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Traditional Savory Christmas Foods?

 
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Thinking ahead to Christmas and the traditions that I want to start with my child, I realized all of our food traditions center around sweets. Gingerbread cookies, pfeffernusse, peanut butter fudge. French toast for Christmas morning breakfast.

What are your "must have" savory foods when it comes to the Christmas season?
 
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I don't like sugary gooey sweet potato dishes. For sweet potatoes I slice them into wafers and layer them in a baking dish and then pour cream in the dish to just barely cover the sweet potatoes. 400 degrees about 45-60 mins. it turns into an au gratin like side dish. The only sweet thng on the Christmas table is homemade cranberry sauce and I like that more tart than sweet.
 
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I try and have more savoury nibbles available for xmas these days - there are always plenty of sweet treats too (I do chocolate truffles as a thankyou to our best shop customers and somehow always manage to make far too many ;) )
Savory treats include sausage rolls, vol au vents, and we always have nuts in their shells.
 
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I really like that our family doesn't have strong food traditions for holidays. We kinda follow the same north American formulas as most people here, but my dad was always the Christmas chef and he didnt particularly like eating or cooking turkey. So we'd change it up more than the average family. When we do extended family dinner, it's usually potluck with general food categories assigned rather than specific dishes. It doesn't often look like a typical Christmas dinner.

I like that it's not a disaster if no one feels like cooking a big meal that year, or if they feel like trying something different. Now that I think more about food waste, I like the idea that we can have a family meal with whatever's on hand already, instead of buying specific food we don't actually need.

Lots of people change their diets as they get older. I hear so many stories about people who don't eat the same things their families do anymore getting pressure to eat stuff that doesn't agree with them because the foods are such a big part of the holiday for people. I loved that, as a raw vegan at my family gatherings, I could eat mandarin oranges and celery stalks for dinner and no one batted an eye.

In my family, the tradition is more about getting together than about specific food.

Having said that, food traditions can be fun. Once I was a teenager, my dad started making mimosas for breakfast (yeah, not with breakfast, for breakfast) on Christmas day and that tradition kinda stuck. So now sometimes everyone's too drunk to care about dinner 😂
 
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At our house, we have never been big on the sweet stuff.

When we first married all our Christmas Dinners were potluck at different family members' homes each year.

The host prepared the main dish which was usually a turkey.

The first year we had the dinner at our house, I prepared a turkey, and I had a local BBQ place smoke a big venison roast.  Several of our family members had never had venison and thought they were eating beef.

For the last 5 or 6 years with had tamales for Christmas dinner and we were usually at the deer camp.

I would like to have tamales again this year if tamales might be in my future.
 
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Anyone here make lefse? I live in tamale and tortilla country but my childhood passion is buttery potato lefse.
 
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Bubble and squeak! I imagine most people out side the UK are thinking, what the heck is that! Basically it’s what you serve after Christmas - it’s all the roast veg blitzed in a blender or run through a meat grinder, and then bound into a pancake with a egg or two. You fry it and serve with pickles, chutneys, cranberry sauce, gravy, cold meats. A good combo is roast parsnips and potatoes, carrots and Brussel sprouts, red cabbage or sauerkraut and stuffing.

We don’t do traditional traditions . . . We’ve made our own.

Mini rant alert!

========
As a kid, when ever I asked why we ate something and the answer was ‘because it’s traditional’, I’d flag it for something I’d immediately drop when I was an adult, especially turkey. Over the years I’ve cooked goose, barbecued ducks, pan fried tomahawk steaks / Côte de Boeuf, made beef wellington, mostly I cook a four or five rib of beef, but since leaving home I’ve never cooked a turkey. I’ve eaten plenty. I’ve also noticed this time of year the food press publish hundreds of recipes on how to make turkey taste of something that isn’t turkey. In the UK it wasn’t traditional until Bernie Matthews figured out how to use artificial insemination of turkeys to industrial levels and then declared eating then a Christmas tradition! The poor bird has been brutalised on a scale second only to the chicken. When I lived in Germany, there was a tradition of eating carp on Christmas eve. Our german friends hated it but still ate it because it was what their grandparents ate. Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people! However, rant over. We have our own little traditions but I wouldn’t want my kids to feel anyway obliged to carry them on. Maybe I’m just a little too free spirited!
========

Rant over - here are some of my savoury ‘traditions’:

Blinis from frying dollops of sour dough batter and then serve with sour cream and homemade gravlax.
Home made pickles, chutneys, etc with cold cuts
Mince pies made with real mince, normally lamb
Lots and lots of cheese and crackers also served with pickles, chutneys etc. Must include something blue, something stinky, something runny, something that’s been matured for three or more years, something from a goat, a sheep, something crumbly.
Hot Spicy Gluwein - might have a little sugar in it though and probably not something you want to give kids . . .

I think it’s wonderful what you are doing. Very interested to read what’s traditional in your family. Good luck with your search. Sorry about the mini rant.
 
