Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Cola-Baked Country Ham with an Irish Whiskey Rub

Less than a week to go until Christmas and I'm sure many of you are planning your special menu for the day, or planning on what you may bring to your mother-in-laws this Christmas, huh? Well, fear not as I have a goodie recipe for you to treasure. A true Irish & Southern festive fusion that is incredibly wonderful and sure to earn you lots of points with even the most awkward of relatives. Straight from the north pole I present to you my special Christmas recipe:

Christmas Cola-Baked Country Ham with an Irish Whiskey Rub

I know you're not going to believe this and think I've had a touch too much eggnog but here's the thing...Atlanta’s favorite drink combined with some brown sugar and Irish whiskey produces the tastiest results you could imagine and may be the best baked ham I have ever eaten! The flavors are a favorable marriage, making a Southern style country baked ham with an Irish twist that will keep your guests coming back for more and begin endless stories of how you, not the Grinch, saved Christmas. The story alone is good entertainment for your guests!

A friend of mine gave me the tip about using cola as a means of basting the ham to bring out the flavor, and despite some misgivings I originally had, it works! The brown sugar and Irish whiskey rub came a bit more naturally to me, but again, it’s the marriage of the two methods that works wonders here, so give it a try!

To get a handy dandy recipe PDF of the Christmas Ham, please click on the link below and go to my new fangled Irish food blog and there you will find the gift that keeps on giving...and when you're there, please sign up on my new blog as I intend to add loads more features to it!

Here's the link:

So, in the meantime, may I wish you and yours a very happy, merry, joyful and meaningful Christmas.

Festive greetings!
Judie the Irish Foodie

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What are the differences between America and Ireland at Christmas?

I am asked this question a lot, so I thought I would blog a wee entry and attempt an answer...what are the differences between Christmas in America and Christmas in Northern Ireland? What makes Christmas on each side of the Atlantic unique? Are there any similarities? What weird things do Irish people do at this time of year that Americans don't..or vice versa?  :-)

Well, firstly, you actually may be surprised to learn that the cultures are quite similar. The pop culture part of Christmas in America and in the UK and Ireland is the very same. The north pole, elves, snowmen, red nosed reindeer, strange bearded men in red suits invading your home through the chimney, that sort of thing. Yes, that's all the very same. The stores all have the same marketing gimmicks, the TV commercials are all quite what are the differences I here you cry? Well, below is a few (with my tongue firmly in cheek!):
  • Irish people eat turkey and goose for Christmas dinner
Yes, because there is no Thanksgiving feasting a few short weeks before Christmas, Irish people all generally eat large stuffed turkeys at Christmas, unlike many of their of American cousins who are thoroughly sick of the large gobbling bird by the time December rolls around.
  • underwhelming Christmas decorating
In Northern Ireland the vast majority of families put a Christmas tree up in their living rooms. but that's it!
Hard to believe eh? No Griswold style home lighting theatrics, no lighted reindeer in the garden, no inflatable snowmen, just a sad little tree in the living room. (Pathetic! I hear you cry!)

Of course in America the outdoor lighting is becoming quite spectacular, and fascinating...just like the photo above that I took in my neighborhood tonight. Our very creative neighbors put together a winter wonderland complete with glistening reindeer drinking by a blue lighted stream...superb indeed!
  • Christmas crackers, silly hats and terrible jokes
Yes, those wonderful British Christmas crackers are a vital part of any Christmas dinner in Northern Ireland, followed by the wearing of those silly paper hats and renditions of the worst jokes ever!
  • Brandy fueled Christmas pudding
This is a nice one, but in many Irish and British homes, the final ending to the Christmas meal is the presentation of the Christmas pudding where a spoonful of heated brandy is lit and poured over the delicacy to great effect!
  • Christmas is called Christmas
OK, this one sounds funny, but it's true. The UK is a very diverse country, but somehow Christmas is called Christmas and all the PC gymnastics don't exist over there.
  • The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, and St. Stephens Day
In America the day after Christmas is...well, nothing but the 26th, whereas in Northern Ireland this day is very special. It's Boxing Day! A big day for sporting events (soccer games) enjoyed with lashings of left over turkey! In the Republic of Ireland the day has a slightly religious touch being St. Stephan's day...
  • Irish people actually like fruit cake
Hard to believe, I know...but the American Christmas cookie thing didn't make it across the pond. Over there Santa is offered fruit cake in compensation for his amazing feats!
  • The Queen's speech
Oh yes, at 3pm or so all stops to listen to what dear old Liz has to say. Actually, this is quite a nice thing. The Queen normally has interesting things to say in that wonderful clipped accent she has...then it's back to the turkey!
  • No eggnog
Irish people generally don't know what this is, so cousin Eddie would be drinking sherry in Ireland from his silly glass...not eggnog.
  • ...and lastly, the Christmas sweater is not a joke!
Yup, Irish people spend 9 months of the year wearing sweaters (or jumpers, as they're called) so, strange designs are not uncommon!

