I’m not sure I’d heard of Martinmas, sometimes called Martlemas, or if I had I knew little about it apart from the name, however it seems it’s St Martin’s Day today, and as it’s my foodie month, I was wondering what would be traditionally eaten. Apparently the day is also known as Old Halloween or Old Hallowmas Eve; Martin was the third bishop of Tours in France and was originally a Roman soldier. It’s about the time of year that autumn wheat would be sown and cattle slaughtered before winter – so no doubt this day was celebrated long before there was Christianity, and probably the saint was grafted onto the older celebration.
In Ireland it was also a slaughtering time, but pigs were the victims and what is now St Martin’s Eve, the day before Martinmas, was originally a pagan tradition. In the old times the pig’s blood was sprinkled on the doorstep and the four corners of the house to keep evil spirits away.. In Tours there’s Martinmas beef, in Ireland there’s pork fillet fried in butter. Elsewhere Geese were the animals which met their fate – although I always thought their execution took place at Michaelmas to provide a Michaelmas goose.
I came across a stuffing recipe for the pork filet, quite simple as it should be when the meat is good:
3 oz soft butter
6 oz each of finely chopped onion and soft white breadcrumbs
4 tbsp finely chopped mixed herbs – of your choice! I don’t like rosemary or thyme so I would miss them out
It’s simple enough, melt the butter and gently fry the onions, then mix in the breadcrumbs, herbs and seasoning and leave it all to cool. The fillets are sliced open, the stuffing stuffed in, the whole thing tied with string, and then roasted with butter. I’ve had problems with escaping stuffing, so I usually wrap the fillet in foil, cook it in the oven like that, and then I guess if you wanted it browned, just quickly roll it in a hot pan… we just slice it up and eat it!