Today, December 6, is Saint Nicholas Day and is celebrated all over the world, but seems to have been overlooked by most of the U.S. However, if it wasn't for Saint Nicholas, there would be no St. Nick aka Santa Claus.
But who is Saint Nicholas? In short, he was a bishop who was orphaned at a young age and inherited the family fortune. He shared his money with the needy, particularly children. Among the many legends of Saint Nicholas, he is said to have brought three children back to life, calmed the seas for sailors and rescued a kidnapped child from Pirates. It is said that he heard of a poor man who was very sad he could not provide for his three daughters. In the dark of night, St. Nicholas tossed three bags of gold down his chimney. The stories of this charitable man spread throughout the world. After his death on December 6, AD 343, a liquid appeared on his grave that was said to heal; manna. The anniversary of his death became a celebrated holiday called Saint Nicholas Day. He is regarded as the Patron Saint of Children, Seaman, Brides, Hungry, Scholars, and more.
Like the American children who hang stockings on the mantle on December 24, European children leave shoes out on December 5 for the arrival of St Nicholas. St. Nicholas travels on donkeys, horses and sleighs, by himself and with associates, depending on where you are in the world, but he always brings treats like candy and toys to the good boys and girls and twigs, sticks and hay for the naughty. He keeps careful records in his book on attendance and behavior at church, school and at home.
As St Nicholas Day is celebrated as a children's holiday, Christmas is kept religious and a celebration of Jesus Birthday.
The Eve of Saint Nicholas and The Feast of Saint Nicholas is filled with delicious foods and drinks that you can include in your December celebrations.
Smoking Bishop (Mulled Red Wine with Port) Recipe
On the eve of the St. Nicholas party the treats served are the exchange of gifts, genuine Dutch cookies and Bishopwyn (bishop's wine). For children the wine is grape juice. But the grownups welcome the mulled Bishopwyn. With the people of the Netherlands, let us toast his memory with Bishopwyn and tell the beautiful legends of the charity of St. Nicholas. To give gifts in secret so that people would render him no thanks was surely a saintly act.
- 5 medium oranges
- 1 medium grapefruit
- 36 whole cloves
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle medium-bodied red wine, such as Pinot Noir
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 5 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise pods
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle ruby port
- Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place the oranges and grapefruit in a baking dish and bake until the bottom of the fruit is lightly browned, about 35 minutes. Using tongs, flip the fruit over and continue baking until the second side is lightly browned, about 20 to 35 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly in the dish. When cool enough to handle, remove the fruit from the dish and stud each piece with 6 cloves; set aside.
- Place the red wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and star anise in a large saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat. Add the clove-studded fruit, submerging it in the wine mixture as much as possible (not all the fruit will be covered). Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.
- The next day, remove the fruit from the saucepan. Slice each piece in half and juice the halves into a strainer set over a medium bowl. Discard the seeds, cloves, and any large pieces of pulp in the strainer. Add the juice and port to the wine mixture and stir to combine. Place over low heat until the mixture is hot, being careful not to let it boil. If desired, remove the star anise and cinnamon sticks. Serve hot.
Stuffed Pork Shoulder Roast
The fruit stuffing in the roast symbolizes the good works of St. Nicholas--some done in secret, hidden from others' eyes, and some done openly.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large baking pan with heavy duty foil or have a large, heavy Dutch oven with a lid ready to go.
Place the deboned pork shoulder roast fat-side up on a cutting board. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn roast over and again sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. You may need to add a few cuts so that it lies open and flat.
Poke holes in the meat with a sharp knife and insert garlic slivers into the pork.
Pack mixed berries/fruits on top of the open pork roast. Roll one side to the other, lengthwise, to enclose the stuffing and secure with kitchen twine. Place roast seam-side down in baking pan or Dutch oven. Pour chicken broth and apple juice around the bottom. Cover with a layer of heavy-duty foil and seal edges to the rim of the pan or cover with a tight-fitting lid.
Bake about 2 hours. Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes until skin is browned. Center should read at least 170 with a meat thermometer. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing to serve.
Note: Some butchers will debone the pork shoulder roast at no extra cost, while others will charge a higher price. It's easy to debone the roast yourself in about 15 minutes. (See step-by-step instructions with photos.)
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Black Forest 'Good Works' Cake
This can be bought or easily made. The cherry filling symbolize the good works of St. Nicholas, many of them hidden from public eyes, but some were openly done. The cake reminds us to live our own lives in the same way.
- 1 dark chocolate cake mix (or your own from scratch)
- 1/4 c. kirsch (cherry brandy)
- 1 can cherry pie filling
- 16 oz. heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
- Maraschino cherries, drained, optional, for garnish
- milk chocolate curls or shavings, for garnish
Drain cherry pie filling in a colander to remove most of the thickened juices.Make cake, following package directions. Bake cake, as directed, in two 9-inch layer cake pans. When cool, sprinkle kirsch over both cake layers. Chill electric beaters and large mixing bowl; beat cream until it thickens slightly, gradually add confectioners' sugar and beat until thick enough to hold its shape. Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate; refrigerate until ready to serve. Assemble cake; place one layer on serving plate and spread its top with 1/2-inch thick layer of whipped cream and strew the cherries over the cream leaving about 1/2 inch margin around border of cake with no cherries. Set other layer on top of cherries and spread top and sides of cake with remaining cream, shape whipped cream into decorative swirls on top. With fingers, gently press chocolate curls into cream on sides of cake. Garnish top with drained maraschino cherries, if desired, or with a few remaining chocolate curls