Traditional recipes

A Yule Log of Drinking: A Look Back on This Year's Christmas

A Yule Log of Drinking: A Look Back on This Year's Christmas

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Christmas cheer comes in many forms. For me, it’s best felt decorating a tree with my brothers and parents while Johnny Mathis sings on the stereo. We’re a vodka family — I come by it honestly — so the beverage of choice is likely to be screwdrivers.

Are the two forever intertwined? Perhaps. Let’s not forget the words of Bing Crosby in "White Christmas," on one of his favorite parts of the season: "hot buttered rum — light on the butter."

Like 94 million other Americans this year (as estimated by AAA), I traveled more than 50 miles to my Christmas destination — in my case, driving from Washington, D.C., to Charlottesville, VA. Along the way (and once there) there were Bloody Marys, ryes, and rum punch — enough drinks to build a holiday retrospective.

12/21/13 11:30 A.M. Bloody Mary No. 1
After dropping his girlfriend off in Northern Virginia, my friend Jeremy and I stopped for brunch in Leesburg. Over my loud, Louisiana-born objections, he drove us to The Cajun Experience, which — even if it didn’t quite live up to its name — did have absolutely delicious fried alligator.

I ordered a Bloody Mary to get the holiday weekend started “right” and commented to the bartender that Zing Zang, the mix he was using, was also the one favored by my relatives living in Baton Rouge, so at least it’s authentic. I didn’t add that I find it toxically salty. The “Experience” found a nifty, equally authentic solution to this exorbitant dosage of sodium: a fresh okra functioning as an in-beverage garnish soaked up much of the salinity. Add the rim of the only Creole seasoning you’ll ever need, Tony Chachere’s (pronounced SAH-share; don’t ask me why) tipped this drink into the thumbs up.

Jeremy was driving; he didn’t get any.

12/21/13 5:15 P.M. Screwdriver (with adjustable heads)

There’s really only one drink in my father’s house: vodka mixed with whatever fruit juices are in the fridge. There are often enough sea breezes (cranberry and grapefruit) and bay breezes (pineapple and cranberry) to blow up a gale-force storm, but orange juice is a staple.

In college, I called screwdrivers made with Sunny D "Phillips Head," but my parents have long since seen the not-from-concentrate light, and I was greeted by a fridge filled with Tropicana. The elder Lejeunes are also fans of cutting the OJ with some newer flavors, and what to my wondering eyes did appear but pomegranate-blueberry juice as an accessory.

Essentially, their icebox is a toolkit for screwdrivers and variations thereof. It’s possible to get not just your vitamin C but your antioxidants as well, all while boozing it up.

I taught the ‘rents and my brother Noah how to play Spades while sipping what Brits and Aussies call simply a "vodka orange" plus a dash of pom-blue.

"So I’ve started contributing to the Drink section of The Daily Meal," I mentioned.

"However did they find you?" Noah asked drily.

"You underbid again," I snapped.

12/22/13 4:00 P.M. 2
Ever seen an unattractively stuffed Christmas stocking? The planners were aiming for thoughtful, but they landed squarely on "too much." Such were my thoughts while watching football with my friend Julian at Timberwood Grill in Albemarle County. Timberwood offers an interesting selection of Bloodys, and I simply picked the wrong one.

My "Cowboy Bloody" was made with Absolute Peppar, Worchestershire (so far so good), a hint of A1 and plenty of Texas Pete (a creative switch from Tabasco, but, well, no) and garnished with olives, a stick of string cheese (!) and a Slim Jim. What can I say? It was too bizarre to resist.

Julian fared better with her "True Blood-y," which, the menu promised, "even Sookie Stackhouse loves." Bacon vodka and the usual accutrements are joined by a touch of garlic. Not quite fang-licking good, but a definite step up.

Julian did better with the pigskin, too: her Patriots beat the Ravens while my Saints fell to the Panthers. The truth is in the sauce.

12/23/13 10:30 P.M. Rum Swizzle
Rum punch is as Christmas-y as roasted turkey or reindeer (which are harder to catch than turkey, but are actually equally delicious), so I felt the urge to concoct a fun, fruity variation for the guests I invited to a slightly off-the-beaten-path late-night movie screening.

