Christmas feels so long ago, and I apologize for the lateness of this post. This is the hardest post for me to write because Christmas was different this year. For the first time in my life, neither of my older siblings were able to make it down. My brother and his family started staying at their home last year for Christmas with their two girls, but this year my sister got stuck where she lived because of a blizzard. Silly snow, doesn’t it know that my sister was supposed to be in Three Rivers for the holidays? We did have one of her friends over (another Sarah ironically), who has joined us for the last five years (she even gets her own stocking), and another park employee (a seasonal and also got a stocking) who needed a Christmas dinner too. All are welcome at Chez Bauer! With a 16 pound turkey it was all too easy to share.
Just like with Thanksgiving, we did some of the cooking the day before, so everything below was done on Christmas Eve. I asked my dad not to do anything until I got home, well, except for the pumpkin pie. He really wanted to do something before the 23rd. Next year I’ll tackle the pumpkin pie! (especially now that I have my own pie plate-yay!) So on the morning of Christmas Eve my dad made the dinner rolls and I tackled the cranberry sauce. Okay, “tackled” isn’t the best word since it’s the easiest thing to make, but nothing else seems to fit. Even with five people we still made the cranberry sauce two ways: cooked and raw.
COOKED CRANBERRY SAUCE
- 12 oz (1 bag) whole raw cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp allspice (optional)
In a medium saucepan bring your water and sugar to a boil. This happens relatively fast so keep an eye on it. Add your cranberries (be careful of splashing water!), vinegar and spices and wait for it to boil again. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. If you like your cranberry sauce a little more jelly like rather than soupy then let it go an extra 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Since we were making it the day before, after it cooled we put it in Tupperware and stuck it in the fridge. While cranberries were cooking down we prepared the other bag of cranberries.
RAW CRANBERRY SAUCE
- 12 oz (1 bag) whole raw cranberries
- 1 whole orange cut into 8 pieces (with skin)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup orange liqueur
Pull out your food processor and put all ingredients in. Hit pulse until all ingredients are well mixed and finely chopped. This takes about a minute or less. Transfer to another Tupperware and refrigerate. Easy right? Why are you buying the canned again? Hmmm…..
Next came the other new dish of 2012, Roasted Squash and Braised Apples. This was the other dish my dad had made ahead of time for Thanksgiving and I wanted to work on at Christmas. Peeling the apples were fun, I almost got a full peel off in one piece! However, peeling a butternut squash is not the easiest thing in the world, but at least it wasn’t a winter squash that has bumps and grooves! My dad uses Middle Eastern spice mixtures: Baharat with the squash and Za’atar with the apples which both can be found at places like Whole Foods or specialty stores, but in the recipe below I’m putting the separate spices that were included in the original recipe he found.
ROASTED SQUASH AND BRAISED APPLES
- 1 Medium Butternut Squash or 1 Large Acorn Squash (the butternut is easier to peel than the acorn)
- 3 Tbsp Butter
- 1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
- 1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
- 1/2 Tsp Salt
Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Peel your squash, remove the seeds and cut into small cubes (about 1/2″ cubes). Best way is to halve it, cut into strips then cut it into cubes. Pull out an oven safe deep skillet (if you have a cast iron one that works best) and melt your butter with the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt (or the Baharat if you have it). Add in your cubed squash and stir so the squash is covered with the mixture. Once the oven is ready, move your pan of squash into the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes or until fork tender. While the squash are roasting work on the apples.
- 2 Cups Fiji or Gala Apples (about 2 large apples)
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 1/3 Cup Diced Red Onion
- 1/4 Tsp White Pepper
- 1 Tsp Fresh Thyme
- 1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
Peel, core and cut your apples into about 1/2″ pieces. In a large saucepan melt your butter and add onions, the salt and white pepper. Once it’s all melted add in your apples and the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the fresh thyme and mix. Once the squash is done mix all together. Serve hot. You can also cool completely and put in a large Tupperware and re-heat on the oven or in the stove the next day, which is what we did.
The last thing we did before going to bed on Christmas Eve was to brine our turkey. We had brined our turkey once many years ago and I still remember how juicy that thing was. But for some reason we stopped brining for many years. So a couple of years ago I asked my dad if he could find that brining recipe or a new one. It’s been one of those recipes that is found and then disappears amongst all the cookbooks, but my dad has finally written it down and saved on the computer so we won’t lose it again. When brining your turkey you want to have it sitting in the brine at least 10-12 hours. We use a 5 gallon bucket that my dad bought at Home Depot and is strictly used for food.
- 1 Gallon Boiling Water
- 1 Gallon Cold Water
- 2 Cups Kosher Salt
- 1 Tbsp Black Peppercorn
- 1 Tbsp Rosemary
- 1 Tbsp Thyme
- 3-4 Cloves of Garlic
- 2 Bay Leaves
- Orange Rind (optional)
- Dried Cranberries (optional)
In a large stockpot boil one gallon of water with the salt and all the spices. Once it’s boiled remove from heat, pour into large bin and add 1 gallon of cold water. Once the mixture is cool, place your turkey into your brine. Leave in overnight. When you remove it the next day be sure to rinse it out completely and dry thoroughly before stuffing and getting it prepped for the oven.
Stay tuned for the recap of Christmas Day!