Christmas is just around the corner, and with it comes all of the traditional holiday foods and treats. But have you ever wondered where some of these ideas came from? Why is it called egg nog? What the heck’s a fruitcake? We’ll take a look at the origins of some of these yuletide staples, as well as what other countries serve at this time of year.
I’m pretty sure you either love egg nog or hate it. The super rich, hearty drink is made from cream, milk, egg yolks, sugar, and a “festive” amount of alcohol (optional, of course). Eggnog started becoming a holiday tradition in America around the 1700s, due to many Americans having easy access to chickens and dairy cattle. But where did the name come from? What is a nog? Well, that’s where it gets complicated. Several etymologists believe the origin comes from the word “noggin,” which refers to small wooden mugs the drink was served in. Another theory is that it came from a contraction of the request for an “egg-and-grog” when customers wanted a glass. So don’t be afraid to get your nog on this Christmas. Don’t forget to add a little cinnamon or nutmeg on top before you drink!
Image by Andrea Nguyen/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Oh, the gift that keeps on giving. Fruitcake is the butt of a lot of jokes this time of year. But I subscribe to the theory “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” And when prepared properly, fruitcake can be a welcomed addition to the holiday line-up.
This dense cake is made with chopped candied fruit or dried fruit, nuts and spices. Occasionally, it is soaked in spirits, which helps extend its shelf life (A family in Michigan has a fruitcake heirloom that has been passed down since it was made…in 1878!). This was helpful hundreds of years ago, as the spirits would help prevent mold.
Similar to fruitcake is panettone, which is a sweet Italian bread with candied citrus and raisins. It has become a very popular Christmas dessert in Europe and South America. Panettone is fluffier than the dense fruitcake, and is served with sweet hot beverages or sweet wine.
Around the World
Of course, each country or culture that celebrates Christmas has their own traditions and staples. For example, in the UK, it’s tradition to serve a Christmas pudding. Now, this isn’t pudding like you’d find in the snack aisle. Pudding in this case refers to a cake. Christmas pudding is prepared similar to fruitcake, but steamed. Once it’s ready, it is soaked in a spirit such as brandy and set alight (because fire makes EVERYTHING tastier).
In France, a popular dessert is bûche de Noël, also known as a yule log. This cake is prepared like a swiss roll, frosted and filled with a chocolate filling. It can be decorated to look more like a log, with little branches, or snow (powdered sugar).
Image by Pacificit/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Finally, in Japan, things are a bit…different. A very small percentage celebrate Christmas there, but that doesn’t stop them from having a Christmas day tradition, where the traditional meal is, no joke, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Thanks to a hugely successful holiday advertising campaign, which started in 1974, KFC Japan has offered holiday chicken meals, which include chicken, sides, cake and a holiday commemorative plate. These meals usually have to be ordered a month or two in advance due to demand.
Happy Labor Day, America! Now that we’ve reached the ‘unofficial end of summer’, we have to ask the question: “Do you have your holiday shopping done yet?” While we know that 32 million Americans will wait until the last minute for their personal holiday shopping – the restaurateur will probably need to plan earlier for their restaurant, catering business or institution’s needs. Don’t sweat it, because Central Restaurant’s product consultants are here to show you some products that will get you ready for your holiday rush.
Start With Some New Banquet Tables
Correll Heavy Duty Folding Tables are great for catering.
Remember to stock up on punch bowls, serving utensils, table coverings and other supplies. With holiday parties these items will get a workout and you’ll want to make sure you have backups available to maintain your high standards. Don’t be a Scrooge and wait until the last minute for holiday ordering. Plus, there are still a few days to save 15% on Vollrath products(promotion ends Friday, September 5th).
..And Some Not So Helpful Suggestions
We had other ideas, but they were shot down. Still, we wanted to pass some along so you could be the judge.
First, we thought it would be nice to be able to recreate that timeless Christmas song using a Star radiant gas charbroiler. It usually is pretty cold outside in December, so we thought about bringing those ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ inside. One of our Product Consultants said that would not be a good idea. Who knew?
Not a suitable ‘nutcracker’
Next, we searched our catalog for a traditional nutcracker. Turns out we don’t sell any decorative soldiers with a large mouth used to crack traditional holiday nuts. We suggested decorating a Tablecraft lobster cracker, but was told that would be to much work to create.