We watched Batman Returns, which has far more wintry style than Die Hard or Gremlins; Tim Burton’s second take on Gotham looks like Atlas Shrugged covered in tinsel, holly, and snow — and Danny Elfman’s score is shivery December bliss.

I found an old recipe for Rum Swizzles and when the first batches were too violently sweet, adjusted accordingly. We sipped our swizzles while Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer purred absurd lines like "You know, mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it." Delicious.

12/24/13 8:00 P.M. Bulliet Rye on the rocks
Typically, rye is the only kind of whiskey I like without a mixer, and I sipped a glass of this while the fam and I made last-minute adjustments to a Christmas tree that had been up for three weeks already.

"There is almost enough on it," my dad said. It’s a running joke that no tannenbaum is ever decorated enough to please my father.

"There’s way too much," I replied.

"Oh no, no — we could get a least 100 more on here," he said, craning his neck to gaze at the equally overwrought branches in the back.

"Dad, there are ornaments actually leaning against each other!"

"Well, not over here," he said.

I took a giant gulp of whiskey and gently kicked a present I knew was his.

"Over here you mean?" I ask. "Over on…" (another kick) "this side," I added playfully, grinning. Dad looked down placidly at the gift I’d been nudging.

“My parents don’t send breakable gifts,” he commented evenly, taking a sip of his Christmas Eve screwdriver just before hanging a shimmering, silver snowflake ornament on a branch that already held a toy soldier.

Nine times out of ten, this is what passes for a fight in our family around the holidays. Perhaps it’s because we love the holiday so much, or perhaps it’s due to all the free-flowing alcohol we enjoy — you never know.

The tradition is practiced in many countries and hence several legends are associated with its origin. The most popular story of the Yule Log dates back to the 12th century. During this period in most of the European countries, the winter festival was celebrated by burning wood and drinking wine. The Solstice festival was Jol (Yule) which was celebrated throughout Northern Europe and Scandinavia. It was a feast to honor the Norse God, Odin who was the God of Intoxicating Drink. The custom of Yule Log emerged from the Europe's winter festival.

Burning the Yule Log is a crucial Christmas tradition today. The custom of Yule log varies from region to region. It was originally a large tree brought to the house with great ceremony. On Christmas, people light the Yule log placed in the hearth and wish that it burns for longer. As per the belief, all the family members must sit on it before it is burnt. It is also customary to say prayers and sing Christmas songs while performing the traditional activity. In some families, young girls and mothers take the privilege to light the log. The burning of the Yule Log brings in good fortune for the family and friends and scare off the evil spirits. After the Christmas celebrations, a piece of the Yule log is kept to relight the next year's log.

The custom of Yule Log is performed with high spirits and sanctity. Different countries have different ways of performing this tradition. Even different kinds of wood are used today to keep alive the spirit of the tradition. Here are some of the examples of the tradition of Yule Log performed in different countries:

United Kingdom - In U.K., the log is called 'The Mock'. Here the log is dried out and taken into the house when its bark is taken out. Oak is the traditional wood used at this time. At some places, oak is replaced with large bunch of ash twigs. This comes from the legend that the shepherds burned the bunches of twigs to keep Joseph, Mary and their son Jesus warm.

France - In France, whole family gets engaged in the process of cutting the log. Small pieces of the log are burnt each night of the twelve day Christmas celebrations. People in France use Cherry tree as the traditional Yule log.

Holland - Holland follows the same process of burning the log as does France but here the log is stored under a bed.

Today, Yule Log has become an important part of televising Christmas traditions. A very famous series of Yule Log is aired on New York's WPIX TV. Moreover, Yule Log has also become a traditional delicacy. Yule Log cakes have become an essential part of the Christmas feast. People get chocolate log cakes at the time of Christmas.

