Last panettone of the season (but please don’t hold me to it)

Vergani panettone
Vergani panettone – half off at 5 euros!

Ha! Just when you thought those lovely golden brown italian xmas breads were long gone and done with. Not so on February 3rd, the feast day of San Biagio (Saint Blaise in english). Since time immemorial, in observation of italian custom and tradition, remaining panettone from last Christmas makes a comeback on this day. Why, exactly, is beyond me. San Biagio is not the patron saint of panettone bakers, but of wool carders and farm animals among other things. He is also the protector of nose and throat illnesses. A milanese proverb says:

“San Bias el benediss la gola e el nas” – [San Biagio blesses the throat and nose.]

Legends surrounding San Biagio’s miraculous powers are many, but my favorite is one that involves a child who swallows a fish bone and is choking to death. By invoking the saint, the child spits out the fish bone and is saved. Well, not to make light of the situation, but I can’t help thinking of all the stupid things that kids stick in their noses as well!

Vergani panettone tradizionale
Tonight: toasted panettone sandwiches stuffed with prosciutto and cheese.

Unfortunately we do not have anything really special planned for San Biagio’s feast day but elsewhere around the peninsula, he is honored in various ways. In Taranta Peligna, Abruzzo, the townsfolk make panicelle, a flat, squarish bread resembling four fingers representative of the saint’s hand. Here’s a snippet of the clip:

Panicelle
I was feeling creative so I made some using a basic milk bread recipe…

Not quite panicelle
…and then I thought, why not? Live long and prosper!

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13 thoughts on “Last panettone of the season (but please don’t hold me to it)

  1. annieparis

    Love this story, Rowena. Love panetonne too. I would it eat it all the time not just on a special day. I was sent a surprise gift of one , from a very special friend, all the way from Italy and it arrived on Christmas eve 🙂 very special.

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  2. Mike

    Rubber Slippers! I realize that you probably do your research in italian, but look at what I found when I googled Saint Blaise and panettone:
    http://www.italyheritage.com/magazine/2002_01/0201_f.htm

    The article goes into detail on the saint, but what I liked best is that it also mentions the great care that goes into making panicelle that you mention above. Thank you for sharing this italian tradition. 🙂 (Btw, your post also ended up 4th on google results.)

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    1. Rowena Post author

      XD am I that obvious? What a GREAT link you shared! I did notice in the youtube video that they did use a stamp of some sort to press the panicelle. Thank you so much for sharing the link (and maybe I should also google in english every now and then) 😉

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    1. Rowena Post author

      Wonderful! Because here’s another legend that gives concrete explanation between the connection of panettone and February 3rd.

      Shortly before Christmas, a woman went to church and left her panettone to be blessed by the monk. For some reason or other, both she and the monk forgot about the panettone until much later when the monk came across it. Thinking that the woman didn’t want it anymore, he started to eat it. Out of the blue, the woman returned to the church to take back her panettone and the monk, not having anything to say, went to retrieve what was left of it. To his surprise he found a panettone twice as large. The miracle was attributed to San Biagio, because guess what day it was? February 3rd!

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    1. Rowena Post author

      I read that Castelbuono’s Fiasconaro pastry shop was giving away free tastings of their “King” panettone in Milan on S. Biagio day. How I wish I could’ve gone into the city that day.

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