Friday, January 3, 2014

"The Feast of the Epiphany" & A "Pork and Pepper Soup" Recipe

I hope everyone had an enjoyable New Year’s with lots of partying and celebrations. However the fun is not over yet. The feast of the Epiphany is this weekend, which is celebrated all over the world. The Epiphany is the twelfth day of Christmas and on this day the Three Wise Men came to pay homage to the Christ Child. 

In the Catholic religion the teaching of the word “epiphany” means manifestation. This is the day when the Magi (Three Kings) reached the Christ child and He became known to the world as Jesus. In some regions the Feast of the Epiphany is also called the Feast of the Holy Kings or The Gifts of The Magi. The Kings names were Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They followed the bright five pointed star in the heavens which brought them to Bethlehem, and the stable where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, had just given birth. The Three Kings presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the baby, Jesus.

There are various customs and traditions on how to celebrate The Feast of the Epiphany all over the world. Throughout Italy, especially Sicily, they celebrate on the eve of January 5th. There is the legend of La Befana. In keeping with the tale she is a witch with her clothing worn to rags. She flies through the Italian skies on her broomstick during the night, and fills children’s stockings with toys, and sweets for the children who were good, and coal for the ones that were naughty. According to the legend, the night before the Three Wise Men arrived at the manger, they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied she was busy cleaning her house with her broomstick. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Three Wise Men, bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She held her broomstick up to the star and the magic of the night gave her broomstick the ability to fly. As the legend continues in gratitude for the woman’s generosity the Holy Child gave the woman the most wonderful blessing, and gift of all. His blessing to the woman was that for one night, the eve if the Epiphany for all eternity the woman would have all the children of the world as her own. His gift was that her name be called “La Befana” the “Giver of Gifts.”

The blessing of the home is also a popular Epiphany custom, using blessed white chalk. Many households mark their entrance door with the year and the inscription CMB, the initials of the Three Wise Men. This inscription also stands for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means “Christ, Bless This Home.”

There are many traditional foods that the Italians prepare for the Epiphany. The Magi came from the Orient, so many of the foods served on this day are spicy. Spice cake is often prepared to adorn your festive table for dessert.  Sweet breads made with dried figs, anise seeds, and candied fruits are always a favorite. These breads or cakes are made in the shape of a circle or crown, to honor the Three Wise Men. Everyone drinks the local wine and eats a special fig and raisin bread baked in a wood-burning oven. The flavors of oranges, and tangerines, are included in many dishes, which represent sunlight. (Epiphany is also known as the holiday of light) Meats such as lamb and pork are rubbed with good olive oil, rosemary, and garlic, which add a festive fragrance to your table.

When I was growing up my parents would leave the Christmas tree up until the Epiphany. As a child and even now, I really never wanted Christmas to be over. So, as I try to keep the spirit of Christmas going all year, I would love to share with you my recipe this week which is a delicious Italian soup called “Pork and Pepper Soup.” The winter is upon us, with very cold temperatures and snow. We need to cook something hearty, but warm. I know that if La Befana comes to your door looking for the Christ Child she will be hungry. I’m sure when you invite her in she would just love a big bowl of this flavorful and mouthwatering dish.

"Pork and Pepper Soup"

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Serves: 4

1-1/2 pounds thick cut boneless pork chops, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 medium onions, peeled & chopped in quarters
2 green peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
4 tomatoes skinned and quartered
4 tablespoons of tomato puree
1 pint of beef or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of oil
1 lb of potatoes peeled & cut into cubes
1 tablespoon of flour
Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oil in pan. When hot add the pork cubes in batches so not to overcrowd and sauté over high heat until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add the butter, onions, and green peppers, and fry until onion is lightly browned. Stir in the flour and then remove from heat. Add the stock, return to the heat and boil, stirring continuously. Add the tomato, tomato puree, and salt/pepper to taste. Reduce the heat, return the pork, cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock or water if necessary. Add the potatoes and cook gently for a further 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. Serve with a chunk of Italian bread and a glass of Red Wine like a Pinot Noir or Chianti.  A dish fit for a King! Enjoy, Mangia! 
Till Next Time…………………

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  1. Wow, I've never heard of this dish. Just shows you how many different traditions there are all over Italy!

  2. Hi Christina,
    Thank you so much for stopping by! You are so right, there are so many different variations of traditions from every family. But I think that is great, as we can learn from each other different ways, by sharing. This dish is really very tasty and comforting, just what you need on a cold and snowy day here on Long Island, NY. Hope that you have a wonderful day! You are welcome back any time! :)

  3. Hi Dottie , love this post , so much caring and warmth / My family also celebrates the Epiphany , my father-in-law tells my kids this story every year , may be a little different but the meaning is the same .
    I have my pork tenderloin ready to go , thanking this year I will cook it in the slow cooker . Herbs and spices is the way to go and thanks for the spice cake idea .
    I will be making the Pork and Pepper soup , yum ...yum... good . Thanks for sharing dear Dottie blessing :)

  4. Hi Nee,
    Thanks for visiting and your words are very sweet. So glad that you enjoyed reading this post. I was thinking of your father-in-law when I wrote this, as I know you have told me that he loves to teach your children about the traditions and customs of the Italian people. I am sure every story varies a little bit from one family to another.
    Glad that your pork is ready to go with delicious spices, and the spice cake is a tasty idea. Enjoy and blessings to you and yours...till next time..Dottie :)

  5. Dear Dottie, I leave my tree up as long as possible too.
    The traditions are beautiful one and are beautiful to pass down. This is what memories are made of.
    Blessings and hugs, Catherine xo

  6. Hi Dottie,

    I'm almost ashamed to say I forgot tonight was the Feast of the Epiphany. As children we heard the story and associated traditions each year. Things have been a bit hectic around here but I think we finally have everything under control.

    Marion wants to celebrate little Christmas tomorrow over at the women's shelter. We have been crafting small gifts to give. it's going to be some day. I'm hoping the weather is bearable because Marion will not take not going out well. We may just need some of that tasty soup of yours when we return, lol...

    Thank you so much for sharing and reminding me. Shame on me! I should be getting to my email tomorrow but I will check for yours as soon as I leave here.

    Thank you so much for all your sweet words Dottie. They really brighten my day, or night:)

  7. I have just come back from Italy and I feel so full up! We have been eating full stop from Christmas day to Epiphany. I think we all need to go back to the old eating habits.
    La Befana arrived for my children too with lots of sweeties and a present too. What a lovely tradition we have in Italy!
    Thank you for sharing your fab pork recipe here. I wish you a fantastic year with lots of yummy recipes!
    Ciao Alida

  8. Dear Alida,
    Thank you for stopping by. So glad that you had a fabulous time in Italy. I know that deal, with eating, it just never stops. Sweeties and presents are so nice that La Befana brought your children. They must have been very good this year. It is such a fun tradition. We are so blessed that we have been born in such a fantastic background! Thanks for your wishes for a great year and I wish the same for you and your family...Dottie :)

  9. Dear Catherine,
    Thank you for your lovely visit. Yes, the traditions are what is all about, especially for the young children. I am glad that you feel the same about the Christmas tree. I hate taking down all the holiday decorations too. Sometimes it is such a let down. Plus they look so pretty and festive..Oh well there is next year...Blessings, Dottie :)