Gadzooks,while shuttling back and forth between Egypt Fest at Georgian Court University and the Pastoral Center where preparations for Coadjutor Bishop David O’Connell’s July 30 ordination are in high gear, I almost missed the fact that today is St. Swithin’s Day — a weather festival with roots that stretch back to medieval England.
Since childhood I have looked forward to this day with a ground hog day kind of expectation, considering it a similar example of how forecasting and lingering remnants of religious sensibility can work hand in hand and make for a good story if you let them.
St. Swithin’s Day, you see, is a day on which people wait to see if any drop of water at all falls from the sky. If it does, rain will be in the forecast for the next forty days.
Pious legend says this story comes down to us from the circumstances surrounding the death of St. Swithin – a Saxon bishop in Winchester who was famous for his acts of charity and building churches. The story goes that as Swithin (Swithun in Saxon) lay on his deathbed, he asked to be buried out doors where his grave would be rained on and walked on. The story goes that for 9 years the faithful followed his wishes and all was well.
But then, when the monks of Winchester moved his remains inside to a splendid shrine on July 15, 971, a heavy rain storm marred the events. This led to the tale that if it rains on St. Swithin’s Day, it will rain the next 40 days but if it is fair, there will be 40 days of fine weather.
In England, apple growers used to observe the day every year by asking St. Swithin for his blessing because — according to long standing tradition — rain on his special day “blesses and christens” the first apples of the season.
It’s traditional to celebrate this day with the first apple cake of the season but Jersey Fresh peaches claimed the spotlight today at the farmers market where their appearance really stold the show.
That being the case, I decided to adapt a classic Summer Apple Cake recipe with Jersey peaches which line the shelves there along with melons, ears of corn, all manner of greens, cukes and zucchini.
Summer Peach Cake
Ingredients — 2 cups biscuit mix; 1/3 cup sugar; 2 eggs slightly beaten; 1/2 cup heavy cream; 3 cups thinly sliced peaches; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg; 1/4 cup sugar; 1/4 cup melted butter.
Directions: combine the biscuit mix and 1/3 cup sugar in large mixing bowl. Combine the eggs and cream and stir into the biscuit mix with a fork. Spread the dough in the bottom of a greased 8-inch spring form pan. Arrange the peach slices on top, pressing cut edges slightly into the dough. Combine the spices and 1/4 cup sugar; sprinkle over the apples. Pour the melted butter evening over the cake. Cover the top with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 20 minutes longer or until the peaches are soft and the dough is done. Remove from the pan and cut into wedges. Serve with vanilla ice cream.