25 December 2010

25 December - Christmas Day; the First Day of Christmas; Tourtiere

Weather: Weather today betokens the weather for January.
Started out clear and sunny, then overcast and chilly the rest of the day.

Some weather prognostications for each month in the coming year based themselves on the 12 Days of Christmas.  Others went by the weather on the first 12 days in January.  I keep track of both, which means that the weather on January 1 will be for August and January.  Don't ask me how.

A warm Christmas, a cold Easter
A green Christmas, a white Easter
Christmas in snow, Easter in wind

[Doesn't look like Easter has a chance of being warm and sunny!]

If it rains in the twelve days of Christmas, the coming year will also be wet.
The following good old English Christmas Carol is preserved in Poor Robin's Almanack, for 1695.
(Note: the author is not referring to those unfortunates who have no victuals for their Christmas tables, but those those miserly, Scrooge-like types who not only refuse to keep a good table, but also are stingy when it comes to sharing Christmas cheer with their neighbors.)

"Now thrice-welcome, Christmas, which brings us good cheer,
Minced pies and plum-porridge, good ale and strong beer;
With pig, goose, and capon, the best that may be,
So well doth the weather and our stomachs agree.
Observe how the chimneys do smoke all about,
The cooks are providing for dinner no doubt!

But those on whose tables no victuals appear,
O may they keep Lent all the rest of the year!

With holly and ivy so green and so gay;
We deck up our houses as fresh as the day
With bays and rosemary, and laurel complete,
And every one now is a king in conceit.

But as for curmudgeons, who will not be free,
I wish they may die on the three-legged tree!"

[and so say all of us...]
Well, for Christmas dinner this year, I am eschewing the usual turkey and instead enjoying a French meat pie, called a TOURTIERE.

There are lots of different recipes for this - it is, after all, one of the glorious Peasant Dishes, which are based on What Is Available, and not on exotic ingredients which can only be sold in specialty stores under cover of darkness to those with the correct credentials.

["Are you a famous chef with your own TV show?  No?  Be off with you!"]

So the meats can be beef, pork, chicken, veal, or game, (or a combination); the seasonings can be savory like thyme and sage, or sweet like cinnamon, cloves, mace, and allspice (or a combination); potatoes cubed or mashed; breadcrumbs or crushed saltines (or not); saute the whole mess, boil the whole mess, saute and then boil the whole mess; cook for 5 minutes, cook for an hour...

And then the pastry... Deep-dish pie or rectangular envelope?  I won't even get into the different flavors of pastry.  From the number of recipes online, one could have a different Tourtiere every day of the 12 Days (and then some.)

This is the one I shall be trying on Christmas Day:

Line a pie plate with pastry (yes, I'm going for the Deep-Dish Pie this time).
Boil 1 large or 2 medium potatoes (or whatever it takes to make 1 cup mashed), mash, and reserve.
Mince 1 large onion and 1 clove of garlic.

In a large skillet (with a lid) combine 1 pound of ground beef, 1/2 pound of ground pork, the onion, garlic, mashed potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon EACH of salt, celery salt, and thyme, 1/4 teaspoon EACH of pepper and ground sage, and 1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves.  Add 1/2 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Remove cover and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs (to soak up any oil); let the mixture sit until cool.

Fill the pastry-lined pie plate; cover with a top crust.  Seal and flute edges; cut slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until done.
This, of course, will be followed by the first of my Mince Pies, for which I made enough mincemeat back in November (and it has been mellowing in its brandy and rum bath since then).

As the saying goes, "As many mince pies as you taste at Christmas, so many happy months will you have" or "If you eat a mince pie every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night, you will be happy all year long."  Since eating a whole mince pie every day would put me right off mince for the rest of my life (or until my taste-buds forgot), I make miniature pies in a tartlet pan, which are very good with tea in the afternoon.
Christmas falling on a Saturday betokens no good at all to anyone!

Yf Crystmas on the Saterday falle,
That wynter ys to be dredden alle,
Hyt shalbe so fulle of grete tempeste,
That hyt shall sle bothe man and beste,
Frute and corne shall fayle grete won,
And olde folke dyen many on;
Whate woman that day of chylde travayle,
They shalbe borne in grete perelle;
And chyldren that be borne that day,
Within halfe a yere they shall dye, par fay.
The somer then shall wete ryghte ylle:
If thou awght stele, hyt shal the spylle;
Thou dyest yf sekenes take thee.

If Christmas falls on Saturday,
That winter is to be dreaded.
It shall be so full of great tempests
That it shall slay both man and beast.
Fruit and corn shall fail greatly,
And many old people die.
The woman who gives birth that day
Shall do so in great peril,
And children born that day
Will die with half a year.
The summer will be ill,
And if you become sick, you will die.

So comforting...

I'm going back to my Mince Pie and Hot-Buttered Rum.  Merry Christmas, y'all.