Finally, we read how 122 million pounds of eggnog were consumed by Americans in 2007. It sounded like a job for a new gravity-fed milk dispenser. Then we read further into the statistics and learned that this broke down to half a cup per person. If the other half of the cup is being thrown down the drain, maybe a dispenser dedicated solely to eggnog would not be a great investment.
But Seriously Folks
Just because the calendar hasn’t even reached the fall season (more on that tomorrow), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be planning ahead. Remember that Central Restaurant’s website is available for you 24-hours a day, and our knowledgeable product consultants are ready to answer your questions and take your orders Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern and each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“A cushaw is basically a crooked neck squash. You make the pie like a pumpkin pie but the flavor is lighter and more like a cross between pumpkin & sugar cream pie. The first time I had it was when a cousin brought it to our house one Thanksgiving a few years ago. They grew the cushaw themselves and gave us seeds to grow our own. We did the next year, but we didn’t preserve the seeds properly. She was killed in a car accident a couple of years later, so the memory is extra sweet.
The link below has pictures of the cushaws, a recipe similar to the one we used and a description of the flavor and uses. It is a favorite at our house and we always look for cushaws at farmers markets and such. They’re rare, but worth the trouble if you can find them. And this is from a woman who doesn’t like pumpkin at all!”
“I used sea salt, and regular pepper, and I mashed them by hand.”
Vanilla mashed Sweet potatos
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, cleaned and left a bit damp
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
white pepper in a mill
Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until tender to a fork tip, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cook until warm enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Peel and discard the skin. Put the potatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Meanwhile, pour the cream into a 2-quart pot, add the vanilla bean and orange zest, if using, and set it over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Use tongs to fish out and discard the vanilla bean. Pour the mixture over the potatoes in the processor and add the butter.
Puree the potato mixture until smooth. Season with salt and 4 grinds of pepper, or to taste. Keep covered and warm until ready to serve.
Marinades for Turkey from Justina Welch
Citrus N’ Spice Marinade
1 /34 cups of sunflower oil or olive oil
¾ cups orange juice
¼ cup cider vinegar
10 cloves of garlic
1 tbls sea salt
3 tbls lime juice
3 tbls dired oregano
2 chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tbls ground cumin
1 tsp ground allspice
Combine cider vinegar, garlic, salt, oregano, chipotles in a blender. Process until smooth. Pour in remaining ingredients and continue blending until oil is emulsified. Spread marinade over turkey surface. Place in roasting bad or wrap in aluminum foil. Marinate for 12-24 hours prior to cooking.
Lemon Rosemary Marinade (my favorite)
3 large lemons
¼ cup fresh rosemary or 3 tbls dried
¼ cup olive oil
6 cloves of garlic (minced)
Cut lemons in half squeeze juice into plastic (non reactive) bowl. Throw in lemon halves and remaining ingredients. Mix in blender, leave somewhat chunky. Spread over turkey. Marinate for minimum 4 hours prior to cooking
Left over turkey? Try this recipe!
Rosemary Turkey Soup
1 chopped onion (1-1.5 cups)
1 cup chopped celery.
1.5 cups sliced carrots
4 cloves garlic minced or pressed
1 tbls dried thyme
2 tbls fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 cups cooked wild rice
½ package of Amish egg noodles or Kluski noodles
2 tbls cornstarch
Salt & Pepper to taste
Add turkey carcass and leftover meat to large pan with chicken stock (4 containers, I use organic, low sodium). Saute onions, celery and carrots until onions are soft and translucent (I use olive oil). Add garlic and thyme sauté for one minute. Dump in pan with turkey, bring to a boil reduce heat and simmer for 1-1.5 hours. Then add cooked wild rice and noodles. Once noodles are done, add cornstarch and water-to make a slurry- add to soup while constantly stirring to thicken slightly. Check/adjust seasonings (I sometimes add 1 more sprig of fresh rosemary leaves at this point). Ready to serve.
Candy Cane Fudge from Laura Bedilion
“Candy cane fudge is something my mom always made for Christmas when I was a kid. I found a very similar recipe online and it’s delicious (but very addicting)!”
