Category Archives: Christmas

Hot Toddy

A hot toddy make with The GlenlivetToddy, or hot toddy, is a Scots drink of whisky, sugar, and hot water.

I’ve read that the name refers to Tod’s Well, an ancient spring that once gave Edinburgh its water.[1]  In other words it is yet another instance of the charming tradition of referring to whisky as water.[2]

Ancestral wisdom tells us that taking a mug of toddy in bed before sleep will cure many ailments.

The traditional toddy recipe I have calls for equal parts whisky and water.  Modern recipes are more likely 2 parts whisky to 3 parts or more of water.  They also typically use citrus and spices.  Though not traditional, the citrus is important, as the sweet, boozy cocktail absolutely requires acidity … Continue reading.

Bonus Post! Our House in Gingerbread

Raw gingerbread, ready for the oven.The last two posts have included the two most important recipes for making gingerbread houses: gingerbread and royal icing.

This season is only the second time I’ve made a gingerbread house, the first being in 2010 when Lisa and I made a gingerbread church with stained glass windows.  Thanks to the nimble index fingers of Pinterest, that has become one of the most popular posts on this site.

This year I made another house in the same style, only instead of a church, I modeled the building after the one that Lisa and I live in, in McKernan.

The structure is made from these gingerbread cookies, which are bound with this royal icing.

The shingles are sliced … Continue reading.

Gingerbread Cookies

gingerbread_dough.JPGThere are several kinds of gingerbread cookies, from the soft, chewy type with large cracks in the surface, to the very smooth, brittle sort used to build houses and men.  This post is about the latter.

Below is a very simple gingerbread recipe that I wanted to post on Button Soup for the sake of completeness, as I use it to build my gingerbread houses.  I like to cut the excess dough into other traditional shapes, like men, Christmas trees, and dinosaurs.

Tips and Tricks

  • The key to getting this dough to hold its shape during baking is to roll it quite thin, about 1/8″, and to chill it thoroughly before baking.
  • This is one of the very few instances
Continue reading.

Sugar Plums

Sugar plums, rank and file on a drying traySugar plums are one of those items that are common in Christmas carols and stories and yet are basically unknown to modern revelers. (Other examples: wassail, yule, and figgy pudding. Furthermore, I’ve never seen mistletoe before, and I just saw real holly for the first time a few weeks ago, at the farmers’ market. I got excited, grabbed the leaves, and stabbed myself.)

My dictionary defines a sugar plum as a small ball of candy, and nothing more. There are not necessarily any plums in sugar plums.  The word “plum” is associated with dried fruit, and good modern dictionaries still give one of the many meanings of “plum” as “a raisin.”  The most common manifestation of sugar plums is Continue reading.

Eggnog

Some jarred nog, agingHow to Incorporate the Eggs.  There are several different ways to put the “egg” into “eggnog.”  For a few years I used this method:

  • whisk egg yolks with some sugar until pale and foamy
  • whisk egg whites with some sugar until soft peaks form
  • fold the two egg foams together and stir into milk and cream
  • add rum and nutmeg

The problem with this method, first of all, is that if it sits for even five minutes, the eggy foams separate from the milk and cream. I wouldn’t mind a bit of head on the nog, but the foams make up about 90% of the volume.  Even during the brief moments in which all the ingredients are properly incorporated, … Continue reading.

Ukrainian Christmas Eve – Sviata Vechera

I’m not even remotely Ukrainian, but (as I’ve written many times before this) I am fascinated by the food that Ukrainians have brought here to central Alberta.

Yes, perogies.  And yes, sauerkraut, kielbasa, and cabbage rolls.  But the more I read into this cuisine, the more I respect it.  There are so many interesting preserves, and countless recipes of ingenious frugality.

It also seems that every ingredient, dish, and meal comes with superstition and ritual.

Take the traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner, or Sviata Vechera (literally “Holy Supper”), perhaps the most beloved of all Ukrainian feasts.  Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar, so their Christmas Eve falls on January 6.  There are more traditions associated with this dinner than Continue reading.

Wild Rice and Barley Pudding

A variation on a Christmas classic, using some local pantry items.

I had some cooked barley in my fridge, remnants of a barley-broth.  I decided to employ the rice pudding method to save the left-overs.  (Rice Pudding Method: a lengthy secondary cooking in sugar and milk.)  The barley sucks up a lot of the milk and releases some starch into the pot.

Once a porridge has formed, cooked wild rice and dried cherries are added, and the whole lot is thickened with butter, egg yolk, and a touch of cream.

Since the wild rice and cherries are added at the end, they stay firm for textural contrast.

Wild Rice and Barley Pudding

Ingredients

  • 235 g cooked pearled barley
  • 300
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Bread Pudding as God Intended It

Bread pudding with raisinsWhen I say bread pudding “as God intended it,” I mean using actual, stale, left-over bread heels.  Buying fresh bread just to tear it up and dry it out is like using striploin to make sausage, or rolling a torchon of foie gras just to melt it into cooking fat.

To make bread pudding stale bread is soaked in milk, cream, eggs, and sugar, then pressed into a casserole and baked.

There is a continuum of bread pudding textures, ranging from the dense and eggy (the well-known Jack’s Grill (RIP) bread pudding was a good example) to the light and ethereal.

I want to take a paragraph to describe an interesting style of bread pudding that chef Nigel Weber taught … Continue reading.

The Boar’s Head

The boar’s head in hand bear I,
Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary.
And I pray you my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio
(As many as are in the feast)

-English Traditional

 

Has it ever taken you years to understand the lyrics to a certain song?

I grew up listening to a carol that I thought was in a different language. While a few lines are in Latin, the rest is in plain English. Even so, I only deciphered the meaning of the song last year. The carol is The Boar’s Head, and it refers to the English custom, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, of serving a boar’s head at Christmastime. The head was placed on a silver … Continue reading.