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June Festival Cuisine

Originally, the feast of St John – widely popular on the Iberian Peninsula – was called Joanina, but in time it came to be known as Junina.

June Festival Cuisine

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 13/12/2016

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

June is the month of three important Catholic saints who were introduced to Brazil by Portuguese settlers: St Peter, St Anthony and St John. The first of these was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, and is regarded as the guardian of the gates of heaven and protector of widows and fishermen. 29 June is his feast day. St Anthony, celebrated on 13 June, is the holy matchmaker, being invoked by single people who wish to find a partner. Finally, St John was the cousin of Jesus Christ and his birth occurred on 24 June. Of the three, the last is the most celebrated saint. Originally, the feast of St John – widely popular on the Iberian Peninsula – was called Joanina, but in time it came to be known as Junina.

When it comes to festivals that use fire, it is necessary to remember that this tradition comes from remote pagan celebrations in the early days of the Christian era, when cults and sacrifices were undertaken to confront and remove demons and witches responsible for pests, drought, and sterility. In this way, the Portuguese incorporated fire into their calendar, believing that it could act as an important element in the struggle between the forces of good and evil.

There is controversy, however, regarding the origin of the feast of St John. It should be clarified that 23 June, according to the rituals of the agrarian calendar of antiquity, represents the commemorative date of cereal harvests, as well as the passage of the summer or winter solstice, depending on the hemisphere.

There are those who consider the month of June, the fourth in Romulus’ calendar, as the time of the year dedicated to the goddess Juno, the worshiped daughter of Saturn and the wife of Jupiter, who had many children. The June festivals, therefore, originated from the devotion of pagan peoples to this divinity, where the fertility of the goddess and earth were revered. In order to ward off the drought and the plagues of the crop, many sacrifices in her name were made.

Some researchers, on the other hand, place the beginnings of the June festival in Asia and Africa in 3,500BCE, noting that in ancient Egypt, the death and resurrection of the god Osiris were related to the floods of the Nile River, and this was greatly celebrated. The return of the waters to its usual bed left a moist and fertile strip of land for sowing, thus allowing for excellent harvests.

According to Câmara Cascudo (1954), regardless of theories about its origin, St John is celebrated with overflowing joys of a kind and Dionysian god with abundant food, music, dancing, drinks and a marked sexual tendency in popular celebrations, divinations for marriage, collective nightswimming, future predictions and announcing the death of censorship for the next year… According to tradition, the saint falls asleep during the day that is so loudly dedicated to him by the people, across the centuries and countries. If he is awake, seeing the flash of the burning fires in his honour, he will not resist the desire to descend from heaven to accompany the oblation and the world will eventually catch fire.

In Northeast Brazil in particular, it is one of the most celebrated festivals. Among its fundamental aspects are the quadrilhas [square-dancing] and forró [music], bonfires, balloons, processions and novenas, and the wonderful junina [June festival] cuisine. In this, the Portuguese introduced salt, sugar, cinnamon powder, cloves, coconut and corn. The Indians, in turn, brought cassava. As a fundamental part of Brazilian culture, the cuisine was also re-elaborated and recreated by the miscegenation of tastes and life experiences of the main ethnic groups that formed the Brazilian population: indigenous, African and European.

In terms of the rich junina cuisine, its traditional dishes are the following: cooked or roasted corn (on coals), canjica [corn cream with sugar and coconut milk], pamonha [corn pudding], pé-de-moleque [a traditional cake made with manioc gum, cashew nuts and coconut milk], cocada [coconut candy], corn cakes, macaxeira (also called aipim – cassava root) and manioc. Here are some of St John’s basic recipes.

BOILED CORN

Remove husk and hair from the corn and grate the cob lightly to tear the skin covering the grains a little. Put cobs into a large pot (or pressure cooker) with enough water to cover them and salt (to taste). Cook everything until the grains soften. Test with a fork, before removing from the heat.

CANJICA

Ingredients:

25 cobs green corn;
1 ½ cups water;
3 grated coconuts;
2 cups sugar;
Cinnamon powder (to sprinkle);
Salt to taste.

Preparation:

With a sharp knife, cut the corn kernels close to the cob. Place in a blender, gradually add water and blend until the mixture becomes a puree. Then sieve to remove the kernels’ pericarps. Then remove the thick milk from the coconut and set aside. Squeeze the coconut again to obtain a thinner milk. In a large pan, combine the corn mixture with half the thin milk and heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Season with salt, add the sugar and mix well. Remove from heat. Put the canjica in dishes or platters and sprinkle with cinnamon powder.

PE-DE-MOLEQUE

Ingredients:

1 kg manioc gum,
4 cups sugar,
½ litre water, 250 g butter,
2 eggs,
½ litre coconut milk,
200 g toasted cashews,
1 tsp cloves,
1 tsp fennel seeds.

Preparation:

Wash, let sit and squeeze manioc. Put aside in a large bowl. Crush cashew, clove and fennel to a powder. Add to manioc. Heat water, sugar and butter to make a syrup. Pour the syrup while still very hot over the manioc and powdered seasoning and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add eggs and coconut milk. Mix batter well. Put in a greased and floured cake tin and bake in a pre-heated oven. Remove from tin after cooling.

CASSAVA CAKE

Ingredients:

2 kg cassava,
1 grated coconut, 500 g sugar,
1 tbsp butter,
Cloves, pinch of salt,
Milk (enough to cover the cake).

Preparation:

Peel, wash and grate cassava and mix with grated coconut. Make a syrup from sugar and clove. Remove the cloves and pour over the cassava mix. Add butter, salt, and mix well. Pour cake batter in a greased and floured cake tin and cover with milk. Bake in a pre-heated oven and remove from the tin after cooling.

PAMONHA

Ingredients:

20 cobs green corn,
2 cups of milk or coconut milk,
3 tbsp cream,
Sugar and salt to taste.

Preparation:
Cut the grains of the corn with a sharp knife and mix in a blender or grinder. Then sift them through a coarse sieve. Mix all ingredients in the recipe. Wrap and tie the thick liquid in the corn husk and cook the pamonha in a pan with boiling water for about 30 minutes until they harden.



Recife, 1 July 2005.
(Updated on 31 October 2007).
Translated by Peter Leamy, September 2016.

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GUSMÃO, Flávia. Oi, pisa o milho...Penerô xerém! Diário Oficial do Estado de Pernambuco, Suplemento Cultural, Recife, ano XV, jun. 2001. p. 12-13.

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how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Culinária junina. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Acesso em: dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.