Make it a magnificent May Day
By Lisa Crockett
Spring in Colorado is a fickle season, but this day at the halfway point between the first day of spring and the first day of summer offers at least the hope that consistent warm temperatures are coming soon. The celebration of “May Day” is largely a European phenomenon focused on traditional rites of spring – displays of the season’s earliest blooms and buds, particularly. Here in this country, May Day is mostly a holiday celebrated by school children who learn about obscure Eastern European customs like the Maypole and the May Queen. Here are some ideas for bringing this holiday to this side of the Atlantic, into the twenty-first century – and into your kitchen:
Muddle some mint. The Kentucky Derby is always held on the first Saturday in May; this year’s celebration will be just a few days after May Day. The official drink of the Derby is the mint julep. Mix up a batch of mint simple syrup by combining one cup water, one cup sugar, and one cup fresh mint leaves; bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves and simmer for an additional minute. Let the leaves steep for 30 minutes, then strain and store the syrup in the fridge. Add to your favorite julep or lemonade for a springtime refresher.
Hey honey! Tradition holds that May 1 is the day beekeepers move their beehives. For a special treat, pick up a bottle of local honey add two or three pieces of star anise, a cinnamon stick and four or five whole cloves. Allow the honey to “rest” for four or five days and then carefully spoon the spices out of the jar, or strain the honey into another container. This concoction is tasty for many dishes, but it’s especially delicious drizzled over soft Brie and served with sturdy crackers.
Bounteous blooms. Many flowering plants are edible (ask for help choosing edible flowers at the garden center) and using them to garnish food is a great way to bring spring to the table. If flowers in food seems too weird, you can still bring flowers to the table in a fun and festive way by freezing flowers or flower petals (pansies, hibiscus, and even chrysanthemums) in ice cubes for a pretty display in an ice bucket.
Make mock crullers. Crullers are traditional May Day fare in Finland, but they can be a lot of work to make. If you’re looking for a short cut, grab a tube of pre-made biscuit dough from the refrigerated section at the supermarket. Heat oil in a shallow frying pan to 375 degrees. Chop the biscuit dough in half, then fry until golden on both sides. Serve hot, dusted with powdered sugar.
Super spring soup. With warmer temperatures coming, follow the Italian tradition of using up the last of the winter provisions by making a May Day soup. To your favorite broth add pre-simmered or canned beans, pasta, parsley, sage, thyme, basil and mint. To this add artichoke hearts, tender asparagus tips and fava beans. Simmer until the pasta and veggies are tender.