Yule Log

I know the recipe looks finicky, and I can’t promise it’s a doddle, but it works easily and you will soon find you are rolling chocolate logs without a care. In fact, if you have a lot of people coming round, and you can find a serving dish or board long enough, it might be worth making 2 cakes and sitting them end to end, to look like a really long log. But even if you’re making just one log, I advise at least a freestanding mixer or a hand-held electric whisk: I wouldn’t contemplate this by hand.

Now, it doesn’t look anything like a log when it is just a bald roulade, but once you’ve spread on the chocolate icing, made approximations of wood-markings on it (I use the sharp end of a corn-on-the-cob holder for this) and all, it does look quite impressive. I don’t go as far as the French, and make sugar mushrooms to adorn it: this is not only because I lack the talent, but also because a light snowfall of icing sugar is all this yule log really needs to complete its wintry perfection.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

I know the recipe looks finicky, and I can’t promise it’s a doddle, but it works easily and you will soon find you are rolling chocolate logs without a care. In fact, if you have a lot of people coming round, and you can find a serving dish or board long enough, it might be worth making 2 cakes and sitting them end to end, to look like a really long log. But even if you’re making just one log, I advise at least a freestanding mixer or a hand-held electric whisk: I wouldn’t contemplate this by hand.

Now, it doesn’t look anything like a log when it is just a bald roulade, but once you’ve spread on the chocolate icing, made approximations of wood-markings on it (I use the sharp end of a corn-on-the-cob holder for this) and all, it does look quite impressive. I don’t go as far as the French, and make sugar mushrooms to adorn it: this is not only because I lack the talent, but also because a light snowfall of icing sugar is all this yule log really needs to complete its wintry perfection.

You know the “12 Days of Christmas” song, but do you know the meaning? The 12 days begin on Christmas Day and run through Jan. 6, which marks the Feast of the Epiphany. This is when Western Christian churches mark as the day the Three Kings visited newborn baby Jesus. There are numerous ways to celebrate this period. Some people open a small gift every day, while others choose a special family winter activity (sledding, caroling, snowmen-making) each day to keep the special season going.

Recipe Summary

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Caramel Cream
  • Cornstarch or confectioners' sugar, for surface
  • 1 pound rolled fondant
  • Best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
  • Sugared White Pine Needles, for serving (optional)
  • Milk-Chocolate Pine Cones, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make the cakes: Line two 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, and lightly coat with spray. Beat egg yolks with a mixer on high speed until pale yellow and thick, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.

Beat egg whites in a clean mixer bowl on medium speed until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Raise speed to medium-high slowly add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Fold yolks into egg-white mixture using a rubber spatula, being careful not to deflate whites. Sift cocoa and flour over top gently fold to combine. Pour into prepared sheets, and gently smooth tops using an offset spatula.

Bake until cakes spring back when touched, 9 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line 2 wire racks with parchment paper, and lightly coat with spray. Remove cakes from oven, and immediately turn out each onto a prepared rack. Peel parchment from cakes. Let stand until cooled completely.

Assemble the cakes: Place 2 clean kitchen towels on work surface, and transfer each cake (with parchment) to a towel. Divide caramel cream evenly between cakes. Spread, using an offset spatula, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges.

Tightly roll 1 cake into a log, starting with a short end, removing parchment as you work. Tightly wrap log in kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining cake. Transfer wrapped logs, seam side down, to a baking sheet, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Unwrap each log. Lightly dust work surface with cornstarch or confectioners' sugar. Roll out half the fondant to 1/4-inch thickness. Place an 8-by-12-inch food-safe wood-grain texture mat on fondant, and press hard, using a rolling pin, to make an indentation. Gently remove mat, and generously rub fondant with cocoa. Brush off excess cocoa.

Drape 1 cake log with fondant sheet. Shape fondant to fit log using your hands, and trim ends and cut away excess with a paring knife or a pizza cutter. Transfer to a serving platter. Repeat with remaining fondant, cocoa, and cake log. Serve with sugared white pine needles and milk-chocolate pinecones if desired.