“This recipe I have used for many years for holiday as well as everyday when we have ham. It is a great side dish with ham, although it can also be a dessert.”
2 cans pineapple chunks, drained
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar (sugar substitute works well too, as long as you can bake with it)
1 stack of ritz crackers
1 stick of butter
Mix pineapple, flour and sugar well. You will have juice with pineapple after mixing. Pour into baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees until hot and bubbly. Meanwhile, crumble Ritz crackers. melt butter and mix with crackers. Top pineapple with crumbs and bake until cracker mixture is browned. Serve hot.
Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies from Kerrie Lafky
“I found this recipe on line and it was inspired by cookies that were served at the Holiday Inn Express in Harrison, OH. This is the hotel Hubert uses for their overnight visitors. I’ve stayed there a few times; and each time I’ve been there they have fresh cookies for their guests. When I was there this past December they had Cranberry Oatmeal cookies with white chocolates chips. They were so good that I went back downstairs to the lobby for more. I talked to a woman at the desk and she said she made them and proceeded to tell me what was in them. I was able to find a recipe on line that matched up. I think what made them special is they have cardamon in them which is kind of expensive but worth it. If you don’t want to spend the money on cardamon, you can substitute pumpkin pie spice mix, allspice, ginger or just more cinnamon or nutmeg based on your taste. So here it is straight from the ‘Hubert Hotel.'”
1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups of flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cardamon
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients. Add to butter mixture and stir until well blended. Add dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful onto parchment covered baking sheet. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool.
Baked Ziti from Tracey Rector
Years ago when I began to explore cooking, I found this incredibly easy Baked Ziti recipe, hence its original author’s title, “Easy Baked Ziti.”
Looking for some of the week’s top information? Here are five stories from the foodservice industry for the week of December 19 through December 23.
Arby’s Raises over $2 Million for Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign From QSR, Read Blog
Image: Share Our Strength
We’ve really enjoyed seeing how successful Share Our Strength has been this year with the “No Kid Hungry” campaign. From events such as the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry or other promotions, they are truly working hard to achieve their goal to end childhood hunger in America. Arby’s is one of several restaurants helping Share Our Strength meet their goal. QSR reported Arby’s recent announcement that they have raised over $2 million in the fourth quarter for the cause. Read more about Arby’s involvement here and visit Share Our Strength’s website for more information.
Top Searched Restaurants on Google for 2011 From FastCasual, Read Article
In a recent article from Fast Casual, they reported on Google’s Zeitgeist list that covered the top searched restaurants on Google this year. It was a mix of all types of restaurants with some being McDonald’s, Starbucks, Buffalo Wild Wings, Subway and Papa John’s. But who topped the list? You’ll just have to check out the article for yourself and find out! Read the full article here.
Wendy’s Taking in the No. 2 Spot for Fast Food Chains From Wall St. Cheat Sheet, Read Article
Normally the order of top fast food chains started with McDonald’s, then Burger King then Wendy’s. But it looks as though Wendy’s is moving into second place. According to a Wall St. Cheat Sheet article, Wendy’s will have $53 million higher sales than Burger King–but we won’t know for certain until the end of the fourth quarter. Either way, Wendy’s has been working hard this year and even working on a few different redesigns of their buildings. To read more about how they are possibly going to take the No. 2 spot, read the Wall St.’s article here, and to learn more about the redesigns, view this Huff Post Food article.
Airports Becoming More Nutritious From USA Today, Read Article
It’s easy to slack off when it comes to eating healthily during the holidays, especially when traveling. But it looks as though foodservice establishments in airports across America are providing healthier menu items for travelers. USA Today covered a survey which reported 15 of the country’s biggest airports now offer healthier menu offerings. According to the study, many airport foodservice establishments are offering more low-fat, vegetarian and cholesterol-free meals. Read more about airports becoming healthier here.
And finally, 2011 is coming to a close and Christmas is just days away! (So if you haven’t started your shopping, you better get started. And as a side note–restaurant gift cards make an excellent present). We always are excited to see what kinds of recipes Delish.com has, so here are a few that you can bookmark and possibly cook up for the holiday weekend.