When I read this morning’s reflection it noted that today is St. Joseph’s Day. And that instantly brought this memory to the surface. I haven’t thought about this in years so I decided I’d write it down while it was in my head.
When we were growing up we would always go to my grandmother’s house on St. Joseph’s Day. My grandparents were from Southern Italy (or at least their parents were, I don’t remember if mine were born in Italy or here) and my grandfather’s name was Joseph. It’s a tradition in Italy to celebrate St. Joseph’s feast day and I guess my grandma decided it was doubly important because of grandpa’s name. In fact, I don’t remember her telling us we were celebrating the day because it was an Italian tradition but because it was grandpa’s saint name. (And I think that’s an Italian tradition as well, celebrating your patron saint’s feast day.)
I distinctly remember her sitting in her kitchen with a statue of St. Joseph on the table. It was a small kitchen (with a pantry that always had things in it we weren’t allowed to eat at home). There were lots of grandchildren running around – in fact, it seemed that the house was filled with people. She’d sit there at the end of the small kitchen table with a griddle or fryer in front of her and she’d make some sort of fritters. In my memory, she sat there all night and everyone who stopped by would go to the kitchen – like some sort of pilgrimage – to see her and sample her fritters. We would line up to get them hot – she’d have to tell us to wait while she sprinkled powdered sugar on top. We’d grab one and then run off to continue whatever game we were playing but we’d be back for more before long. Those fritters would melt in our mouths. I always wondered why that was the only time of year she would make them.
I spent a few minutes this morning looking up St. Joseph’s day traditions and found that she must have been making zeppoles. This isn’t my weekly Tasty Thursday post and I doubt I’ll have time to make these today but I’m going to share the recipe I found that seems to be just like the ones I remember. Maybe I’ll make them this weekend when my brother’s kids are here and tell them all this story about their great-grandmother.
For the dough:
– 2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
– An equal volume of water
– A pinch of salt
– 1/2 cup (about 125 ml) white wine
A pot of olive oil for frying (you can use other oils if need be)
Powdered sugar to sprinkle over the top.
Set the water and wine to heat, and when bubbles form on the bottom of the pot (it’s shouldn’t come to a full boil) add the flour in one fell swoop and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. When the dough comes out of the pot in a single piece remove it from the fire to a lightly oiled marble work surface and work it, pounding it with a rolling pin, for about 10 minutes so as to make it smooth. Roll the dough into snakes about as thick as your little finger, cut them into 8-inch (20 cm) lengths, and pinch the ends together to make rings.
Heat the oil and fry the zeppole a few at a time, pricking them with a skewer as they fry, so the dough will bubble out and they’ll become crunchier and more golden. Drain them on paper towels and sprinkle them with powdered sugar.