Feasts and Festivals: St. Bartholomew's Day

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

John Everett Millais-
A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge  (via Wikipedia)

St. Bartholomew was born in the 1st century in Palestine and became the patron saint of butchers and tanners due to the fact that he was flayed alive. Happy thought, indeed. St. Bartholomew also became the patron-saint of bee-keepers and honey-makers.*

In 1572, the feast of St. Bartholomew became inextricably linked to the religious wars in France (and, indeed, throughout Europe). Francis Walsingham, one of Queen Elizabeth's advisors, encouraged Charles IX of France to support a Huguenot (French protestant) raid in the Spanish Netherlands in July 1572. It was a disaster and caused Charles to turn from his Huguenot admiral, Gaspard de Coligny, to Henri de Guise, founder of the Catholic League. On St. Bartholomew's Day 1572, Charles allowed the massacre of protestants gathered in Paris for the marriage of Charles's sister, Marguerite, to Henri de Navarre, a powerful protestant leader. The brutal act solidified English protestant support for Elizabeth, due to fears of what could happen to them should Mary Stuart become queen of England.** As a result of the massacre and continuing religious tensions in France throughout the early-modern period, tens of thousands of Huguenots emigrated from France, often settling in England or the English colonies in America.***

Honey Toffee Apple

In honor of St. Bartholomew's Day, I made Honey Toffee Apples, adapted from the recipe in Cattern Cakes and Lace. Here's where I'm going to give you the opportunity to learn from my experience: taste the honey you're going to use before you try this recipe. Please. Not that the taste of the toffee was unpleasant, it was just weird.  I usually buy local honey, but it doesn't usually taste like this! So, I believe that the problem I had with the recipe was my funky honey (It had a strong and savory taste when I tried it, which was, naturally after I'd made toffee...) and not the method, so I've included the recipe if you feel brave enough to attempt it!

I really love the burnished sheen of the toffee and the juxtaposition between the crisp crackly candy shell and the sweet-tart apple. I think next time I'll either try a different honey or use golden syrup instead. The honey toffee (leftovers from making the apples) isn't bad; I think it would do really well as a cough remedy and thus may start selling it as a patent medicine. Any takers?

Toffee apple slices

Honey Toffee Apple and Honey Toffee
Honey Toffee Apple sitting on shards of Honey Toffee
Apples ready for dipping in toffee
I used twigs from the yard (I washed them!) for dipping sticks.

Honey Toffee Apples

*Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, "St. Bartholomew's Day" in Cattern Cakes and Lace: A Calendar of Feasts (London: Dorling Kindersley, 1987), 94.
** G.R. Elton, "The Growing Conflict, 1568-85" in England Under the Tudors (London: Routledge, 1991), 301.
***G.M. Trevelyan, History of England Volume II: The Tudors and the Stuart Era (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956), 233, 265-66.

Yesterday on The Past on a Plate: "The Basics: Poached Eggs"

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