When I think of Christmas, one of the first things that comes to mind so often is the food. Reflecting on my childhood, most of my food memories are around baking. My mom is an amazing baker and it’s at Christmas when she out-does herself, making all kinds of different, traditional German cookies: Spritzgebaek, Vanillien Kipfeln, Honigskuchen, Stollen, Pfeffernuesse… my mouth is watering as I write!!
I didn’t grow up with a turkey so inherited this tradition from my husband’s family, something I am eternally grateful for: I LOVE turkey. Since I’ve learned how to cook one, I’m usually the one who offers to do it for each family celebration. We always make sure we get one big enough so that we can have a week’s worth of turkey sandwiches afterwards; in fact, I think we almost love turkey sandwiches more than the cooked turkey itself. I also love turkey soup – so the bird provides us with all kinds of meals after the initial feast.
Having said all of that, I realize that The Feast can be a burden for many – both a financial burden and a time burden. A family meal should be a joyful experience, not a drag. If cooking is not your thing or your budget is stretched to the max, then consider simplifying your meal and invite others to participate with you. After all, getting together with family should be more about the family than the food, right?
One of my best Christmas memories is from a family gathering years ago when my son and my nieces were all toddlers. We lived in a tiny basement suite but hosted the Christmas meal anyway. Instead of a turkey, we had what Russian Mennonites call “Faspa” – a simple meal of buns, meat and cheese and Christmas baking. My mom bakes fantastic buns, so she supplied that, my sister brought cheese, and I bought cold cuts. We all shared our baking and I made hot apple cider and coffee to round out the meal. We didn’t eat at the table but sat on the couch or the floor and let our kids run around while we ate – they just came to us for a mouthful of food from time to time. It was a wonderful, relaxed, joy-filled time because we weren’t stressed out about the meal, we simply enjoyed each other’s company.
Even if you do a sit-down dinner, sharing the cooking with other family members is a good idea. Potluck the whole thing and it takes the pressure off of you. The December issue of Canadian Living magazine has some fantastic recipes for potluck meals.
Here’s my recipe for Cranberry Sauce that I adapted from a Vancouver Sun recipe. I hope you like it – and from my family to yours I wish you a Happy Christmas!
What’s your favourite Christmas recipe?
Cranberry Walnut Sauce
3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, ¾ cup apple juice, ½ cup orange juice, 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp grated orange rind, ¾ cup walnuts chopped, Pinch ground clove and cinnamon
Stick it all in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat until mixture gently simmers. Cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes, or until cranberries start to soften and just break apart. Cool to room temperature and then store in a covered bowl or tights sealing jar in fridge until needed. Can be made up to a week in advance. Freezes well. Makes 2 cups.