The Christmas Festivities are upon us and it’s about time to think about what we are going to put on the table for our families and friends. So, while looking for traditional Irish Christmas recipes, I came across the history of Irish Christmas cooking. This turned out to be really interesting… so I though I gjust gonna share it with you! So here we go, I’ve collected some interesting facts about the History of Irish Christmas Cooking.
Listen and learn:
Traditionally, in the past, cooking methods were shared orally (no cookbooks or websites!) and handed down from generation to generation. During medieval times, the Irish Christmas meal consisted mainly of meat: goose, duck, beef, sheep and pork were on the menu, usually turned on the roasting spit in the halls of chieftains…. In later centuries, the spit had become the kitchen oven and, by the late 18th century, vegetables and fruits were being added to the table during the Irish Christmas. This was also the time when Christmas cakes and puddings became more popular and when dried fruits and Irish whiskey started to be used in the recipes. Well, this doesn’t sound so different from what we’d have on our tables nowadays.
Christmas cakes and puddings which have aquired a seasonal status by now, had to be prepared weeks in advance. Preparations began weeks in advance for these cakes and puddings. So, too, did the slaughter of cattle and pigs. The latter were shared out with others. While the majority poor simply shared with their immediate family and neighbours, the traditional division among the gentry in the early 19th century was as follows:
- The head, tongue and feet: the blacksmith
- the small ribs attached to the hindquarters: the tailor
- the kidneys: the doctor
- the udder: the harper
- the liver: carpenter
- the marrowbone: the odd-job man
- the heart: the cowherd
- a choice piece each: the midwife and the stableman
- black puddings and sausages: the ploughman.
To the gentry back then, Christmas food meant enormous feasts of meats, fishes, vegetables, rich creamy sauces and all manner of sweet delicacies washed down with a lot of alcohol. But for the poor majority of the Irish back then, Irish Christmas recipes produced rather more hearty fare. While they were less rich than the foods enjoyed by those further up the social ladder, they were nonetheless exceptionally luxurious to the palate of a population that lived at subsistence level (or worse) for much of the year.
So, to get you well prepared for the coming Christmas cooking, we are going to post some more or less traditional Irish Christmas Recipes on our Blog over the next few days. We hope you will enjoy it!