Admittedly, eggnog is not 100-percent in the desserts category, instead falling somewhere in between dessert and drink (and alcoholic beverage, if that's what you prefer). Regardless, it's a satisfying treat that's the perfect salve for your sweet tooth after a holiday meal. This year, leave the overly sweet commercial eggnog versions on the grocery store shelves and make your own.

This eggnog recipe uses egg yolks, sugar, heavy whipping cream, whole milk, nutmeg, and vanilla extract. It only takes about 15 minutes of active cooking time (plus 24 hours to let the mix chill and come together in the refrigerator).

This recipe cooks the egg yolks, so there's nothing to fear for people who are wary of using raw egg in beverages or meals. And while there are a couple tricks to getting the texture just right, this eggnog is easy to whip together. Once it's ready, you'll have a homemade drink that's rich and creamy and perfect for long nights spent snuggled into a blanket or sitting next to a fire.


  • 1 ⅔ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur
  • ⅓ cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, or as needed
  • 1 cup heavy cream, boiling-hot
  • 1 (8 ounce) package dark chocolate chips

Whip powdered sugar, butter, cocoa powder, salt, and coffee liqueur together in the bowl of a stand mixer on high speed. Transfer buttercream into a separate bowl and add mascarpone cheese. Mix until combined set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Brush a little melted butter over a 13x18-inch rimmed sheet pan. Line pan with parchment paper and brush remaining melted butter on top.

Combine cocoa powder, salt, and flour together in a bowl whisk or sift to break up clumps.

Place eggs in the clean bowl of your stand mixer. Add sugar and whip until fluffy, thick, and very light in color. Add 1/2 of the cocoa powder mixture and vanilla extract mix on low speed for a few seconds. Beat in remaining cocoa mixture on low for a few seconds. Switch to high speed stop once mixture is moistened but not fully blended. Pull off the whisk attachment and whisk batter with it until evenly blended.

Pour batter onto the prepared sheet pan and spread out with a spatula, leaving some room around the edges. Tap pan on the counter to knock out the large bubbles.

Bake in the preheated oven until top is dry and edges start to pull away from the sides, 8 to 10 minutes.

Dust a clean kitchen towel with enough powdered sugar to cover an area slightly larger than the sponge cake. Remove cake from the oven. Run a knife around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle some powdered sugar over the top. Run a spatula under the parchment paper to make sure it's not stuck to the pan.

Quickly flip pan on top of the sugared area to invert the cake. Remove parchment paper and dust cake with more powdered sugar. Gently roll cake up inside the towel allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Unroll cake and dollop buttercream on top, reserving some for later. Spread frosting to the edges. Roll cake up over the frosting, using the towel to lift it if needed. Sprinkle more powdered sugar on top. Wrap log in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Combine chocolate chips and hot cream in a bowl. Let sit for 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate melts.

Make an angled cut 3 inches from one end of the log. Place log on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Apply some buttercream to the angled slice and attach it to one side. Spread a layer of ganache all over the cake, except for the swirls. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm up ganache.

Carve lines into the ganache using the tip of a knife to create the appearance of tree bark. Refrigerate until completely chilled before serving. Dust with cocoa powder and powdered sugar.


According to the Dictionary of English Folklore, although the concept of Yule extends far into the ancient Germanic record long before Christianization, the first "clear" references to the tradition appear in the 17th century, and thus it is unclear from where or when exactly the custom extends. [2] However, it has long been observed that the custom may have much earlier origins, extending from customs observed in Germanic paganism. As early as 1725, Henry Bourne sought an origin for the Yule log in Anglo-Saxon paganism:

More recently, G. R. Willey (1983) says:

The events of Yule were generally held to have centred on Midwinter (although specific dating is a matter of debate), and feasting, drinking, and sacrifice (blót) were involved. Scholar Rudolf Simek comments that the pagan Yule feast "had a pronounced religious character" and that "it is uncertain whether the Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice certainly held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages." Yule customs and the traditions of the Yule log, Yule goat, and Yule boar (Sonargöltr) are still reflected in the Christmas ham, Yule singing, and others, which Simek takes as "indicat[ing] the significance of the feast in pre-Christian times." [5]

