Friday, May 24 2024

On November 11, the day dedicated to St. Martin of Tours, it is a Sicilian custom to eat biscotti di San Martino, very dry and hard cookies flavored with fennel or anise seeds.
This is a very old custom, linked to the rituals of wine farmers, who on the occasion of the so-called Summer of St. Martin saw the new wine, an important source of their economy, ripen.

Reciting the proverb “On St. Martin’s Day every must is wine,” the men would cue the barrels and rush to taste the new wine, hoping it would be of good quality.

The women would then arrive with freshly baked St. Martin’s cookies, and everyone would proceed to take one and dunk it in the new wine, muscat or some other sweet fortified wine kept at home for occasions, in an atmosphere of hope and positivity imbued with the very intense scent of anise and wine.
Compounded by the decline of the peasant era, the custom of eating St. Martin’s cookies on November 11 is less and less felt today.

Nevertheless, these crunchy cookies continue to have their place in bakeries and pastry shops.




  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 7 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
  • 2 tablespoons fresh yeast (or active dry yeast)
  • 1.5 tablespoons anise seeds
  • A pinch of salt
  • Water, as needed



  • Work flour with brewer’s yeast dissolved in warm water and then mix with sugar, lard, salt and anise seeds.
  • Add water until the dough has the consistency of bread dough.
  • Cut the dough into chunks just long enough to create ascending spiral-type shapes about 1.20 inches in diameter and lay the shapes well apart on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
  • Let them rise for at least two hours.
  • After this time has elapsed, place the baking sheet in an oven preheated to 390 F.
  • After 10 minutes, bake the cookies for two minutes, raise the oven temperature to 320 F and bake them again for 20 minutes, taking care that they do not turn brown.
  • At the end of baking, let the St. Martin’s cookies cool in the turned-off oven.



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