Tuesday, February 2, 2010

All About Groundhog Day's start ...

Groundhog Day History

European Roots

(Adapted from "Groundhog Day: 1886 to 1992" by Bill Anderson)

Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is a popular tradition in the United States. It is also a legend that traverses centuries, its origins clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening on specific dates. Myths such as this tie our present to the distant past when nature did, indeed, influence our lives. It is the day that the Groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow.

If he sees it, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole.

If the day is cloudy and, hence, shadowless, he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground.

The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important.

According to an old English song:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

According to an old Scotch couplet:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be twa (two) winters in the year.

Another variation of the Scottish rhyme:

If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter's gone at Yule.

The Roman legions, during the conquest of the northern country, supposedly brought this tradition to the Teutons, or Germans, who picked it up and concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, an animal, the hedgehog, would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather, which they interpolated as the length of the "Second Winter."

Pennsylvania's earliest settlers were Germans and they found groundhogs to in profusion in many parts of the state. They determined that the groundhog, resembling the European hedgehog, was a most intelligent and sensible animal and therefore decided that if the sun did appear on February 2nd, so wise an animal as the groundhog would see its shadow and hurry back into its underground home for another six weeks of winter.

The Germans recited:

For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.

This passage may be the one most closely represented by the first Punxsutawney Groundhog Day observances because there were references to the length of shadows in early Groundhog Day predictions.

Another February 2nd belief, used by American 19th century farmers, was:

Groundhog Day - Half your hay.

New England farmers knew that we were not close to the end of winter, no matter how cloudy February 2nd was. Indeed, February 2nd is often the heart of winter. If the farmer didn't have half his hay remaining, there may have been lean times for the cows before spring and fresh grass arrived.

The ancient Candlemas legend and similar belief continue to be recognized annually on February 2nd due to the efforts of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

courtesy: groundhog.org

So what do we eat on groundhog's day? ...

Groundhog Day Menu

The first Groundhog Day celebration was held in Punxsutawney in the early 1800s when German settlers introduced the legend of Candlemas Day. In honor of Groundhog Day this year, discover the foods brought to Pennsylvania hundreds of years ago by our German ancestors. Finish it all off with the legendary Groundhog Cookie—a Phil phavorite! Just to know - the handler is wearing steel mesh gloves ... Phil's an animal he bites! LOL!


⎯ Roasted Mushroom Soup
⎯ German Apple Brown Bread
⎯ Fresh Greens with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
⎯ Roasted Pennsylvania Pork with Vegetables and Rosemary
⎯ Garlic Mashed Potatoes
⎯ Groundhog Cookies

Roasted Mushroom Soup
Roasting the mushrooms concentrates the flavor; puréeing provides a creamy texture without the need for fat-laden cream.
1 pound fresh Pennsylvania mushrooms such as shiitake or portabella
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup minced Pennsylvania Simply Sweet ™ Onions
1 cup minced celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 to 4 tablespoons dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Snipped fresh dill
Remove stems and halve mushrooms. Spread in single layer on baking sheet. Roast in 450-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or just until browned. Set aside. Melt butter in large kettle over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes. Add roasted mushrooms, chicken stock and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add sherry. Simmer additional 5 minutes. Purée mixture in food processor or blender. Return to kettle. Season with salt and pepper. Heat through, stirring occasionally. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with snipped fresh dill and serve
immediately. About 8 servings

German Apple Brown Bread
A hearty bread reminiscent of the whole-grain version baked by the Pennsylvania Dutch; this one is easy and wholesome.
2 medium Pennsylvania tart apples such as McIntosh, Nittany or Stayman/Winesap
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup light or dark molasses
1/3 cup honey
1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
Peel, core and chop apples. Set aside. In large bowl, beat butter with electric mixture until softened. Blend in molasses and honey. In separate bowl, combine rye and wheat flours, cornmeal, baking soda and salt. Gradually add about one third of the flour mixture to butter mixture, blending just until moistened. Blend in half of the buttermilk and then another third of the flour mixture. Add remaining buttermilk and flour mixture, mixing just until ingredients are blended. Stir in apples. Spoon into two lightly greased 9 x 5-inch bread pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing. Serve warm or cooled. Each loaf makes about 8 generous slices.