The Yule log is recorded in the folklore archives of much of England, but particularly in collections covering the West Country and the North Country. [2] For example, in his section regarding "Christmas Observances", J. B. Partridge recorded then-current (1914) Christmas customs in Yorkshire, Britain involving the Yule log as related by "Mrs. Day, Minchinhampton (Gloucestershire), a native of Swaledale". The custom is as follows:

The Yule log is generally given, and is at once put on the hearth. It is unlucky to have to light it again after it has once been started, and it ought not go out until it has burned away. To sit around the Yule log and tell ghost stories is a great thing to do on this night, also card-playing. Two large colored candles are a Christmas present from the grocery. Just before supper on Christmas Eve (where furmety is eaten), while the Yule log is burning, all other lights are put out, and the candles are lit from the Yule log by the youngest person present. While they are lit, all are silent and wish. It is common practice for the wish to be kept a secret. Once the candles are on the table, silence may be broken. They must be allowed to burn themselves out, and no other lights may be lit that night. [6]

H. J. Rose records a similar folk belief from Killinghall, Yorkshire in 1923: "In the last generation the Yule log was still burned, and a piece of it saved to light the next year's log. On Christmas morning something green, a leaf or the like, was brought into the house before anything was taken out." [7]

The Yule log is also attested as a custom present elsewhere in the English-speaking world, such as the United States. Robert Meyer, Jr. records in 1947 that a "Yule-Log Ceremony" in Palmer Lake, Colorado had occurred since 1934. He describes the custom: "It starts with the yule log [sic] hunt and is climaxed by drinking of wassail around the fire." [8] In the Southern United States before the end of the American Civil War, the Yule log was also maintained as a tradition. For example, according to scholar Allen Cabaniss:

Scholars have observed similarities between the Yule log and the folk custom of the ashen faggot, recorded solely in the West Country of England. First recorded at the beginning of the 19th century and occurring up until at least 2003 in some areas, the ashen faggot is burnt on Christmas Eve, is associated with a variety of folk beliefs, and is "made of smaller ash sticks bound into a faggot with strips of hazel, withy, or bramble". [10] G. R. Wiley observes that the ashen faggot may have developed out of the Yule log. [4]

The term "Yule log" is not the only term used to refer to the custom. It was commonly called a "Yule Clog" in north-east England, and it was also called the "Yule Block" in the Midlands and West Country and "Gule Block" in Lincolnshire. In Cornwall, the term "Stock of the Mock" was found. [11]

Non-English indigenous names in the British Isles include ”Boncyff Nadolig “ or “Blocyn y Gwyliau” (the Christmas Log or the Festival Block) in Wales, Yeel Carline (the Christmas Old Wife) in Scotland and Bloc na Nollaig (the Christmas Block) in Ireland. [12]

The custom of burning a Yule log for one or more nights starting on Christmas Eve was also formerly widespread in France, where the usual term is bûche de noël. This may derive from a custom requiring peasants to bring a log to their lord. In Burgundy, gifts would be hidden under the log. Prayers were offered as the log was lighted in Brittany and in Provence, where the custom is still widely observed and called cacho fio (blessing of the log): the log, or branch from a fruit-bearing tree, is first paraded three times around the house by the grandfather of the family, then blessed with wine it is often lighted together with the saved ashes of the previous year's log. [13] [14] Other regional names include cosse de Nau in Berry, mouchon de Nau in Angoumois, chuquet in Normandy, souche in the Île de France, and tréfouiau in the Vendée. [15] The custom has now long been replaced by the eating of a log-shaped cake, also named Bûche de Noël. [16]

Baltic people also have a similar ritual called "log pulling" (Latvian: bluķa vilkšana Lithuanian: blukio vilkimo) where people in a village would drag a log (Latvian: bluķis Lithuanian: blukis) or a tree stump through the village at the winter solstice and then at the end burn it. [17]

Serbian people have a similar tradition in which oak is burned.

