Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ember Days and Autumnal Fasting

The post that follows was written by Jennifer at Wildflowers and Marbles and submitted to Catholic Cuisine for publication. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your plans for this week's Embertide and giving readers a glimpse into your efforts to weave these days so meaningfully into your hearth and home.

The autumnal Ember days are September 24, 26, 28 - that is Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. They are days of abstinence and fasting. Specifically...

**Ember Wednesday is a day of partial abstinence and fast - one full meal which may contain meat with the two other meals of the day small and together not equaling one full meal.

**Ember Friday is a day of full abstinence and fast - one full meal with the other two meals of the day small and together not equaling one full meal. No meat offered on this day.

**Ember Saturday is a day of partial abstinence and fast again.

For more reading on Ember days check here at my blog, or check out the many very helpful sources found on Family in Feast and Feria.

My children enjoy participating in these penitential times. While I certainly do not require them to participate in a fast, I like to offer foods that allow for the entire family to offer penitential acts of fasting and abstinence while providing for the high calorie, high energy needs of the children.

In as much as I considered carefully the spiritual focus of our days during the Embertide, and the seasonal preparations to be made in and around the home, I also considered the meals to be offered. I am coming to appreciate more and more the central role that my offerings in the kitchen - the heart of the home - impact our focus and recollection for the liturgical year. Meals are a time of re-connection for the family - when we come together again after our individual efforts throughout the day. They are a source of nourishment and of connection with the day. It makes sense then to connect them to the liturgical rhythm, to connect them to the rhythm of days set for us by Holy Mother Church.

I consider the tone of the days when I consider the menu - for Embertide, the tone is penitential, but also one of thanksgiving for the harvest, one of thanksgiving for the seasonal bounties gifted us by God. I took this into consideration when planning the meals. I wanted my menu to reflect a simple sparseness that allowed the family (including the younger children) to still feel like they were included in the family fast and abstinence while still offering enough calories and heartiness for them to function. This week's menu was really a labor of love. I focused on simplicity of ingredients, and nothing that spoke of richness while keeping in mind the seasonal bounties.

These are our family plans for observing the upcoming autumnal Ember Days:
My offerings for Wednesday:

**Breakfast - oatmeal blueberry muffins, water (orange juice for little people)
**Lunch - turkey slices rolled in whole wheat tortillas with cheese, water
**Dinner - Vegetable and Bean Soup, sliced whole wheat bread, water
+ Thanks offered for the harvest of oats, wheat, blueberries

My offerings for Friday:

**Breakfast - Skillet toast (buttered whole wheat bread toasted on cast iron skillet) with cheddar cheese (sort of like an open faced grilled cheese sandwich), water (orange juice for littles)
**Lunch - Baked sweet potatoes with butter and cinnamon, water
**Dinner - Meatless spinach pie/quiche, wheat bread, water
+ Thanks offered for the harvest of wheat and vegetables and for the humble chicken

My offerings for Saturday:

**Breakfast - English muffin with fried egg and slice of cheese, water, (orange juice for littles)
**Lunch - Small cup of leftover veggie and bean soup, water
**Dinner - *Considering that we are allowed to eat meat for one meal on this day, and considering this is the night of our bonfire I am opting for roasted hot dogs, pickles and chips tonight.
+ Thanks offered for the past season's harvest as well as asking God to bless and abudantly provide for a rich harvest of grapes for the vintage (Autumn is the traditional season to ask God's blessing for the vintage and the grape).

Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

2 cups oats
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter - melted or extremely soft
2 cups fresh blueberries
In medium bowl combine oats, milk, and lemon juice - let stand while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, soda, and brown sugar. Add eggs and butter to the oat and sour milk mixture, mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mix carefully just until combined. Gently fold in blueberries.

Fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full and bake at 400 degrees for 15 -20 minutes.

These are delicious anytime of the day and because of the whole grains are quite filling. Eat them warm!!!

