St. Hubert, Patron of Hunters, November 3rd

This Halloween/All Saints Day I made costumes that would do double duty. Peter Pan became St. Eustace and Robin Hood became St. Hubert. Both saints and have similar legends of converting after seeing a stag with a cross in its antlers while hunting. They are also patrons of hunters and forest rangers. Then a friend of mine from the Netherlands mentioned St. Hubert's feast is November 3rd, and there is a special bread attached to this day. I hadn't heard of this before, so I did a little sleuthing.

St. Hubert of Liege was born in seventh century in Maastricht, Netherlands, grandson of Charibert, King of Toulouse and Eldest son of Bertrand, Duke of Aquitaine. He was a worldly young man, especially loved to hunt. While hunting on Good Friday, he saw the stag with the cross which called him by name to turn to the Lord. He immediately converted to Christianity. After his wife died, he gave up his nobility and became a priest. He was first elected bishop of Maastricht, and later moved to become the first Bishop of Liege, Belgium.

In addition to being the patron of hunters (especially using hounds), he also is invoked against rabies. His feast day marks the formal opening of the hunting season in Europe.

There is a special Mass for St. Hubert, during which in some places the organ music is replaced with hunting horns, and the hounds, horses, and hunters participate, receiving a blessing. In Belgium there is a blessing of a special bread, St. Hubert's Bread, mastellen. Then it's off to a hunt; in France and Belgium, it's usually a stag hunt.
In parts of France and Belgium there has long been a custom of holding stag hunts on Saint Hubert's Day, and the hunters gather before the chase for Mass and the blessing of men and horses and dogs. After the hunt is over, those taking part gather for a bountiful breakfast consisting of fish, meat, salad, cheese, and dessert. Naturally the meat is venison of some sort, and the salad may well be one of dandelion greens (Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger).
It seems both the Netherlands and Belgium lay claim to this saint, and both countries have a special ring-shaped bread, shaped similarly like a bagel or donut, with the flavor of cinnamon. This is the bread brought to the Mass for a blessing.

There is an old folk rhyme for the blessed bread:
"I came all the way from Saint Hubert's grave,
Without stick, without staff.
Mad dogs, stand still!
This is Saint Hubert's will."

Sadly, I couldn't find a good recipe that I could translate to American standards. I've had bad luck getting reliable conversions, and the translators aren't ideal. I did find one recipe here, but in Euro measurements.
To one kilogram of flour, add half a litre of milk, 75 g of yeast, 5 grams of cinnamon, 300 g of butter, 20 g of salt and 50 g of sugar. Add the butter, the sugar and the cinnamon at the end of mixing when the dough is nearly fully developed. Leave the dough 30 minutes to prove and then divide in pieces of 55 g. Shape the pieces into round balls and leave to rest for about 15 minutes. Make a ring out of the dough pieces similar to bagels or donuts (in some villages the baker really makes a ring or a hole in the middle of the dough piece while in other villages he will rather make a kind of dimple in the middle of the product). So all those who thought that a ring shaped product was typical American, can forget about it. That kind of shape exists in Belgium since the Middle Ages. People used to take the mastellen to the church so the priest bless could them and they were supposed to be a good remedy against rabies. After proofing they are brushed with egg and baked for about 10 to 12 minutes in a rather hot oven (200°C).

I'd love to track down a usable recipe, so if any reader can share, I'd appreciate it!

While I'm not a hunter, nor do I have much game on my table, there are quite a few people who regularly hunt and incorporate game meats for their families. The options for recipes honoring St. Hubert are quite vast and varied:

Cooking With the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf has several game recipes for this saint:
  • Salpicon Saint-Hubert (Ragout à la St. Hubert). Good for leftover game meat of any kind

  • Côtes de Chevreuil Saint-Hubert (Venison Cutlets in the Style of St. Hubert)

  • Potage Saint-Hubert (Soup St. Hubert)

  • Hasenrücken St. Hubertus (Saddle of Hare St. Hubert)

  • Petites Terrines de Lièvre Saint-Hubert (Terrine of Hare St. Hubert)

  • Wildschweingulasch Sankt Hubertus (Goulash of Wild Boar St. Hubert)

  • Frischlingskeulen St. Hubertus (Legs of Young Boar St. Hubert)

  • Rehkeule St. Hubertus Mit Ingwer (Leg of Venison with Ginger a la St. Hubert)

  • Lepre Alla Sant'Uberto (Hare Casserole with Red Wine)

  • Jägerbraten Hubertus (Hunter's Roast St. Hubertus)

There is also an Omelette à la Saint-Hubert that includes game meat.