As early as Jacob Grimm in the early 19th century, scholars have observed parallels between the South Slavic custom of the Badnjak and the Yule log tradition. [18] As observed by M. E. Durham (1940), the Badnjak is a sapling that is placed on the hearth on Christmas Eve. Varying customs involving the Badnjak may be performed, such as smearing it with fowl blood or goat blood and the ashes may be "strewn on the fields or garden to promote fertility on New Year's Eve". [19]

Catalan People have a similar tradition, where "Tió", a magic log with a smiling face that lives in the forest, is brought home, and "fed" before Christmas. Singing children beat Tió with sticks and cover him with a blanket to make Tió defecate nougat candy and small gifts.

A Yule Log of Drinking: A Look Back on This Year's Christmas - Recipes

Haill, Yule! Haill!

Such festivity was true in medieval times as well, though there are striking differences in what was eaten and served at Christmas time then as compared to now. Simply put, there were not as many Christmas-specific foods as there are now mankind feasted heartily, but on foods and recipes that also were available and popular during the rest of the year - these were produced in finer quality and eaten in greater amounts at this time, but there was not a specific and detailed menu on what should or should not be eaten at Christmas. Much of the festivity that revolved around food seemed to be not in what was being offered, but in how it was offered, the quantities that were available, and in the act of sharing a meal and eating together. Several dishes of healthy, tasty food and ale to last a day, along with fuel for cooking and warmth, and candles to light the long evening, was an honored and acceptable gift from the lord to his villeins. In some recorded cases, the gift of food for the day was as simple as a loaf of bread, ale to drink, and some firewood. Many lords would invite their workers and serfs to the manor for Christmas dinner in most cases, though, the food, serving utensils, and even the fuel for cooking were usually provided by the villeins themselves. It seems the real spirit of the moment was seen in the communal exchange of food and the enjoyment of feasting with friends in front of the burning Yule Log of the lord's hearth.

There are some food rules to remember when composing an authentic medieval feast as the days leading up to Christmas were the fast, or fish-days of Advent, fish was eaten in great quantities up to and including Christmas Eve. (This, therefore, usually meant that fish was not considered an appropriate food for the post-Advent Christmas period one would be considered a poor or offensive host to offer fish for a Christmas meal!) The practice of serving fish up until Christmas Day survives enthusiastically today as the modern Italian-American tradition of a large and extravagant Christmas Eve seafood dinner.

And there were a few foods did became associated with Christmas at this time: the Boar's Head, which still today holds great connotations of Yule, and Plum Pudding & Mincemeat Pie, two treats also contemporarily linked with the holiday. However, these foods were also quite common during the rest of the year the Boar's Head was found at many great dinners, being considered an honored dish at all times. Plum Pudding would have been eaten whenever economy and season dictated. And Mincemeat Pie (made with real meat) was simply yet another medieval-style meat pie with a heavy dried fruit base. Still, the medieval population found these dishes particularly appealing at Christmas, and the Boar's Head was considered so standard that if a real one could not be acquired, a faux presentation made of cake or other foods was more than acceptable.

By medieval times, the game of the Bean King or Mock King was old enough to be considered "ancient." This was a cake or a loaf of bread which had hidden in it a small object, such as a bean. Whoever found the bean in their portion was proclaimed the Bean King, and presided as a humorous ruler over the Christmas festivities. In some cultures the Bean cake was shaped like a crown and was associated with the Three Wise Kings.

---------- A Christmas Eve dinner and A Christmas Day dinner ----------

The Advent fast, prohibiting meat, chicken, milk, cheese, butter, etc. (i.e., virtually all animal products), and lasting a time period that included the four Sundays preceding Yule, was THE primary motivation for the festal consumption of food during a medieval Christmas. This simple fact should always be kept in mind when planning a medieval feast in an authentic manner. Christmas itself ran from Christmas Day up through Epiphany, or Twelfth Day (January 6). The rules and standards of food at Christmas time lasted for this entire 12 day period.

