-high heat (when the oil is ready a cube of bread will turn golden brown in 10 seconds).

Step 4

Add 4 spring rolls to the oil and cook for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a tray lined with paper towel. Repeat, in 4 more batches, with the remaining spring rolls, reheating the oil between batches.

Step 5

Place the spring rolls on a serving platter and serve immediately with plum sauce, if desired.
Serves 4

Crispy Skinned Lemon Chicken

Crispy Skinned Lemon Chicken

1 (about 1.8kg) fresh whole chicken, cut into portions
Saxa natural salt grinder
½ cup (125ml) honey
½ cup (125ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon thick soy sauce
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1 lemon, cut into wedges
2 green shallots, cut into matchsticks
Coriander leaves, to serve
Steamed jasmine rice to serve

Step 1
Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the chicken, skin-side up, in a large roasting pan. Season well with salt. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Step 2

Meanwhile, combine the honey, lemon, soy sauce and ginger in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sauces boils and thickens. Remove from heat.

Step 3

Brush the chicken with a little of the honey sauce and bake for a further 10 minutes or until chicken caramelises slightly.

Step 4

Meanwhile, heat a medium non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the lemon wedges and cook for 2 minutes each side or until golden brown. Remove from heat.

Step 5

Place the shallots in a bowl of ice water and set aside for 5 minutes to cur. Drain well.

Step 6

Arrange the chicken on serving plates. Drizzle with remaining honey sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds, green shallots and coriander leaves. Serve with lemon wedges and steamed rice.
Serves 4

The Meat-ting Place in Everton Park, Queensland has an excellent selection of grass-fed organic meats. Click here to read more. 

Around the World: Italy

In Australia we consider Christmas well and truly over once Boxing Day rolls around, but this isn’t the case in Italy with celebrations carrying through until early January.

The Feast of the Epiphany and the tradition of La Befana are a big part of Italian Christmas celebrations and are celebrated on January 6th with a national holiday in Italy. Epiphany commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. The traditional Christmas holiday season in Italy lasts through Epiphany.

epiphany-around-world

La Befana

Italy’s traditional celebration includes the tale of a witch known as La Befana who arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5 and fills the stockings with toys and sweets for the good children and lumps of coal for the bad ones.

According to the legend, the night before the Wise Men arrived at the manger they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied that she was too busy. Then a shepherd asked her to join him but again she refused. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Wise Men and the shepherd bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died.

She got lost and never found the manger.

Now La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year on the 11th night, bringing gifts to children in hopes that she might find the Baby Jesus. Children hang their stockings on the evening of January 5 awaiting the visit of La Befana.

The origins of La Befana may actually go back farther, to the Roman’s pagan festival of Saturnalia, a one or two week festival starting just before the winter solstice. At the end of Saturnalia, Romans would go to the Temple of Juno on the Capitoline Hill to have their augers read by an old crone. Many pagan traditions were incorporated into Christmas celebrations when Christianity became main stream.

La Befana Festivals

Various celebrations are held across Italy and include festivals, parades, concerts, races, processions and living nativities. In Vatican City, following another Epiphany tradition, a procession of hundreds of people in medieval costumes walk along the wide avenue leading up to the Vatican, carrying symbolic gifts for the Pope. The Pope says a morning mass in St Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for Jesus.

Epiphany closes the holiday season (the Italian rhyme states that “L’Epifania tutte le feste porta via”: “With Epiphany all the holidays are over”) and marks the beginning of Carneval.

What to cook for Epiphany

Who doesn’t love Italian? Here are some recipes to cook at home to get you into the Italian festive spirit.

Rustic Apple Tart (Tarte aux Pommes Rustique)

Ingredients:

1-1/4 cups flour
4 tablespoons sugar, plus 2 tablespoons later
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold sweet butter, plus a bit for dotting later
1 egg yolk
ice water as needed
3 apples, cut into rough slices
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons peach jam (optional)

Instructions:

In a cold bowl combine the flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Carefully cut in the butter, making sure not to mix it in too finely.

Whisk together the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of water. Use a fork to stir them into the butter mixture. Add a little more cold water as needed to make the dough capable of forming into a ball (but barely).

Wrap the ball of dough in wax paper and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour.

At the end of the hour, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Pat the dough into a circle about 25cm in diameter (the rougher looking the better; remember; we’re being “rustique” here) on a nonstick cookie pan with edges that come up at the sides (so nothing can spill into your oven).

Toss the apple pieces into the cinnamon and remaining sugar. Arrange the tossed apple pieces on your crust. If desired, heat the jam and drizzle it over the apples. Dot with butter.

Bake until the crust browns nicely (it’s best a little crispy), about 20 to 30 minutes.
Serves 6 to 8.

Befanini

epiphany-5-traditional-italian-sweets-recipes-for-la-befana-befanini

Ingredients
3 cups of flour type 00
1-1/2 cups of sugar
200g of softened butter
1/2 cup of milk
3 eggs plus 1 for the egg wash
Zest of one orange
Zest of half lemon
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoon of Sambuca or Rum
multicoloured sprinkles

Preparation
In the bowl of a standing mixer combine the flour and the sugar. Then add the softened butter and process slowly. Add the eggs and continue processing. Now add the orange zest, the lemon zest, the baking powder, the salt and the liqueur. Work the dough for 10 minutes on medium speed adding the milk as necessary to make a smooth dough. Process the dough until it detaches from the side of the food processor bowl. Transfer the dough on a floured pastry board and kneed it fast to form a ball.

Wrap the dough in wrapping film and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Add enough flour to the working surface and around your rolling pin and start rolling out the dough. Your sheet of dough should not be less than 6mm thick. Use cookie cutters in different shapes to cut your cookies. Place them on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Make an egg wash with one egg and a little bit of milk. Brush the cookies with the egg wash and add sprinkles. Bake the biscotti for 12-14 minutes at 180 degrees. The cookies should be a nice gold colour when done. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

Pinza Veneta

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Ingredients
300g meal flour
200g flour
200g butter
200g sugar
50g sultanas
aniseed liqueur
10 dried figs
1 apple (cut into pieces)
1 tablespoon aniseed
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preparation
Put the meal and white flours in a frying pan with sugar, cooking and adding hot water. Keep on mixing and after 20 minutes add butter, sultanas, liqueur, aniseeds, dry figs and apples. Cook for 20 minutes more stirring the mixture. Then pour in a cake tin lined with wet greaseproof paper and cook in the preheated oven at 170° until brown on the top.