As Christmas approaches this week, cookbooks are being brought out, and tried-and-true recipes are being tested by everyone from home cooks expecting a table full of family and friends to trained restaurant chefs. Based on the interviews I’ve conducted with cooks of all skill levels, this week is not the time to try something new and complicated. Sticking with the basics to insure there are no mishaps just prior to hosting a group for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day meals is the preferred plan of all.
But just because you want a foolproof meal shouldn’t stop you from reminiscing a little about Christmas meals and traditions of the past.
This past weekend, I stopped by a friend’s house and she shared with me a wrinkled sheet of paper containing the menu from a 1960s music club’s Christmas party. Dishes that were popular back then were glazed pork loin, cranberry pecan rice, blue cheese mold, tomato aspic on red pepper rings and cranberry crunch with whipped cream.
Another friend shared her grandmother’s baked ham with pineapple rings and cherries recipe, without which no Christmas dinner would be complete. A coast friend mentioned that unless old-school shrimp cocktail starts the Christmas meal, the entire family would revolt.
Whichever decade or family member you choose to honor when preparing this year’s holiday meals, remember the most important rule of all: prepare the dishes you and your family loves and will enjoy the most. That’s what makes any Christmas meal memorable.
Here are a few old-school Christmas recipes to make your meal special. Merry Christmas!
Old-Fashioned Cranberry Relish
2 cups raw cranberries
1 unpeeled orange, quartered
1-3/4 to 2 cups sugar
3 cups hot water
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 packages Jell-O, your choice: strawberry, raspberry, or cherry
Put cranberries and orange through food processor. Place mixture in bowl and add sugar and celery. Add gelatin to hot water, stir until dissolved. Refrigerate until consistency of egg white. Add cranberry mixture and refrigerate until firm.
Recipe from Pascagoula: Treasure of Personal Recipes
Colorful Christmas Parfait
1 cup crumbled graham crackers
2 tablespoons softened butter or margarine (or non-fat margarine)
2 teaspoons sugar or sugar substitute
2 cups cranberry sauce, cooled (see recipe below)
2 cups Cool Whip
2 drops green food coloring
Very gently fold the green food coloring into the Cool Whip twice and set aside.
Be careful, since Cool Whip will curdle with the food coloring.
If you use fresh cream, you won’t have this problem, but you will have the calories. In a wine goblet or pretty parfait glass, layer 2 tablespoons of graham crackers, then a half cup of cooled cranberry sauce, and top with one-fourth of the green Cool Whip.
Baked Spiced Fruit
1 (17-ounce) can apricot halves
1 (16-ounce) can peach halves
1 (16-ounce) pear halves
1 (15-1/4 ounce) can pineapple chunks
1 cup orange juice
1/3 firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 3-inch stick cinnamon
4 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon mace
Dash of salt
Drain fruit. Cut apricots, peaches and pears in halves. Combine fruit in a 12x8x2 inch baking dish. Combine orange juice and remaining ingredients in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour over fruit. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve immediately. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves before serving.
Mom’s Christmas Cream Puffs
1/2 cup butter
1 cup boiling water
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 box vanilla pudding
Melt butter in 1 cup boiling water. Add flour and salt all at once. Stir vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Add eggs, one at a time, heating after each until smooth.
Drop by heaping tablespoons 3 inches apart on non-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes, then at 325 degrees F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven; split. Turn oven off; put cream puffs back in to dry, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack. Makes 10 or if you prefer more, make them smaller. Fill with vanilla pudding (I use the prepared box mix.)
Recipe by Bonita Favre, from The Favre Family Cookbook