Or you can give up game and meat for this feast and have the St. Hubert Fish Stew from From a Monastery Kitchen by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette.

Since I don't have game, I think I will make the roast in the style of game:
Jägerbraten Hubertus
1 onion, chopped coarsely
1 carrot, sliced finely
8 juniper berries, crushed
4 cups dry red wine
5 peppercorns, crushed
1 bay leaf

1 1/2 pound beef (topside) or similar game meat
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons butter
3 strips bacon, lean, well-smoked
1/2 cups sour cream
1 Tablespoon red currant jelly
Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a large bowl. Put the meat into it and let it marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Turn meat over a few times while marinating.

Remove meat and dry with a paper towel. Save marinade. Season meat with salt and pepper.

In a heavy casserole with a lid melt the butter and brown the meat thoroughly on all sides. Add 1 cup of the marinade, cover the meat with the bacon and braise in the covered casserole in a hot oven 375 degrees F. for 1 1/2 hours to 1 hour, 40 minutes. During this time turn the meat over a few times and pour extra marinade over it.

When the meat is cooked, put the cooking juices through a sieve or puree them and put in a saucepan over low heat. Season sauce with salt and pepper, add the sour cream and currant jelly.

This is best served with braised red cabbage, steamed apples, and dumplings, spatzle or mashed potatoes.

Think of St. Hubert the next time you have anything to do with hunting! Pin It


  1. After reading the link you posted for the special bread for St. Hubert, I googled "Friesland bread" and lo and behold, look at *this* recipe:

    It looks all very do-able- just have to figure out a substitute for the pearl sugar. Maybe coarsely chopped lump sugar?

    Mary Beth Paul

    1. You don't have pearl sugar? It's also called "nib sugar", and, yes, chopped lump sugar works fine, but it is purely decorative, so sprinkles or nonpareille or crushed almonds or anything, really, works :-)

  2. Well, on second glance, this is not ring shaped. Sorry! But maybe it can be shaped into a ring....

    Mary Beth

  3. I'm already up past my bedtime trying to "catch up" online, but wanted to comment that it wouldn't be too tough to use a site like Online Conversion to change to our standard measurements. Not too many ingredients! The recipe sounds yummy, too. Thanks for sharing all this fun info!

  4. Thank you for all your helpful comments! I've had bad luck converting recipes. It seems the measurements aren't quite the same if it's a British recipe or European recipe. I had several sites and they were giving me all different conversions!

    And it's little things like this that make me wish I better grasp of foreign languages. I did find Flemish and Dutch sites with this bread, but not usually recipes (the bread is sold in bakeries) and not easily translatable even with those wonderful translating tools.

  5. Thanks for sharing all of these ideas for St. Hubert! I think I will have to make some sort of meat to go along with the St. Martin's Mice Potatoes I have planned for with dinner tonight!

  6. Metric recipe translated into Imperials :-D
    Belgian Mastels

    Take about 2.2 pounds of flour or 35 ounces. It is not that important. The main thing here is to get a dough that is bake-able, so you add more or less flour according to the circumstances. The dough should be like the dough for any buns, rolls, bagels etc.
    Add 2 cups of milk,
    75 grams of yeast? That's a lot! I assume it's fresh yeast. So it's 2.6 ounces, and if I have understood correctly, you have 0.6 ounces cakes of yeast, so one would need 4 1/3 of those! For a pint of milk!? Yikes! I would use the amount of yeast you normally use for a dough made of 2 cups of milk (or water)
    2 tsp cinnamon (that's a lot, too...)
    10 1/2 ounces of butter - it's a little bit less than 3 sticks, so use 3 sticks. The 1 tbls more doesn't make any difference.
    4 tsp salt (yikes, again)
    1/4 cup of sugar

    They say that you add the milk and yeast in the flour, but I would bloom the yeast first in the milk and then add flour to the milk, so that I don't get too hard a dough.
    They say to add cinnamon, salt, sugar and butter when the dough is ready, but I would add cinnamon, salt and sugar while the dough is still very wet, so they get mixed in properly, and the butter in the end, when the dough is almost done. That's how I do my Finnish pulla. But I want my dough very soft, and these look like bagels, so I suppose the dough should be harder than I would prefer, so - do as you are used to make your buns and rolls.
    Make 2 ounces balls - measure one to know the size and then eyeball the rest. These are about the size of bagels, so you don't need to measure anything.
    Oven in 400 degrees Fahrenheit or Gas mark 6
    They are baked very dark.

    I would simply use cinnamon bagels or make cinnamon brioche buns looking like bagels.