Mom's Vegetable Bean Soup

1 medium onion chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic minced
butter or olive oil for sauteeing onion and garlic
1 box of chicken stock
3 -4 good size carrots cut up and cooked to soft
1 bag of frozen sweet corn
1 can of beans (pinto or white beans will do)
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 package of frozen chopped spinach - thawed
basil - to taste
1 cup macaroni noodles

Saute onions in butter or olive oil. Add garlic. To a large stock pot add all other ingredients except for spinach. Cook for about 20 minutes then add spinach, turn off heat. Let sit about 10 minutes. You may have to add some water to suit your family's preference for soupiness - chunky or soupy :).

This can be prepared in the morning and allowed to simmer during the day - but expect to add more water as the macaroni absorb a lot of the liquid if allowed to sit all day. It's a very forgiving recipe - if all your liquid disappears, just add more water or stock to your taste. This recipe was written for the cold weather months so it assumes many vegetables have been canned or set aside. Because so many of the vegetables used in this recipe are readily available at Farmer's Markets or from your own garden - choose fresh as much as possible!!!

Spinach Pie

2 boxes of Pillsbury frozen pie shells (in the refrig section)
2 pkgs. frozen spinach - thawed and squeezed to remove excess water
1 lg container ricotta cheese
2 cups fresh grated parmesan
1 large onion - chopped and sauteed in olive oil
3 eggs

You'll need 2 9inch pie dishes. Press a pie shell into the bottom and sides of each pie dish.

Mix spinach, ricotta, onion, eggs, and cheeses in large bowl. Divide in half and split between the two pie dishes. Cover with remaining two pie shells. Trim edges and slit top for venting. Brush with egg if desired. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes.

We love embellishing the top pastry shells of these pies with decorative vents that bespeak the feast or feria we are embracing - so for this evening we might use a small paring knife to etch the initials of our Lord into the pie shell, or if we're ambitious a group of grapes. If nothing else, we etch the Cross into the shell of the pie. Pin It


  1. What a rich tradition you are creating in your home. These plans are very helpful to me. Thank you.

  2. Jennifer, this is such a great post! Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    I had never been very familiar with Ember days, and your posts were very helpful. I look forward to implementing some of these ideas in our home this week! Thank you for the inspiration.

    P.S. I hope you will be submitting more posts in the future!! :)

  3. Wow! Always so much to learn! Makes me really want to celebrate Ember Days. Thanks for posting the recipes too!

  4. Thank you for sharing these plans and recipes! You jump-started me to get started :)

  5. I was so happy to be a part of this extraordinary blog and to be asked to contribute! Thank you everyone for your kind words.

  6. I thought the Autumnal Ember days were during the week of Holy Cross which was last week. Also Michaelmas is Monday the 29th.

  7. Ranee,

    The dates can be a little confusing. On pre-1969 liturgical calendars, the Ember days began on the Wednesday immediately following those spcific days (so Holy Cross for September). This meant, for instance, that if September 14 were a Tuesday, the ember days would occur on September 15, 17, and 18. As a result the ember days in September could fall after either the second or third Sunday in September. This, however, was always the liturgical Third Week of September, since the First Sunday of September was the Sunday closest to September 1st (August 29 to September 4). As a simplification of the liturgical calendar, Pope John XXIII modified this so that the Third Sunday was the third Sunday actually within the calendar month. Thus if September 14 were a Sunday, September 24, 26 and 27 would be ember days, the latest dates possible; with September 14 as a Saturday, however, the ember days would occur on September 18, 20 and 21 - the earliest possible dates. Since Exhaltation of the Cross was on a Sunday this year, the Ember days are Sept. 24, 26, 27 this year.

    The autumn Ember days are called the Michaelmas embertide due to their proximity to the Feast of St. Michael which as you have pointed out comes later in the month.

  8. Thank you Mary, for the clarification!

  9. If I have it right, for 2013 it would be September 18th, 20th, and 21st...which is cool for me since the 20th is my birthday. Thanks for sharing this!