I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for the first time when I was in middle school. Over the years, I’ve also seen many a movie adaptation of this classic, from George C. Scott to the Muppets to Disney. Amidst the charming story, the music, and the characters, one thing has always enticed me: the food.
No matter what version I’m watching, my favorite scene (besides the ending, of course) is always the part when Scrooge first meets the Ghost of Christmas Present. I mean, that room. That food. Just read this glorious passage:
“The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, suckling-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.”
And that, my friends, is the Christmas feast I’ve always imagined. One of these years, I’m going to have my very own Dickens’ era Christmas, complete with period costumes, caroling, snow, wassail, plum pudding, and roast goose. Until then, however, I’m slowly compiling my recipe list, trying each dish out one at a time, testing the waters for a full-blown foodie fest that would make even the Ghost of Christmas Present proud.
One of my favorite holiday treats to prepare every year is a pear mincemeat pie. Before you turn up your nose at the name, know this: it’s fruit, okay? Just a simple fruit pie. There are still some recipes out there that use beef suet, but I prefer those that exclude this ingredient. With fruits, nuts, spices, and a beautiful crust, mincemeat pie is an excellent addition to any Christmas feast, potluck, or party.
You can make it one of several ways. The easiest would be to buy canned mincemeat from the store, add a few extra raisins, chopped pears, and nuts, throw it in a pie shell, and bake it. I was privileged to have my aunt can some pear mincemeat for me one year, so I was able to use that, adding a few of my own ingredients and constructing a lattice crust with a little egg wash and turbinado sugar sprinkled on top before baking. Of course, if you enjoy canning, you can also can your own mincemeat and have several jars on hand for more than just pie-making. It’s basically like a chutney, so it pairs well with pork, too.
Below, I’ve included a few recipes that most closely resemble what I make every year. One includes alcohol, and one doesn’t. One goes through the entire canning process, and one doesn’t. If you’re feeling artistic and are into getting creative with your crusts, I’ve also included a link to a gallery of fancy crust ideas.
Do you have a Christmas food dish you like that’s a little “out there”? We’d love to hear about it! Tell us about it in the comment section below.
And yes, I promise that the next blog post will be about something besides pie.