OK, I could go on and on...but that's it. Remember, this is just a bit of  'tongue-in-cheek' fun, so please excuse me!

Hope your Christmas plans are coming together, and look out for a fantastic recipe idea I am planning to make your Christmas dinner special, which I will be posting shortly, so stay tuned!...and as a reminder of the joy of the seasons I'm posting a fun photo of my youngest son in front of the Christmas tree on our porch. This joy is what it's all about!

Festive blessings to you and yours!
Judie the Irish Foodie!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Festive Gingerbread spiced Scones

Firstly, apologies to all my followers out there and casual web passers by as I acknowledge that I have been swamped and haven't been blogging as I should have. Yes, confession is good for the soul, so there it is, but my excuse is a good one. Really. Thing is that the response to my new book 'The Shamrock and Peach' has been overwhelming so I've been run off my little tootsies trying to keep up with the requests and the book signings, which all mounts to good things! So, there it is...and now that I'm back in the groove I will return to the blogisphere for more Irish goodness.

So this is Christmas (to quote John Lennon) and we are once again in the season of 'everything'. It seemed to start especially early this year, which is understandable given how hungry people are for business in this economy, but switching lights on 2 weeks before Thanksgiving? C'mon! But, look on the bright side, it's December, the lights are twinkling, the neighbors are competing, the parking lots are a-filling and what are we to do? Well, fear not for I have a great little festive recipe for you to consider as you plan those Christmas parties and family get-togethers. So, here it is:

'Festive Gingerbread Spiced Scones with Citrus Clotted Cream'.


Ginger and cream are a scrumptious combination any time of the year, but I especially love to serve them for tea and at parties around the Christmas holiday season. The aromas of the spices as they bake in the oven are both heartwarming and festive, and are perfect to bake up and serve just before those relatives or guests arrive at your home. That gingerbread aroma will make the guests feel relaxed as they enter and make your home seem welcoming and filled with the warmth of Christmas. Seems like a winning combo, huh?

Gingerbread is an Old World recipe that has somehow become synonymous with Christmas in America as every child builds gingerbread houses and bakes gingerbread men this time of year to please the ‘big man in red’, so let me invite you to get out the spices, warm up the oven, don that awkward snowman sweater and make delightful treats that will please random visitors and distant family members who come to your parties no end!

May you have a continuing wonderful Christmas season, until next time,

Judie the Irish Foodie

(oh, and if you would like a superb Shamrock and Peach Recipe sheet in PDF format, then let me encourage you to go to my new food blog over at Wordpress where I'm now making these formats available for download...absolutely free!! Follow the link below:)

Gingerbread scone ingredients (makes ½ dozen):
• 1 lb. (4 cups) self-rising flour
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 2 oz. (¼ cup) dark brown sugar
• ¼ tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. ground powdered ginger
• ½ tsp. nutmeg
• ¾ tsp. cinnamon
• 6 oz. (¾ cup) butter (cold and cut into small pieces)
• 1 egg (beaten)
• 4 fl. oz. (½ cup) buttermilk
• 2 fl. oz. (¼ cup) molasses
• egg wash (1 egg beaten with a little water or milk)

How to make them:
1. Preheat your oven to 425° F.
2. Sift the flour with the baking powder then combine the remaining dry ingredients together in a food processor or a large mixing bowl.
3. Cut the cold butter into the mixed dry ingredients then rub the mixture together with your fingertips or add them slowly to a food processor to form a breadcrumb-like texture.
4. Beat the buttermilk, egg, and molasses together in a small bowl and combine with the dry ingredients, mixing well.
5. Turn the resulting dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
6. Knead the dough a few times and then roll it out with a lightly floured rolling pin until it’s about ¾” thick.
7. Cut the scones out of the flattened dough using a 1” biscuit cutter.
8. Brush dough scones with egg wash and place onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
9. Bake 12–15 minutes until well risen and golden brown on top, turning the baking tray halfway through baking time to ensure even baking.
10. Best served warm. Serve sliced in half and slathered with clotted cream.

Clotted cream ingredients (makes just over a cup):
• 3 oz. cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
• 1 Tbsp. fine granulated sugar
• zest of 1 lemon, or orange
• pinch of kosher salt
• 8 fl. oz. (1 cup) heavy whipping cream

How to make the cream:
1. In an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, lemon zest, sugar, and salt.
2. On low speed, combine the heavy whipping cream into the mixture, being careful not to over-beat, until cream mixture becomes stiff.
3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.