Here are Canadian traditional Christmas foods and drinks that worth celebrating.
The Canadian traditional Christmas dinner menu has come a long way from its pioneer roots, reflecting the diverse cultural influences that have shaped the nation. From humble beginnings with game meats and root vegetables to the modern feast of roast turkey and decadent desserts, this culinary journey is a testament to Canada’s rich history and vibrant multicultural heritage.
Often decorated with paper “booties” on their drumsticks, roasted turkeys are traditionally eaten as the main course at Christmas feasts in Canada. Turkey stuffing consists of sausage meat, dried fruits (notably apricots, prunes and raisins), nuts, onion, celery, salt, pepper, and other spices and herbs. Delicious and nutritious food.
“At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the [goose] breast; but when she did, and when the long- expected gush of stuffing issued forth….” ~ Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”
Maybe, mashed potato is the less sophisticated dish in the Christmas dinner menu and a Canadian must-have. Everybody seems to have their favourite way of making mashed potatoes. Some add fried onions, some boil potatoes with bay leaves, some add a little of the cooking water to the mashed potatoes. However, butter, cream and garlic are most commonly used in preparation. Potato has become a staple food in many parts of the world and an integral part of much of the world’s food supply. It is the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following maize, wheat, and rice. By the way, do you know that the best potatoes for mashing are russets or Yukon Gold, created at the University of Guelph?
Though the Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium (and may have originated and gained its name there), it is grown in plenty throughout Canada. Brussels sprouts are actually leafy green vegetables of 2.5–4 cm (0.98–1.6 in) in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. Brussels sprouts contain lots of vitamin C and K (a blood-clotting factor), moderate amounts of B vitamins, essential minerals and dietary fibre. Brussels sprouts, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contain sulforaphane, a phytochemical known for its potential anticancer properties. The buds are typically cooked by boiling, steaming, stir frying, grilling, or roasting. Although boiling reduces the level of some nutrients, steaming and stir frying do not result in significant loss. Brussels sprouts are the seasonal green of choice on the Canadian Christmas table.
This sweet Christmas pie remains a popular holiday treat enjoyed by many across Canada. The traditional filling for mince pies is mincemeat. Originally, mincemeat did always contain meat, though now the only meat present is the suet. Mincemeat is a mixture of a range of chopped dried fruit (such as raisins, dates, prunes, figs, apricots, peaches, apples and pears.), distilled spirits (usually rum or brandy) and spices (such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg). Pastry usually makes up more than half the ingredients in a mince pie, so it tends to be higher in fat but lower in sugar and nutrients than a slice of Christmas cake. Homemade mincemeat is the perfect ingredient for all your Christmas baking and makes a lovely Christmas gift all by itself.
Cranberries and cranberry sauce
Nothing symbolizes Christmas in Canada as brilliantly as jewel-ruby cranberries. Traditionally served with roast turkey, cranberry sauce is a staple of Canadian Christmas dinner. The distinctive deep red color makes cranberries irreplaceable for food decoration. Although, most cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, jam, and sweetened dried cranberries, they are very good for baking muffins, scones, cakes and breads. Cranberries are a tart and tangy way to add a bit of festive flare to any holiday meal. Fresh cranberries can be frozen at home, and will keep up to a year. They can be used directly for many dishes and beverages without thawing.
This thick, pale yellow beverage is traditionally consumed in Canada during Christmas season. Eggnog is a rich, chilled and sweetened beverage made with milk, cream, sugar, whipped eggs, and distilled spirits such as brandy, rum, whisky or bourbon. A hint of nutmeg gives it its trademark flavour. You can buy commercially prepared eggnog in a grocery store but homemade will always taste better.
“There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them.” ~ P.J. O’Rourke
Served hot or warm, mulled wine is a traditional drink during winter, especially around Christmas. It is usually made with red wine and various mulling spices. The combination of spices varies, but it usually consists of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg; and less frequently star anise, peppercorn or cardamom. It may also include dried fruit, such as raisins, apples or orange rind. Some versions combine tea, whisky, rum and citrus for an easy-sipping way to relax and warm up over the chilly season, which is why so mulled wines are so popular.
Ontario is known for its beautiful apples. Even in a cold season we can enjoy their just-picked flavour. Hot apple cider is a trademark drink during Canadian winter. It is typically opaque due to fine apple particles in suspension and generally tangier than conventional filtered apple juice. Made from apples, this unfiltered, unsweetened, non-alcoholic beverage is a Christmastime sipper that both adults and kids will love to cozy up with next to the fireplace. Once widely pressed at farmsteads and local mills, apple cider is now easy and inexpensive to make. In the winter, many apple farmers will pull the fruit out of storage and turn it into cider. Apple cider is traditionally served on the Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and various New Year’s Eve holidays.
Making gingerbread house or cookies for Christmas is fun for the whole family. Actually, there is a wide variety of gingerbread baked goods, but all of them are typically flavoured with ginger, cloves, nutmeg or cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar or molasses. Rich and aromatic, gingerbread men, cookies or houses are just a Christmas classic. These traditional treats are perfect for the holiday season and gift-giving.
Cannot help mentioning a couple of lovely sayings about gingerbread from unknown authors:
“Come sit at my table and share with me warm gingerbread cookies and cinnamon tea.”
“Made special just for you, may this gingerbread man bring happiness to you.”
Even though the first chocolate beverage is believed to have been created by the Mayans around 2,500-3,000 years ago, it seems like hot chocolate is specially designed for the Christmastime. Its aroma and taste immediately put you in a holiday mood. You can make this beverage with shaved or melted chocolate or cocoa powder, heated milk or water, and sugar. Hot chocolate may be topped with whipped cream or marshmallows. If you want your drink less sweet and with a thicker consistency, prepare it with melted chocolate. If you don’t want to bother with all these preparations, simply buy a hot chocolate mix at grocery stores. You will enjoy it anyway.