STITCH LINES...... Ramblings on life as a quilter, stitcher, traveler, photographer, gardener and lover of books, cats and fine chocolate....

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Every family has traditions associated with Christmas that have been upheld through the years and must be continued. After all, it just wouldn't be Christmas otherwise, right? Some are associated with family, others with friends. One tradition I have always enjoyed is the exchange of Christmas cards between friends; sadly it seems to be one that is getting lost, with the advent (pun intended) of email, Facebook and other means of staying in touch via social media. I still send cards with a letter to many friends, but it seems with the large increase in postal rates earlier this year, many have given up on this tradition. We have received less than half the usual number, at this point.  Are you finding the same thing? I expected it, but still it makes me a little sad. I realize everyone is busy with all there is to be done at this time of year, but it is so nice to hear from those you don't see often, to catch up on their news. I admit, I send only half of mine now by post (doing my part to lighten the load of those overworked postal carriers) and the rest by email. Personally, I don't care how I hear from someone, by mail or electronically, as long as I do hear from them. I hope others feel the same way... It's a tradition I'll be keeping for a while. What about you?
Many of our traditions are related to food. Christmas dinner is definitely a "traditional meal" at our house. It's always turkey and all the fixin's. We don't do the cranberry thing- the Kellys have to have their spiced apple jelly, my grandmother's recipe. We always have the same type of salad- in fact we now refer to it as "Christmas Day Salad". The cooked veggies might vary from year to year, but the rest remains the same... the turkey, the dressing (stuffing) and gravy, the salad, the jelly and homemade pickles.... uhhh, okay I have to stop- this is making me hungry!
But first I have to tell you about dessert - it's always Christmas Pudding, again my Grandmother Kelly's recipe. It's a steamed pudding, made only for Christmas, definitely a tradition and a favourite at our house. I am the youngest with two older brothers who both love to tease. So I guess you could say it's always been tradition that my brothers teased me, even at Christmas dinner. Brother Leigh always tries to "steal" my pudding, or more accurately steal the hard sauce that accompanies the pudding. Many people serve steamed puddings with a warm sauce, but we have ours with a "hard sauce" which is just a rich butter icing that's been frozen and cut into squares. No matter how large the pieces are cut, Leigh will "complain" that his is not large enough, and that he's been shortchanged on the hard sauce.
Someone commented  on my last post that they wished I had posted the recipe for the Christmas Pudding, so here it is.

Grammy Lil's Christmas Pudding

1 cup sultana raisins
1 cup currants
1 cup suet
1 cup brown sugar
maraschino cherries to taste, coarsely chopped (I use about 20 cherries)
blanched almonds to taste, coarsely chopped (I use about 1/2 cup)
2 Tblsp. each citron and mixed peel
1 cup finely shredded raw carrot
1 cup finely shredded raw potato
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt

In large mixing bowl, stir together raisins, currants, cherries, nuts, citron, peel, brown sugar and suet. Peel and grate the carrot and potato, stir the baking soda into the grated potato. Add grated vegetables to fruit mixture, stir well.

Sift flour with salt, add to mixture and stir well. Line tube pan with waxed paper. Spread batter evenly in pan. Steam for 3 hours. Check it frequently and add water as needed, ie don't let it boil dry!! Cool well. Wrap in saran, then foil. Store in refrigerator.
For serving, cut in individual pieces and steam until heated through. Serve with hard sauce or your choice of sauces.

I don't have a "recipe" for the hard sauce as I don't measure... But I'm guessing I use about 1/4 cup soft butter (yes it must be butter, margarine just doesn't cut it) to about 2 cups confectioner's sugar and enough cream to make it spreading consistency. I flavor it with almond extract, but vanilla is good too. Spread into a square or rectangle about 1/4" thick, on waxed paper or foil, place on cookie sheet and place in freezer. After several hours, when solid, slide it into a ziploc bag and seal, return to freezer. Cut into squares to serve (in a size large enough to keep all your guests happy. wink)

I should add the table always holds a plate of other dessert goodies too, for the two fussy ones who don't like Pudding... Shortbreads, Cinnamon Stick Shortbreads, Almond Fingers, and several kinds of chocolate squares...  And of course.. a bowl of Chicken Bones.