Fresh Greens with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Apple cider makes its mark on a “ from-scratch” dressing unequaled by bottled dressing.
1-1/4 cup blanched almonds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Pennsylvania apple cider
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons honey
4 small heads assorted Pennsylvania leaf lettuce such as romaine and bibb, washed, torn and dried Homemade croutons (recipe follows)
Combine blanched almonds, oil, apple cider, vinegar and honey in bowl. Puree in batches in blender container until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Just before serving, spoon over leafy greens and garnish with homemade croutons. About 8 servings or 3 cups dressing Homemade Croutons: Lightly brush both sides of 16 slices of sourdough bread with olive oil. Cube bread slices and arrange in single layer on lightly oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool
completely before using. About 8 servings

Roasted Pennsylvania Pork with Vegetables + Rosemary
The Keystone state is known for its quality pork products and fresh garden vegetables. This recipe marries the best of both with fresh rosemary.
2 tablespoons fennel seed
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup snipped fresh rosemary, divided
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
5-pound Pennsylvania boneless pork loin roast
6 Pennsylvania red, yellow or green bell peppers, washed and quartered
3 large Pennsylvania Simply Sweet ™ Onions, cut into wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Lightly coat a large roasting pan with cooking spray and set aside. Combine fennel seed, garlic, salt, half of the rosemary and the pepper on cutting board. Chop and blend with sharp knife until paste is formed. Rub over surface of pork. Transfer to roasting pan and set aside. In large bowl, toss together bell pepper, onion, olive oil, remaining rosemary and the salt. Arrange around pork in roasting pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Transfer pork to cutting board and cover with foil. Return vegetables to oven and increase temperature to 450 degrees. Roast additional 10 minutes or just until tender. Slice pork and serve immediately with roasted vegetables. About 8 servings

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Potatoes are a must on any authentic Pennsylvania menu. Garlic and sour cream offer a slight twist on traditional mashed.
3 pounds Pennsylvania potatoes, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
About 1/2 cup milk or cream
1/4 cup dairy sour cream
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste Place potatoes in large kettle and cover with cold water. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Cook about 20 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. Remove from heat. Drain off
cooking water and return potatoes to kettle with butter. Mash until smooth and creamy using potato masher or electric mixer, gradually adding milk or cream. Blend in sour cream and garlic; salt and pepper, to taste. (Small amount additional milk or cream may be needed for desired consistency.)
Serve immediately. About 8 servings

Groundhog Cookies
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
1 egg, slightly beaten
Currants or raisins
Sift together first seven ingredients. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Blend in molasses and yolk. Stir in flour mixture and mix well. Form into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill overnight, several nights or freeze.
Place small amounts of dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and cover with plastic wrap. Roll 1/8 inch thick. Cut out cookies with lightly floured cutter.
Place cookies on greased baking sheet. Brush with slightly beaten egg. Decorate with currants or raisin eyes. Repeat until all dough is used.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet. Makes 72 or more medium-sized groundhogs.

Six More Weeks of Winter!

Six More Weeks of Winter!: Reported by: Nate Potter
Tuesday, Feb 2, 2010 @07:35am EST

PUNXSUTAWNEY, JEFFERSON COUNTY - Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his den, saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter on the 144th Annual Groundhog Day celebration at Gobbler's Knob.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club pulled Phil from his warm den into single-degree temperatures just after 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

The Prognosticators of Prognosticators told the club President in front of thousands of people, 'As the sky shines bright above me, my shadow I see, beside me. Six more weeks of winter it will be!'"

Since I am from Steeler Country I couldn't resist this: