What’s old is becoming trendy again. Those dishes we hear about so often in Christmas poems and carols — wassail and sugarplums and such — are making their way back onto holiday tables.
If you’re looking for something a little different for dinner or other festivities, try these old old-school beverages, sweets and snacks for a little added nostalgia, Tiny Tim-style.
- Listen to Julie chat about the holiday treats:
Mulled cider, wine or even beer or lemonade has been a warming, festive drink for centuries. It’s simple to make by simmering citrus and spices in your beverage of choice.
- 1L apple cider or juice, lemonade or red wine (or a combination)
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (optional)
- 2-3 slices fresh orange and/or lemon
- 2-3 slices fresh ginger
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3-4 star anise (optional)
- 3-4 allspice berries (optional)
Combine everything in a saucepan and bring to a simmer; let steep for at least a half hour to allow the flavours to meld. Serve steaming hot.
Back before packaged candies, balls of dried fruit and nuts — sugarplums — were tucked into kids’ stockings. You can make them out of any combination of dried fruit and toasted nuts, with a drizzle of honey or spoonful of marmalade to help things along. Shape the mixture into balls, then roll in sugar for an almost-instant confection.
- 6-8 dried figs, stem ends trimmed
- 6-8 dried apricots
- 6-8 pitted Medjool dates
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup toasted almonds, pecans, hazelnuts or a combination
- 2 Tbsp. cocoa (optional)
- 2-3 Tbsp. honey or marmalade
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla
- Coarse sugar or shredded coconut, for rolling
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the dried fruit, nuts, cocoa, honey or marmalade, cinnamon and vanilla until well blended and chunky — the mixture should be sticky enough to roll into a smooth ball.
Roll the mixture into one-inch balls and roll in coarse sugar to coat. Store at room temperature, or package in small baking cups for gift giving.
Makes about one and a half dozen sugarplums.
Fresh chestnuts are easy to find in the produce section of most grocery stores. To roast them, simply cut through their tough skins — either around their middles or by making a large X on one side — then place in a pan or on a baking sheet and roast at 425˚F for 30 minutes, or until the nuts are golden and their skins have split. Alternatively, place them directly on the barbecue and turn with tongs until roasted. Serve in a tea towel and peel and eat them warm.
Goose is becoming a popular alternative to the usual Christmas turkey; it’s richer, with more fat underneath the skin, so when you prep it, skewer the skin with a bamboo skewer in several places to help render the fat. You’ll need to pour it out of the pan as it cooks, but pour it into a jar and keep it — goose fat makes delicious roasted potatoes.
- 1 goose, trimmed of excess fat
- Canola or olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 orange and/or lemon, quartered
- A handful of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and parsley
Pat your goose dry with paper towels, poke the skin in several places with a sharp skewer, then rub it with a drizzle of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with a quartered lemon and/or orange and a handful of fresh herbs.
Cover the goose with foil and roast at 400˚F for 15 minutes per kilogram, plus an extra half hour. You’ll need to pour off the excess fat a few times; uncover the bird for the last half hour or so of cooking. Your goose is done when a meat thermometer inserted into a thick part of the breast or thigh reads 170˚F.
Tent with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.
A traditional German yeast-leavened bread-cake, stollen — or weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen — is loaded with dried fruit. The dough is folded over itself, often covering a ribbon of marzipan, before being baked and doused in icing sugar.
- 1 ½ cups warm milk
- 1 Tbsp. yeast
- 6-8 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup dried cranberries or cherries
- ¾ cup golden raisins
- ¾ cup currants
- 1 ½ cup sliced almonds
- ½ cup diced candied citrus peel
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup sugar
- grated zest of an orange
- 3 eggs
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla
- Icing sugar, for dusting
In a large bowl, combine the warm milk and yeast. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until yeast is dissolved. Whisk in one cup of the flour and let it sit in a warm place until doubled in size and spongy.
Meanwhile, combine cherries, raisins, currants, almonds and citrus peel. Sprinkle a little of the flour over and toss it with your hands. Set aside.
Beat the butter, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one) until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, followed by the salt and vanilla.
Add the fruit and nuts, the sponge and six cups of flour. Stir and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if it’s too sticky. You may eventually need to turn it out onto a floured countertop to do this, unless you have an effective dough hook.
Cover the dough with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk.
To shape your loaves, divide the dough into two or three pieces, pat each into a rough oval and fold one third lengthwise over the other two thirds. Place on baking sheets — one loaf per sheet — cover and allow to rise again until almost doubled in bulk. As they rise, preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Bake loaves for 30-40 minutes (depending on whether you made two or three), until they are golden brown. When loaves are cool, dust them generously with icing sugar.
Makes two to three loaves.