Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Lord is close at hand!—the Christmas Feast

Christmas Day is right around the corner now—and the cooks among us are planning our Christmas menu.

As we welcome Christ, we might start the day with a delicious Christstollen—a beautiful coffee cake, shaped like Christ’s swaddling clothes? (Recipe in A Continual Feast, p. 114). Ah, this kind of baking is such fun! (Children love to help knead dough—to pound and thwack it.) I spent much of this past weekend baking with my wonderful daughter-in-law, Ann. We had such a good time making bread and springerles and the cranberry pudding that you will see below!

And then, let’s keep our great feast from feeling like a replay of Thanksgiving, with its turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pies, etc.

We might go for a boar’s head this year—with the apple in its mouth, it does look so festive and memorable! And it would certainly be different from Thanksgiving! (The medievalist in me rather likes the idea.)
Here (to the right) is the look:

But on second thought, perhaps not.

Perhaps a beautiful roast beef (many fine recipes for roast beef are available in cookbooks and on line). You might serve the roast with roasted red potatoes, or mashed potatoes, or wild rice on the side--and of course your favorite vegetables or salads.

For desserts: steamed cranberry pudding—the recipe is below.
And perhaps pecan pie (recipe in A Continual Feast, p. 21).
And, like the Christstollen, can anything be more appropriate for the Nativity than some of those sweet little cookies called Christ's diapers? (The recipe is in A Continual Feast, p. 100.)

Between courses—or at several points during the meal—perhaps ask each member of the family or group to start a Christmas carol, and then all join in? If you don’t have singers, perhaps you can play Christmas CDs during the meal? I find I just can’t get enough Christmas music—I love those beautiful carols!

Steamed cranberry pudding (slightly modified from A Continual Feast)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup water
3 Tablespoons sweet butter
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/4 cups cranberries
Optional: 2-3 Tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped

For the sauce:
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Butter generously a pudding steamer. Dust with flour.
Sift the flour with the baking soda, salt, ginger and cloves.
In a saucepan, heat the water with the butter, stirring until the butter is melted. Stir in the molasses and brown sugar. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is well blended.
Add gradually to the flour mixture, stirring until the mixture is smooth.
Add the cranberries and optional crystallized ginger and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the pudding steamer. Cover it tightly.
Place the pudding steamer on a wire rack or vegetable steamer in a large pot with a tightly fitting lid. Pour an inch or so of water into the pot. Bring it to a boil, cover the pot tightly and reduce heat to medium. Steam the pudding for about 2 hours or until the pudding is firm and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Check occasionally to be sure that the water has not boiled away.
Serve the pudding warm with hot sauce poured over each slice.

The sauce:
Combine the sugar, cream, and butter in a saucepan. Heat thoroughly, stirring frequently, until the butter is melted. Add the vanilla and serve hot.


  1. Oh, yes, definitely the boar's head!

  2. Virtually scary as it 'looks at one' with blazing red eyes.... ;-)