This dried fruit and nut-impregnated cake has been around since the Middle Ages. Literally. Today's fruitcakes were made in the 13th century and have been passed down from generation to generation as the only food durable enough to transcend its original function and become an heirloom.
If one kind of animal flesh just isn't enough to satisfy everyone's taste during the holidays, why break out another? And another: ham, roast beef, turkey, prime rib, salmon, ostrich and salami with crackers. No one will second-guess you. In fact, they'll thank you.
All things once fresh now pickled
It's apocalypse now. Or so you would guess judging from the amount of garden-fresh vegetables each autumn that wind up embalmed in vinegar, only to be exhumed just in time to serve as deli tray garnishes during the holidays. Gherkins, onions, beets, carrots, asparagus, garlic cloves, cucumbers -- all of your favorites are there. So be sure to pay your respects.
Within the enchanted realm of holiday delicacies, fudge holds its own as a unique entity. Existing at the intersection of candy and cake, it is both and yet neither. It is the alpha and the omega.
To this day, the holidays for me don't officially begin until the ceremonial arrival at my parents' home of the traditional Christmas Cheese Ball, made each season with loving care by their neighbors of Lord knows how many years. You may think you've tasted the best cheese ball in the world, but until you've tried a hunk of this thing smeared on a Ritz, you'd be wrong.
Sugar butter? "I wouldn't eat that," you say. Oh, but you do. And in big, artery-clogging, blood glucose level-spiking portions, too, cleverly disguised as harmless holiday cookies: spritz, shortbreads, sugar cookies (what a giveaway), and snickerdoodles. And what's more -- you love it.
Santa's Sausage Balls
Found this one on the Web. Honestly, I'm only the messenger here:
1 lb. hot sausage; 10 oz. grated cheddar; 3 cups Bisquick. Mix all ingredients by hand in a large bowl. KNEAD WELL! Shape into small (ping pong ball-size) balls. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (Not recommended for actual consumption.)
Here they come: the rich, malty, and (typically) highly alcoholic brews of winter. Following a centuries-old tradition, brew masters all over the world wait each year for the holiday season to introduce limited-edition ales of a decidedly robust nature. Look for them in pubs and in finer supermarkets under such identifiers as "Winter Ale," "Winter Warmer," "Christmas Ale," and "wow."
The name implies what everyone (even the Irish) concedes: that the famed Emerald Isle is place where pure dairy cream was originally perverted with such delicious and mind-numbing results. Over ice. In coffee. Whatever.
Also known as mulled wine. Here's an intriguing recipe for this Scandinavian delight from the Seagram's Bartending Guide:
2 bottles dry red wine; 1 bottle brandy; 25 whole cloves; 20 crushed cardamom seeds; 4 cinnamon sticks; 2 cups currants; 2 cups blanched almonds; 2 oz. dried orange peel; 1 pink aquavit; 16 oz. sugar cubes
Put all ingredients except sugar and aquavit in a large pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place a strain over pan and spread sugar cubes over it. Pour the aquavit over sugar. Ignite in pan and let sugar melt into mixture. Stir. Serve in heated mugs.
Whiskey -- all you want
Indeed, nothing during the frantic holiday season says "I'm checking out for the next two or three hours" like a big, hefty shot (or two or three) of the king of brown booze, taken straight, without any mixers to dilute its punch. Scotch rocks. Bourbon Manhattans. Irish whiskey (no ice). You can get away with it like never before too, all under the protective umbrella of "engaging in good cheer."
Unadulterated, it is the sweetest and creamiest of the bovine nectars. Tarted up with all manner of ass-whooping intoxicants, eggnog represents nothing so much as the most perfectly inconspicuous way to dispose of all of your crappy, bottom-shelf booze. Yep, that very same rotgut you've been trying in vain to pass off on unsuspecting house guests all year can be easily and covertly blended into the nog's robust flavor profile without a single whimper from clueless imbibers.
Publication date: 11/25/04