Edward Norton
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Jan White wrote:Once I was a teenager, my dad started making mimosas for breakfast (yeah, not with breakfast, for breakfast) on Christmas day and that tradition kinda stuck. So now sometimes everyone's too drunk to care about dinner 😂



I’ll be sending a cheers your way on Christmas morning with a large mimosa in hand . . .
 
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I love food traditions, but we don't have much family left and my mother and grandmother weren't much for cooking, which makes it complicated.
Once we moved to South America and the "heavy food" holidays were no longer conducive to that food (Christmas dinner when it's 95+ degrees is not my idea of fun; cookies, cakes, and pies are not compatible with summer humidity here), these things changed. I still make some cookies to give away, but our Christmas dinner is a barbecue, preferably with some lamb. I make cold Japanese dishes (usually hiyashi chuka. a chilled noodle dish) that are good for the heat, and it is tradition to have a big sideboard full of chilled summer fruit and nuts in case anyone's looking for dessert.
 
Edward Norton
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Tereza Okava wrote:Christmas dinner when it's 95+ degrees is not my idea of fun



I can relate to that! I like the sound of your Christmas - I might BBQ a big lump of lamb this year.
 
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We tried to make Latkes a tradition but we wanted to bang it up a bit so we put bacon in them and got horrid food poisoning because God didn't like our adding swine to Jewish food. LOL
 
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We usually have rack of lamb or a beef tenderloin roast. We never have turkey for Christmas that is only a Thanksgiving thing. We usually have some kind of potatoes, either roasted, scalloped or pommes duchess. Veggies vary, although brussels sprouts with bacon are a favorite. Christmas time salads vary from fennel, orange, goat cheese and olive, or apple, bleu cheese, walnut or persimmon, pumpkin seed, goat cheese.

We typically have three hors d'oeuvres. Poached pears wrapped with prosciutto, a charcuterie or crudite platter and baked brie. But all things are subject to change.

I love to cook and prefer to do it all myself.

Elle - latkes, also known as potato pancakes are a family favorite but we eat them on Fat Tuesday, not Christmastime. They were also a great food for us when we ran out of money. 6 potatoes, eggs, flour, onion and oil and my family of 5 was fed.
 
Edward Norton
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Stacy Witscher wrote:Christmas time salads vary from fennel, orange, goat cheese and olive, or apple, bleu cheese, walnut or persimmon, pumpkin seed, goat cheese.



Those sound wonderful - thank you Stacy, a new tradition starting this year ;)
 
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Here is my Christmas Pate recipe:



1/2 pound chicken livers

2 boiled eggs

1/2 cup chicken broth

4 tablespoons butter (more if you want to add softened butter to the pate after it is finished)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion or shallot

1 pinch parsley

1 shot brandy

salt and pepper to taste

a pinch +/- (to taste) each nutmeg, cloves and mustard powder

a couple dashes Worcestershire sauce



Cook the livers in the broth, simmering about 10 minutes (if you like mushrooms, you can add a few, finely chopped at this point)

drain and reserve the broth

mash the livers and boiled eggs to a very smooth paste (you can use a food mill or food processor, but a fork works fine)

lightly brown the onions in the butter - get them very soft

add the onions, brandy and a little broth at a time, until you get the right consistency

add the spices, tasting as you go



Serve on crackers or buttered toast. You can add or substitute a lot of things - some people like a little hot pepper, some use bourbon, Irish whiskey or a sweet wine like port, sherry or madeira. Toasted pecans go really well with it. Sometimes I make an Asian flavored version using soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil.... but the above has a real Christmasy flavor. It is also great in a meat pie with some steak or deer meat.
 
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Mom baked fresh buns when I was a kid for Christmas dinner. Fresh whole wheat buns with gravy .... mmmm.... (Diagnosed as celiac so that tradition died).  Nothing on the table other than the cranberry sauce and dessert had sugar. Lots of butter and 3-10 kinds of vegetables (one tradition is counting how many kinds we managed).  

Stuffing made with ground pork, eggs, bread, giblets, celery, onions, sage.

Nuts. Dad always bought bags of mixed uncracked nuts and we'd sit in the evenings and crack nuts and eat them.

Turkey hash. It's a post Christmas and post Thanksgiving tradition.




 
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***NOT vegan or vegetarian friendly***

In our family there was no such thing as "bread stuffing" in the turkey - our bird is, was, and continues to be stuffed with ground pork/sausage...my mouth waters just thinking of it!!! To this day, "traditional" stuffing or "dressing" appalls me, and I absolutely detest it.

Good Ole mashed potato's: thin skinned yellow flesh/Yukon gold quartered and boiled., drain well once fork easily pierces chunks.

IF you score the skin whilst quartering you can "peel" it off AFTER boiling (or just leave them on).

Mash with WAY too much butter, add some finely diced green ("spring") onions and a whack of minced, fried bacon, and if feeling incredibly decadent some soft (cream, brie...) or grated cheese (sharp cheddar - but any will do) or just to with cheese after placing in oven proof dish and broil.
 
