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Christmas Food Facts
In my family, food is close to the heart and nothing comes close to waking up on Christmas morning to the smell of the Christmas Roast in the oven.
But not every country enjoys a traditional roast, there are many different festive foods enjoyed around the world, and there are some amazing facts about traditional and not so traditional festive foods.
Here are 25 interesting Christmas food facts to whet your appetite…
Brussels Sprouts Grow In Cold Temperatures Making Them Perfect For Christmas
Love them or hate them, sprouts haven’t always been a part of Christmas. At the end of the 19th century, the invention of the modern roast dinner came about.
At this time, heaps of sprouts started being imported to the UK during the winter months where they grew in abundance.
So Christmastime happens to be sprout season – It was just a case of the right place, and the right time as to why they became an integral part of the Christmas Roast.
Turkey Was Introduced As A Christmas Meat By Kings
Henry VIII was the first English king to enjoy eating turkey in the 16th century, although king Edward VII was the one who made eating turkey at Christmas a trend.
In 2020, a survey by YouGov showed that 54% of British people still preferred Turkey as the centrepiece for their Christmas dinner.
Cranberry Sauce is rarely eaten or served other than at Christmas in the UK
Brits see Cranberry sauce as a Christmas novelty, with most jars simply being used for show purposes, which is a shame really because you’ll never have to worry about running out of cranberry sauce, cranberry plants produce fruit indefinitely.
In the winter, the vines turn brown, but don’t fret, they’re perennial which means they will keep growing back year after year. Those crimson berries that are so popular at Christmas time just keep on coming!
Gravy has been around since the 14th century
One of the earliest recorded instances of a gravy being used is in a cookbook from the 14th century named ‘The Forme of Cury’.
The word ‘gravy’ comes from French origins. In Middle Age England, the term ‘gravé’ was used to describe a sauce made with meat juices. So traditionally, gravy should contain the meat juices from your Christmas roast meat.
Oranges Symbolise the Coins that Saint Nick Gifted
The reason behind this Christmas food’s popularity originates from Saint Nicholas himself. Legend has it, that Saint Nicholas was a wealthy man who used his money for the good of others.
He dropped coins down the chimney of one particular man in need and from that point onwards, oranges have been used to symbolise the coins that Saint Nick had gifted.
Chestnuts were virtually wiped out by 1950
Ink disease killed millions of chestnut trees in the 1800s, then in the first half of the 20th century, chestnut blight wiped out an estimated 4 billion more.
By 1950, there were virtually no surviving chestnut trees!
Christmas Pudding used to be Porridge Consistency
The Christmas pudding originated in the 14th-century named ‘frumenty’ which was a rich, fruity porridge-based seasonal treat.
The dish bears little resemblance to the dessert we know today and was originally a wet dish made with hulled wheat, milk, cinnamon and saffron.
Mince Pies Used to Contain Meat
What part of the mince pie is mince? Today, we know mince pies to be sweet through and through, but that wasn’t always the case. Mince pies originated in the middle ages.
They were not only much larger than the pastries we eat today, but they contained real minced meat, as well as dried fruits. A mixture of savoury and sweet ingredients was quite common during those times.
Stollen has a shelf life of 3 Months
Stollen is a German cake that’s eaten at Christmas time. Its predominant flavour is marzipan and sweet dried fruits.
Stollen is so full of butter and sugar that it has an incredibly long shelf life, staying fresh throughout the Christmas period. Though, if you’re like me, it won’t last that long…
Yule Logs weren’t Always Edible
The Yule log used to be just that. A log. It would be hewn from a large tree and brought inside to be burned in the fireplace. The Yule log would be large, and this is because it would need to keep the house warm for the 12 days of Christmas.
Nowadays, the Yule log is a wonderfully chocolatey cake with cream, rolled up in a chocolate sponge. I know which I prefer.
Panettone takes Three Days to Make (minimum)
Panettone is a sweet enriched Italian bread filled with raisins and dried fruit. The process of making panettone is a laborious process of mixing, leavening, baking, and resting over a period of 3 days – minimum!
This gives rise to its iconic tall, domed look and its soft and fluffy texture. Italians like to enjoy this sweet treat at Christmas time with hot cocoa or a drop of rich liqueur.
Zimtsterne were Originally Made by Monks
In German, ‘zimtsterne’ means “cinnamon star”, that’s exactly what these sweet biscuits are. They were originally made by monks all the way back in Medieval times but are now a popular Christmas treat.
They are not only a delicious addition to Christmas time, ‘zimtsterne’ can be used to decorate the Christmas tree, but I think they’re best enjoyed with a glass of milk.
Gingerbread Houses aren’t Meant to be Eaten
Thinking of building a gingerbread house? Well, don’t go using that regular-grade gingerbread, no. You need construction-grade gingerbread.
Construction grade gingerbread will withstand the ordeal of families coming together at Christmas, lasting until New Year.
The special 1:4 ratio of butter to flour makes structural gingerbread strong enough to take a few knocks. Though keep in mind, that this sort of gingerbread isn’t to be eaten, or the Tooth Fairy will be following Santa down that chimney!
Stuffing is the Main Cause of Food Poisoning at Christmas
Christmas stuffing is usually made with bread, herbs, onions, meat and eggs. Stuffing can be used to stuff any sort of food, not just roast meat at Christmas time. However, Christmas roast stuffing can carry certain risks.
