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Cooking up Christmas traditions

Figgy duff is a Christmas dinner staple for many people in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Figgy duff is a Christmas dinner staple for many people in Newfoundland and Labrador. - 123RF Stock Photo

Classic recipes make the holidays extra special

It’s not unusual for some people to have a handful of recipes, whether they’re scribbled in old notebooks or put aside in a kitchen drawer. Every now and then, they may go through the recipes and discover one they’ve meant to try but never did. That was the case last summer for Beth Chatman of Cannings Cove.

Chatman has made her share of slush over the years, especially heading into the Christmas season. As the name suggests, slush is a partially frozen cocktail usually made with alcohol and blended with numerous fruit juices. Chatman found a new recipe that called for rhubarb instead of fruit juices. Her first batch went quickly and she’s made several more since then.

Family and friends enjoy the beverage, she said, as do visitors from other provinces. Rhubarb slush will definitely be served at her home during Christmas, Chatman said. “The recipe I had written down called for white sugar, but I used brown. And it called for three cups of sugar, but I cut it back to one,” Chatman said.

And who can forget figgy duff? Also called raisin duff or figged duff, there are many variations of the recipe. Some people add molasses and blueberries. Some make it with breadcrumbs or dried bread. Some serve it with their traditional Sunday dinner of salt meat, cabbage and other vegetables, while others save it for dessert.

Dave James of St. John’s adds raisins and molasses to his duff and prepares it in a steamer. There are lots of spices in his favourite recipe, he said. “I find the flavour changes if boiled in a pot with everything,” he said.

Recipes, traditions and more in our Holidays section
Recipes, traditions and more in our Holidays section

James is a cook with the Canadian Coast Guard. He likes to serve the duff on the plate with the dinner. Any leftovers can be stored in a cooler and served with a rum sauce as a dessert, he said.

The recipe is one he’s been using for decades and is from The Treasury of Newfoundland Dishes book.

Just as salted cod, molasses raisin bread or baked ham is often served in many homes throughout the province on Christmas Eve, a simple yet popular hors d’oeuvre that’s also passed around during the holidays is pickle, cheese and canned sausage served on a toothpick. A pearl onion in place of the pickle is often done. This tiny treat is often made and served by children during the holidays and for get-togethers with family and friends throughout the year.

Four-year-olds Sadie (left) and Madeline Whalen of Gander help put together some simple pickle, cheese and sausage hors d’oeuvres for a family get-together.
Four-year-olds Sadie (left) and Madeline Whalen of Gander help put together some simple pickle, cheese and sausage hors d’oeuvres for a family get-together.

Ellen Jackman of St. John’s said her family always referred to the treats on a toothpick as “Newfoundland hors d’oeuvres.” Her mother was in a card club and often served them to her guests, she said. “Christmastime, we’d put them out on a plate for our children. They are always a big hit at any party,” Jackman said.

Marg French of St. John’s said she enjoyed watching her cousin’s grandchildren, Sadie and Madeline Whalen, prepare the simple treat during a family gathering in August. “The children did a great job and it’s always nice to see happy children, no matter the occasion,” she said.


Beth Chatman’s Rhubarb Slush

8 cups rhubarb

8 cups water

3 cups white or brown sugar (or less, according to taste)

1 cup lemon juice

1 box strawberry gelatin dessert powder

2 cups vodka

Directions:

Boil first 4 ingredients until mushy. Add gelatin dessert powder and let cool. Add vodka. Freeze and serve with lemon lime soda.


For more recipes and ideas for the kitchen, check all our CHRISTMAS COOKBOOK articles.

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