Tradition is at the heart of most holiday celebrations. For each of us those traditions vary from when the gifts are opened to what kind of food is served. Many food traditions are included in popular Christmas carols. But what are those “traditional” foods really all about?
Figgy Pudding (also known as Christmas pudding or plum pudding)
Made famous by the carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” this pudding, more like bread pudding, is British and dates back to Shakespeare’s time. This is known because the English Puritans banned it because of the high alcohol content! This cakelike treat is loaded with dried fruits, including figs, and has brandy, cognac or rum in the mix and often poured over the top.
Most figgy pudding recipes call for hours of steaming. Some contain exotic ingredients. However the base of the scrumptious dessert is somewhat like carrot cake loaded with dried fruits.
Good Housekeeping offers a simplified recipe for the traditional Christmas dessert.
The classic tale of “A Christmas Carol” featured a goose at the holiday table. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” sings about the goose as well. Why goose?
The goose is popular in Europe, where they are served as part of a traditional holiday meal in many countries, according to Food Lover’s Companion. In olden days, the goose was very accessible and affordable so it adorned the table of the working class. The turkey was only for the European rich.
In the United States, because turkeys were abundant, they became the holiday bird of choice. However geese are available and graded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A Grade A goose is the best. Grade B is less meaty and Grade C is not typically available to consumers. Geese contain a lot of fat and taste best when roasted.
Here is a basic recipe for goose.
“The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.” Those are the words of Johnny Carson, former host of the Tonight Show. The fruity dessert may not be featured in a carol, but it has a long history and is a holiday treat for many.
As far back as the Middle Ages, people cooked candied fruits into bread as a luxury for special occasions. In the 18th century, fruitcake was outlawed in Europe for being “sinfully rich.”
For those of you haven’t dared take a bit, fruit cake consists of large chunks of fruit and nuts held together by a small amount of cake. A lot of sugar is used in preparing the dessert.
The Joy of Baking features a fruit cake recipe.
We have visions of sugarplums dance through our heads during the holidays. But wait. What does a sugarplum look like? You may be surprised.
The true definition of sugarplum is a sweet, sugary treat made around a seed or kernel, according to “Sugar Plums: They are not What You Think They Are” in The Atlantic.
Using a process called panning, successive layers of sugar are poured over the seed and allowed to harden. This is the same process used to make Jawbreakers. This process is tedious and time consuming but can have a delicious outcome for those willing to try.
While this recipe uses plums, research indicates the sugarplums referred to in the famous poem, had not fruit in them whatsoever. They were called sugarplums because of their shape.
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