Nikki Roche
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It's been fascinating to read all of the responses! I love the idea of nontraditional foods, instead of it being like a second Thanksgiving. And I agree, a tradition is only worth keeping if everyone enjoys doing/having it.
 
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Nikki Roche wrote:Thinking ahead to Christmas and the traditions that I want to start with my child, I realized all of our food traditions center around sweets. Gingerbread cookies, pfeffernusse, peanut butter fudge. French toast for Christmas morning breakfast.

What are your "must have" savory foods when it comes to the Christmas season?



Well....I hope you, nor anyone else will be offended by my response please?

I refuse, refuse ANY traditions related to foods (and some more, but never mind  that) with ONE EXCEPTION ONLY;

Suppers

This is a tradition on daily basis. Day in, day out. Week after week. Month after month. All year round unless unforeseeable happens.
This also applies to food.

As a child, I remember "special foods" for only x-mas, Easter, Thanksgiving etc. Not liking some, and wanting some but couldn't understand "why" I couldn't!?

The beauty of being an adult, I can eat anything I like when I like. To me, it's a ridiculous idea to eat some foods ONLY on certain days once a year (of course I don't mean foods that are available only at that particular time!). While foods can be great, why would people limit what they enjoy eating?
Maybe it's just rebellious me but...I much prefer people's company than trying to "invent" or "impose" certain foods and be pretentious on "oh, how special such dish/dishes is/are.
Food traditions are stupid in my mind.

On a side note, not that it counts but I want to say it anyway :-)

I do like x-mas trees and you know what? I have a small one all year round. I like the lights outside (solar). As long as its dark outside, they'll lit up :-)
People do comment on those as to "why", and all I say is "because I can and I want".
Funny thing is that I see more and more of "my lights" around the town I live in. Those have "new" name, as "gardening lights" ha!
P.S.
I've never had any foods you mentioned :-) Definitely not for x-mas LOL



 
Nikki Roche
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Ela La Salle wrote:
Well....I hope you, nor anyone else will be offended by my response please?

I refuse, refuse ANY traditions related to foods...



Not offended at all! I refuse to do a tradition that is "because it's always been that way." I have to actually like the tradition. Sometimes it's a tradition we keep only for a few years, and sometimes it's one that is passed down for a few generations. I try to be flexible either way. I appreciate the happy memories, the stories and connection to my ancestors, the anticipation of traditions that we look forward to. But I get that it's not for everyone.
 
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Edward Norton wrote:Bubble and squeak! I imagine most people out side the UK are thinking, what the heck is that! Basically it’s what you serve after Christmas - it’s all the roast veg blitzed in a blender or run through a meat grinder, and then bound into a pancake with a egg or two. You fry it and serve with pickles, chutneys, cranberry sauce, gravy, cold meats. A good combo is roast parsnips and potatoes, carrots and Brussel sprouts, red cabbage or sauerkraut and stuffing.



What I know by the same name is all the leftover roast/mashed/boiled potatoes, veg etc cut up a bit and fried in a pan, served with left over meat and gravy. it falls apart and isn't bound with anything.  The name comes from the noise it makes while frying.

For savory dishes take a British Christmas dinner there's only one sweet item and that's the dessert.

Pigs in blankets (chipolata sausages wrapped in streaky bacon)
Stuffing, either in balls or you can stuff it inside the bird if you really want dinner to take 8 hours to cook

I totally agree with Edward that Turkey should be avoided at all costs, bland dry terrible meat, just look at the American thanksgiving recipes for it, anything that needs that much work to make it taste of something is not a feast day meat to me.

My families tradition was a game pie for Christmas eve, made of whatever we had but normally pigeon, pheasant and rabbit. Possibly a bit of venison if we had it and added pork fat. This was a raised pie. a standard UK Christmas dinner on the 25th including sprouts that no one likes but for some reason turned up anyway "It's traditional!" And then a Norwegian Cold table for boxing day along with an open house. Boxing day was by far my favourite day of the holiday, lots of people and masses of nice luxury food, herring, salmon, cold meats, several desserts and I didn't have to eat anything I didn't like.
 
Ela La Salle
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Skandi Rogers wrote:
....." Turkey should be avoided at all costs, bland dry terrible meat, just look at the American thanksgiving recipes for it, anything that needs that much work to make it taste of something is not a feast day meat to me".



Well, if turkey is baked in the oven breasts down, wrapped tightly in tin foil, the meat is juicy.
I used butcher twine to wrap a strand around the breasts and thighs before baking. It makes it easier to turn the carcass upright to crisp up the skin so it "looks pretty"  :-)
 
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For Christmas Eve, my mom has always done a buffet involving minimal cooking: deli meats (always pastrami) and cheeses, good bread, chips and veggies with dip/salsa/hummus, pickles and olives, salad and a baked brie. It felt like a treat, maybe just because it was a tradition? Last year we all were isolating, but the year before that, we did mom’s Christmas Eve dinner even though I was hosting. If it ain’t broke…
 
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