May 142013


Today we celebrate St Engelmund of Velsen who died on this date c.739.  It is customary to celebrate a saint on the day of his/her death, but St Engelmund is also honored on June 21.  He was born in England of Frisian parents, and went on to be a Benedictine monk, then priest, then abbot. Eventually he decided to move to Frisia where he worked with Saint Willibrord, also English, bringing Christianity to the Frisian people.  His home base was in Velsen.

In art, Saint Engelmund is usually depicted as a pilgrim abbot with a fountain springing under his staff. He is venerated in Frisia and invoked against toothache.

Frisia is a sprawling territory lying on the southeast corner of the North Sea. It stretches across the coastlands of modern Holland and Germany up to the border of Denmark.   Velsen is in the Dutch part.  Frisians speak the Frisian language, which is very closely related to English.  Currently there are around 500,000 native speakers in Holland. Dutch Frisia is primarily an agricultural area with dairying and cheese making predominating. The largest Dutch cheese manufacturer is in Frisia. Frisia is also famous for world class speed skaters who practice on frozen canals in the winter.  There is a local sport involving canals called fierljeppen, vaguely similar to pole vaulting.  A jump consists of an intense sprint to a pole somewhere between 8 and 13 meters (26 and 42 feet) long, jumping and grabbing it, then climbing to the top while trying to control the pole’s forward and lateral movements over a canal,  finishing with a landing on a sand bed opposite to the starting point. The aim is to see how far one can leap.  The current record is 21.51 meters (70.51 feet). The sport is believed to have originated with farmers vaulting across drainage ditches to reach different parts of their farms.

Yeast pancakes are a very common holiday treat in Frisia.  They are often served drizzled with Beerenburg, a characterstic liqueur made from Dutch gin flavored with a secret blend of herbs and spices.

Fryske Pannekoek – Frisian pancake


2 cups milk
1 teaspoon yeast
2 ½ cups flour
pinch salt

Beerenburg (optional)


Dissolve the yeast in a part of the lukewarm milk and set aside for 10 minutes.

Place the flour in a large bowl and make a hole in the center. Pour the yeast mixture in the hole.

Beat the flour and yeast mixture while adding the rest of the milk to make a smooth batter.

Cover and let the batter rise 1 hour in a warm place.

Heat some butter in a pancake or frying pan. Spoon a quarter of the batter in and move the pan around so the batter covers the complete bottom. Fry the pancake over low heat to golden brown and turn when the upper surface is dry. Fry the second side over higher heat until brown.

Fry the other 3 pancakes keeping the cooked pancakes warm.

Serve the pancakes with butter and sugar and some Beerenburg drizzled over them if you wish. You can also substitute any herbed liqueur such as Benedictine (given that Engelmund was a Benedictine monk).

Serves  4.