Thursday, September 25, 2008

Interesting Ember Day Food

In researching the Ember days it was intriguing to find some interesting food connections and old recipes.

Fr. Weiser indicates that in the earliest liturgical books the Ember Days are simply called “the fast of the first, fourth, seventh and tenth month” (that is, March, June, September, December following the ancient practice of starting the year in March) . During the sixth century the Latin term Quatuor Tempora (Four Times or Seasons) was introduced, and has remained as the official ecclesiastical name for the Embertides. From the Latin word most European nations coined their popular terms. The Portuguese referred to these days simply as temporas.

Since Quatuor Tempora days were days of fast and abstinence from meat, the Portuguese missionaries and sailors would be practicing that tradition. It is generally regarded that the Portuguese missionaries (sailors and traders are sometimes mentioned) introduced the practice of deep frying battered fish and vegetables to the Japanese about 400 years ago. Though the Japanese rulers banned Christianity and the Portuguese were expelled (effectively closing Japan to the outside world until the 1850s) tempura had become embedded in Japanese popular cooking.

Tempura Batter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2/3 cup ice water
Oil for deep frying
Your choice of dippers; shrimp, scallops, and vegetables are good.

Sift together the dry ingredients. Beat egg slightly and mix with the water. Add the dry ingredients. Stir only until mixed; mixture will be slightly lumpy. Dip shrimp or vegetables into the batter and deep fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Uncooked Foods
The northern Slavs of the Latin Rite call the Embertides Suche dni (”Dry days”) from the ancient custom of eating uncooked food during fasts. A culinary option on these days could be to eat only "dry" or raw foods - like fruits, salads, fresh vegetables or foods that had been pre-prepared like breads and grain dishes. Dairy and egg goods were permitted on fast days days out of Lent at this time so cheeses or hardboard eggs would reflect menu options to consider as well.

Tart in Ymbre Day (From A Continual Feast)
The old English spelling was Ymbre Day

This tart, clearly a forerunner of our quiche, is delicious and perhaps rather more in the spirit of abstinence than the preceding dish. The recipe is adapted from a fourteenth-century cookbook called Forme of Cury, or way of cookery.

Preheat the oven to 350.

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
4 eggs, lightly beaten
pinch of saffron
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
pinch each of: mace (or nutmeg), allspice, cinnamon
3 tablespoons dried currants
1 nine inch pie crust, partially pre-baked

Melt the butter in the skillet and cook the onion until soft and transparent. Combine the crumbs in a bowl with the eggs, saffron, salt, sugar, spices, and currants. Add the onion and butter, and stir until the mixture is well blended. Pour into the pie crust and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown; a knife inserted in the center should come out clean. As the Forme of Cury invites: "Serve it forth." Yields about 6 servings

Here is a similar online version -Tart in Ymbre Day (From Boke of Gode Cookery Recipes) Pin It


  1. So interesting, Mary!!! I love the idea of the "Dry Days" opting for raw or uncooked fruits and veggies!

    Again, this was very interesting to me - thank you for posting these other recipes and treasures of info! The Ember Days seem to offer such a rich treasure for us! Thank you again for uncovering more of it.

  2. So glad that someone else out there celebrates the Ember Days. We use them as spiritual check ups (prayer, fasting, and retreat when we can). Here is an article by my husband on them. This Fall we are trying to get people all over the world to pray and fast for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. This from the article in Latin Mass Magazine but posted on Rorate Caeli
    "This year, the Autumn Ember days are on September 24, 26, and 27. They follow the Feast of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14), the first anniversary that the motu proprio took effect. Let all traditional Catholics unite to observe the traditional Ember fast on these three days: 1) to pray for the Holy Father’s welfare, 2) to thank Almighty God for the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, and 3) to pray for its full implementation in every parish around the world." Thanks!