01 February 2008
Groundhog Day Meatloaf
By the beginning of February I am eager to welcome Spring. The Witch Hazel tree in my yard has been blooming for over a week now and bulbs are starting to push up through the dirt. The schools here have started late a few times because of ice and snow, enough to satisfy those who delight in winter’s surprises, and the charms of winter are starting to wear thin. I begin to wonder - just how much longer will winter last? It seems like a good time to take stock and do a little forecasting.
And so my thoughts turn to the groundhog. Who, I ask you, is better qualified than the groundhog to tell us when winter will end? It seems he has been predicting the time of Spring's arrival for generations.
But honestly, what does he know? While I know that Groundhog Day is approaching, I have to admit that I know little else about the meteorological qualifications of this scruffy rodent. Since we had a snow day and my morning meeting was cancelled I took the opportunity to do a background check on our little forecasting friend.
What did I learn about Groundhog Day?
1. The tradition comes from Germany where it was originally a hedgehog that came out of his burrow to check the weather. If this small skittish creature saw his shadow when he peeped from his hole on February 2, he would go back inside for six more weeks of winter. If, instead, it was cloudy and overcast he would come out to an early Spring.
2. At Suite101.com I also learned that when there were no hedgehogs to be found in America, the role of rodent meteorologist was transferred to the groundhog, thought by some Native Americans to be the wisest of animals.
3. From Mother Earth News I learned that the groundhog is also known as a whistle pig.
4. Whistle pigs are vegetarians and for this reason are actually quite tasty to eat.
5. A related thought came from an article in the Daily Mail where I learned that ancient peoples in Great Britain ate hedgehogs as a delicacy.
6. The Two Fat Ladies of Food Network fame have a recipe for a large meatloaf that they call “Roast Hedgehog."
7. Feb 2 is also known as Candlemas day. This occasion celebrates the 4oth day after the birth of Christ when Jesus was presented to the Lord at the Temple in Jerusalem. At that time the Gospel of Luke tells us that the prophet Simeon saw Jesus and declared him to be the Light of the World.
8. For this reason liturgical candles are blessed on this day.
9. I also looked up February 2 in my copy of Mrs. Sharp's Traditions. It says that Candlemas day was also considered to be the day when the last trace of the Christmas holiday decorations were to be cleared away (a good reminder to get that Evergreen Wreath off of my front door.)
10. It was also a traditional day for predicting the weather – which brings us back to that groundhog.
All of that is very interesting but this is a food blog. How can we acknowledge the occasion with food? While hedgehogs may have been good eating in ancient Britain, and groundhogs might be tasty too, I don’t know where to get one and wouldn’t feel inclined to test that assertion anyway.
Instead, I suggest making a meatloaf to celebrate Groundhog Day. This one is made with ground pork (nod to the whistle pig) and ground turkey breast (because it is readily available, high in protein and low in fat) in a recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. It is shaped according to the prompts from a recipe for "Roast Hedgehog" in Cooking with Two Fat Ladies. We can even dine by candlelight if we are careful not to let the groundhog cast a shadow.
I might also suggest watching Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, for after dinner entertainment. Sounds like a good way to say goodbye to winter to me!
Groundhog Day Meat Loaf
3/4 pound ground pork
3/4 pound ground turkey breast
3/4 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 cup rosemary leaves
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
3 black olives
Mix all ingredients throughly. Shape mixture into an oval mound on a shallow roasting pan (or spread in an ungreased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan, if you prefer).
Combine the rosemary leaves and toasted sliced almonds. Sprinkle the mixture across the loaf to cover it, pressing the almonds and rosemary leaves into the surface gently. Arrange the three olives at one end to look like eyes and a nose.
Bake at 350 degrees until a thermometer inserted into the middle of the loaf reads 165 degrees, approximately 1 hour. Remove from oven. Let stand five to ten minutes before serving.
Happy Groundhog Day!