A Christmas Eve dinner should be composed of medieval dishes that are for fish-days, fast-days, Ember days, and for Lent. (Ember Days were four significant fast-days held during Lent, just after Pentecost, September, and in December during Advent.) These sorts of recipes are usually clearly denoted in medieval cooking manuscripts, and can be found throughout the recipe sections of Gode Cookery. Exotic and varied viands of fish & seafood should dominate: grilled, fried, roasted, baked fish, etc. with a variety of sauces oysters, mussels, crabs, lobster, clams, and assorted shellfish (such as periwinkles) are very acceptable and can be prepared in a multitude of ways. Almond milk should be the ingredient used for sauces, as it was the main substitute for milk during a fast. Fried foods are prepared in olive & nut oils (see: Oils) rather than animal fats.

Medieval cooks came up with a variety of ways to circumvent the restrictions of a fast-day: mock cheese was made out of fish and almond milk, fish was made to taste like meat, etc. And some people relied on extremes in common food beliefs to see them through their fast: beaver tail (a high source of fat & protein) was acceptable as the beaver lived in water, like a fish ordinary geese were often identified as being the mythical Barnacle Goose by both sellers and consumers alike. The Barnacle Goose, being a product of the ocean, was not a true land-goose and therefore was not restricted. Therefore, if the cook or host of a Christmas Eve dinner wishes to serve goose, it may be done so, but only in the honest faith that it is a true Barnacle Goose that is being served! (Imagine a platter of Barnacle Goose surrounded by oysters, mussels, clams, etc. Yum!)

Bread, cheese, ale, & wine should be included with the foods of both a Christmas Eve or a Christmas Day dinner.

A medieval Christmas Day dinner could be composed of rich and extravagant dishes, heavy with meat and sweets, and laden with delicacies and treats or, an equally authentic way to eat would be to have simple but hearty dishes like stewed chicken or beef, or pork, ham or bacon served with mustard, along with cheese, bread and ale. The choice is yours, as was our medieval predecessors. Certainly, the Boar's Head should be included in any large dinner or party, whether real or made of cake, as well as Plum Pudding, Mincemeat Pie, and such treats as gingerbread, spiced wines, etc. Venison was a popular meat at Christmas, and possibly represented about 1/4 of all meat eaten at that time, according to household records. Goose, duck, hen, and an enormous range of fowl & poultry served in or with a variety of sauces dishes of beef, pork, & rabbit prepared in numerous ways rich soups and thick pottages and stews a plethora of sweets and desserts - the list of acceptable foods that are authentic, delectable, and highly appropriate for a Christmas Feast would be a long one! Any documented, authentic recipe found in A Boke of Gode Cookery which is not intended as a fast-day item would be more than suitable.

And don't forget about the Bean Cake! More about it HERE.

Decorating the home with greenery during the holiday has been a custom since the Roman festival of Saturnalia, and has been documented as having occurred in London as early as the 12th century. The Medieval dinner table or dining hall can be suitably garnished with holly, evergreen, etc., just like today.

Singing carols at a Christmas dinner was such an expected activity that paid carolers and minstrels were often included in the budgets of large feasts. Other entertainments, such as masques and mummery, were also very common.

To compose your Christmas feast menu in a medieval manner, please visit Messe It Forth.

---------- What the Experts Have to Say ----------

Fast and Feast by Bridget Ann Henisch is filled with detailed and fascinating information on all aspects of food in Medieval society. Here is what the author has to say on Christmas:


Grease a baking tray (lined with parchment paper) with olive oil

Pour the flours, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt into a food processor and whizz them together so everything is well blended

Add the oil, vinegar, vanilla extract and water to the food processor and mix together to form a cake batter

Pour the mixture into the prepared sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes at 190’C

Take the cake out of the oven (the cake should spring back to the original shape when pressed lightly in the middle) and let it cool to room temperature

Into another food processor add your dairy-free butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate and whizz to combine for your icing.

Cut the cake into 3 parts, one part should be slightly bigger to use as the base. Stack on top of each other and stick the slices together using the icing. Cut the edges of the cake until it starts to look 'log-shaped'.

Coat with icing, use a skewer or a fork to create the look of bark. Dust with chocolate shavings, icing sugar and cocoa powder.

Watch the video: A Very Happy Yule Log (June 2022).


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