St. Joseph Altar Recipes

These recipes are taken from Viva San Giuseppe: A Guide For St. Joseph Altars published by St. Joseph Guild, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1985.

With over 40 pages of recipes, stories of faith, Altar background, and history, this little out-of-print booklet is a handy reference for anyone setting up a St. Joseph Altar.

Donations to the Virtual St. Joseph Altar of $25 or more will receive a digital copy of Viva San Giuseppe: A guide for Saint Joseph Altars. Delivered right to your inbox — all you need to do is print. Help keep the Virtual Altar running while spreading devotion to St. Joseph!

Here’s a small sampling of some of the recipes contained in this booklet:

Symbolic Pastries:

Spada (Monstrance), Hearts, Baskets, Fish, Staff, etc.
This dough is NOT edible!
5 lbs. flour
1 lb. shortening
water – enough to form a firm dough

Combine all ingredients. Knead and roll out as thin as possible — large enough to cut out the desired shape. Dried fig filling is placed on dough in the shape of the symbol being made. Another thin layer of dough is placed over the figs and the bottom layer of dough. With great care and artistic skill, cut out leaves, flowers, etc. through the top layer to expose figs. The top layer is similiar to a piece of “cutwork.” It is then baked in a low-heat oven to light brown.

Joseph’s Staff
With sharp knife, cut dough into three equal parts. Roll dough to about 2 1/2 feet long. Place on greased cookie sheet in shape of candy cane. Slightly flatten dough with heel of hand. With scissors at a 45° angle, make one-inch snips along both sides and on top of dough. (Snips should all go in the same direction.) Yields 3 large staffs.

Cut dough into four equal parts. Roll dough to about 2 feet in length. Place on greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly with heel of hand. Snip dough on both sides and in middle. Yields 4 large palms.

Cut dough in half. Roll dough to about 4 feet long. Cut off 20 inches. Place the 28-inch piece on greased cookie sheet vertically and place the 20-inch piece horizontally forming a cross. Where it crosses, use your fist to mesh together the two pieces of dough. Tuck under ends of each bar to give a rounded, finished end. Yields 2 large crosses.

Cut dough in half. Roll dough about six feet long. Cut off two feet. Bend remaining dough in half. Place the two-foot long section in the middle and begin plaiting. Yields 2 large twists.

Cut dough in half. Roll out to 4 feet long. Flatten out with heel of hand. With scissors on an angle cut half-way through dough about every 3 inches all the way down only on one side. Starting at one end, roll as you do a jelly roll. Place on greased cookie sheet with cut end up. Let rise. (As it rises, the points take on the shape of artichoke leaves.) Yields 2 large artichokes.


5 lbs. flour
3 cups sugar
3/4 lbs. Crisco
3/4 lbs. oleo
2 cups milk
9 eggs
1 oz. flavoring
5 tablespoons baking powder

Combine all ingredients and mix till dough is smooth. Roll dough into walnut-size balls or make into ring cookies or any shape desired. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes.

This is a basic biscottie recipe. You may vary the flavoring as you desire; i.e., vanilla, lemon, strawberry, pineapple, mint, almond, anise, etc. If anise oil is used, use only a teaspoonful – not an ounce. A few drops of food coloring may be added to the dough to correspond with the flavoring; i.e., red for strawberry, yellow for lemon, green for mint or anise, etc.


2 cups black olives
2 cups green olives
2 cups diced celery
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 onion sliced
1/2 cup capers
1 tablespoon parsley chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tespoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons wine vinegar

Remove seed and crush olives. Mix all ingredients in a container, cover and refrigerate for 2 or 3 days. Yeilds 6 1/4 cups.

Stuffed Artichokes:

bread crumbs (plain or seasoned)
romano cheese, grated
garlic, finely chopped
green onions, chopped
parsley, chopped
olive oil

Cut off stalks and tips of artichokes. Wash well and turn upside down and drain. Mix all dry ingredients well. Stiff artichokes by separating leaves.

Place stuffed artichokes in a large pot of shallow waster. Slowly pour gnerous amounts of olive oil over artichoke, so that it seeps through and moistens stuffing. Cover pot and steam for about an hour or until leaves are tender. It may be necessary to add more water to the pot.

Fava Beans:

1 lb. fava beans
1 bunch green onions
1 medium onion
4 toes garlic
3 bay leaves
chopped parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook dried fava beans in boiling water until tender, adding more water as needed. Saute seasonings in olive oil till tender, add to beans. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot in soup bowl as consistency is a bit soupy.

“The extreme discretion with which Joseph carried out the role entrusted to him by God highlights his faith even more, which consisted in always listening to the Lord, seeking to understand his will and to obey it with his whole heart and strength.”

Pope John Paul II
Address before Midday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, March 17, 2002