What Christmas traditions do you follow? What is your special Christmas dessert?


A three year old's reaction to her Christmas dinner: "I don't like the turkey, but I like the bread he ate."


Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

I grew up with Christmas pudding for dessert too but our girls don't want this, they prefer a selection of squares and cookies which is lighter fare.
I substitute butter for the suet in my recipe.

sunny said...

Sounds like some lovely traditions. I've been working on Christmas cards most of the day. I've made my own for the past several years, and unfortunately, it's the thing that gets put off til the last. But they're made, written, addressed, stamped, and ready to go in the mail! We send mostly to older relatives that don't use email and Facebook. They love getting real mail.

Jennifer said...

I'm coming to your house for Christmas! We still send cards, and for once this year we were organised and sent them a little earlier than usual. My husband and I grew up with Christmas puddings and fruit cake, we love them......we like ours with rich cream (me) or ice cream (him), but pudding served with custard - especially brandy custard - is traditional here.

Pamela Gordon said...

I enjoyed reading about your traditions Linda. Christmas pudding was a favourite of the Harris's when I was a girl. It was made by my Aunt Henrietta and served with hard sauce flavoured with rum. Yep. It was tasty if the rum wasn't too overpowering. I remember dinners at my Grammie's and the pudding was brought in on a china platter flaming from the lit rum poured on it. A magical sight to young eyes. My mother would buy a Christmas pudding and make her own hard sauce. My brother loved the hard sauce so much that he'd sneak it by the spoonful where it was stored in the 'back' porch (as cold as a freezer!). Haha. As for us, our favourite is shortbread cookies. The regular butter ones with butter frosting. (John's favourite) :( I made 3 different kinds of shortbread this year. Have a good weekend. It's busy!

Jeanna said...

I still send Christmas cards and because it is a tradition I love, I guess I will always do it. We still receive quite a few but I do see it is less and less each year.

Because we do a large Thanksgiving meal with turkey and all the fixings, our Christmas dinner is centered around a standing rib roast. And the best husband does most of the cookng!

Merry Christmas Linda and thanks for sharing your holiday traditions with us.

Lorraine said...

Growing up Christmas pudding was a tradition in our home. For a number of years I haven't included it as with only two it can be a heavy dessert. Your recipe today has made me think I just may have to make some this year. Happy holidays Linda.

Gwen Buchanan said...

DElicious!!! I especially love that you freeze your hard sauce and serve in little squares.. Now that is Hip to be square... the melting of it must give a whole other sensation. Lovely

Vee said...

I've always wondered about Christmas far as I know, I have never had any. My husband's family has an expression used whenever one of them starts to "carry on" too much..."be quiet and eat your pudding." I'm sure that I would have been told that today. Ha!

We gave up Christmas dinner years ago and I am not bringing it back. We are fresh from Thanksgiving and it is too soon, especially on such an otherwise busy day. It's party food here.

HollyM said...

Our traditional Christmas pudding has changed over the years. I grew up with Turkey, the trimmings and Christmas pudding for dessert. We had a warm lemon sauce along with a cooled hard sauce. When we moved to Bathurst it changed. Few people here have heard of Christmas pudding.
Also, my children and partners were vegetarian and then we were for several years. Now we art meat but we'll be traveling this year. I expect to have a traditional dimmer with my family.

Lindah said...

Ohhh, this brings back memories from wayyyyy back when I was a very small girl. Grandma made suet pudding at Christmas time with a warm sauce. I didn't understand the adult conversation, but I gathered that some of them "tolerated" Grandma's traditional dessert. Of course, there were options, too. Grandma lived in the central/middle portion of the US. She was a first generation citizen, her mother's family being from England. I don't have her recipe and so have never attempted it. Yours sounds so good.

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