When you’re cooking your stuffed roast, the meat may be at a cooked temperature whereas the stuffing inside may still be cool enough to harbour bacteria.
But when the stuffing is cooked through, the roast meat will have dried out. You can overcome this problem by cooking your stuffing and meat separately.
Pigs in Blankets Differ from Country to Country
In the UK, ‘pigs in blankets’ are mini sausages wrapped in bacon, served with the roast dinner on Christmas day, however, around the world they are quite different, but no matter the origin, ‘pigs in blankets’ are clearly a worldwide Christmas food favourite.
In the United States, ‘pigs in a blanket’ is a croissant dough wrapped around a cocktail sausage. They are also called ‘franks in blanks’, referring to the frankfurter sausage.
Israeli ‘pigs in blankets’ consist of kosher hot dogs wrapped in puff pastry, served hot.
In Russia, ‘pigs in blankets’ are just called ‘sausage in dough’, and a similar appetiser, aptly named ‘sausage bun’ is served in Hong Kong.
Bread Sauce is Only Popular in the UK
The UK Christmas food list wouldn’t be complete without bread sauce. Though not everyone is keen on it, bread sauce originates from the practice of thickening sauces, stews and gravies with chunks of stale bread.
It is a foodstuff unique to the British Isles, commonly used as a condiment alongside chicken and turkey.
Chocolate Coins Originate from Saint Nick’s Generosity
Like oranges, chocolate coins at Christmas also originate from Saint Nicholas. In the fourth century, Saint Nicholas was active in giving to the poor at Christmas.
Particularly, he had given three women a dowry each (a payment made by the bride to the groom, before marriage).
This act of generosity lead to the giving of coins at Christmas, transforming over time into the sweet treat we know and love today.
The Oldest Christmas Fruit Cake is over 140 Years old
How long can a Christmas fruit cake last? The alcohol within the fruit cake lends a preserving quality to the cake. In Michigan U.S.A, a family has kept their Christmas cake for 140+ years.
The Ruttinger family have passed down this sugary heirloom over the years. The cake came from a tradition in the family of baking a cake every year, for Christmas.
However, it’s recommended to eat your Christmas fruit cake within 6 months whilst refrigerating it.
Bubble and Squeak (once a peasant food) is now a Boxing Day Treat in the UK
You may be thinking this is a strange name for a Christmas food. However, when the leftovers from Christmas dinner are combined and fried over heat, bubble and squeak is exactly what you can hear.
The dish was often considered a peasant dish, made from potatoes and cabbage. But it is much more luxurious at Christmas when other ingredients can be added to pep it up, like meats, stuffing or a dollop of cranberry sauce – making it a firm Boxing Day favourite for Brits.
Ham only Became Popular as a Christmas Food in the 20th Century
A common misconception is that the tradition of eating ham dates back to the origins of Christmas Dinners, and is related to the Germanic pagan ritual of sacrificing a wild boar known as a ‘sonargöltr’ to the Norse god Freyr during harvest festivals
In fact, eating Gammon Ham only became popular as a Christmas food around the 1900s and grew in popularity in the 1960s.
Acidic Soil Makes Cabbage Red
I love red cabbage at Christmas. The wonderfully tender leaves, dressed in lashings of that warm, spiced, sweet and sour sauce. I’m left wondering, what makes red cabbage, red?
Red cabbage contains a compound called anthocyanin. This compound changes colour depending on the pH of the soil, that the cabbage has grown in.
If the soil is acidic, the cabbage will grow to be a purple,/red colour and if it’s alkaline soil, the cabbage will be a green.
Mulled Wine Was Invented by the Romans
Mulled wine isn’t just a British Christmas staple. Many countries throughout Europe have their own versions too. There’s one thing they all have in common, red wine, sugar and spices.
The Romans often heated wine to keep the soldiers warm, but they also took the wine up a notch by adding spices which officially gave birth to mulled wine.
Roast Potatoes go Crispy Due to the ‘Maillard Reaction’
What happens in the oven to make roast potatoes so moreish? A chemical reaction occurs when the heat of the oven meets the potato. It’s called the Maillard Reaction. This is what is responsible for that delightful crispy texture on your Christmas roasties.
When proteins react with carbohydrates in the potato, sugars are produced. The heat of the oven enhances this process, making it happen faster. What’s more, the resulting sugars make that crisp, caramelised layer on the outside of those roast spuds.
Trifle Was the Official Dessert of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022
Steeped in a rich history, trifle is a common food found on the table at Christmas. But trifle wasn’t always so universally known as sponge fingers in fruit jelly, with custard and cream on top.
In the late 1500’s, trifle was more like a ‘fool’ type dessert, with stewed fruit and sweet cream. Towards the mid 1700’s, it had evolved, with jelly securing itself as a staple ingredient. It’s always been popular.
In 2022, trifle became worthy of royalty. The Queen herself dined on a lemon and amaretti trifle after it won the ‘people’s pudding’ competition to become the official dessert, to celebrate 70 years of her reign.
Yorkshire Puddings Used to be Flat
Yorkshire puddings were originally known as Dripping Pudding which was a flat version of the puffy modern Yorkshire puddings we know and love.
The Yorkshire pudding was traditionally served as a starter which was laden with thick gravy to fill people up with low-cost ingredients in the hope that they would eat less meat in the main course.
Love Festive Food? Check out this Christmas Food Quiz
We hope you enjoyed this list of festive foods facts! If you know of any more really interesting facts we should add to the list, please let us know in the comments below…