Tried and True Christmas Food Favorites

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Most every family has food traditions; they are as much a part of who we are as the educations we receive. They are a part of our culture and really show where we come from and form a great deal of who we will become. Family gatherings almost always revolve around food, and give us a chance to pass on food traditions from one generation to the next.

Life without food traditions would be lacking an important ingredient. Take the time to plan your holiday dinner with your food traditions in mind while planning the menu. And as families change you will remember your favorites as well as develop some new ones of your own.

Often these food items will show up only once or twice a year, not because they aren’t delicious but because they symbolize the occasion. Often, we even have to hunt for the recipe deep in the file each year. Here are some food favorites from my family and friends. If you have some you would like to share, I am always looking for new treats!!

Ice Box Fruitcake Recipe

…a very simple recipe…this one we attribute to my Aunt Frances


  • 1 pound box of Graham Crackers crushed with rolling pin
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 25 large marshmallows melted in double boiler
  • Red and Green candied cherries chopped (about 4 ounces). of each )
  • 6 oz. milk


  1. Put crushed Graham Crackers, raisins, nuts, and cut up cherries in a large bowl and toss together. Spoon out melted marshmallows and pour milk over Graham Cracker mixture.
  2. The best way to mix this is with your hands. When well mixed, press in a buttered container and press down. Decorate top with nuts and cherries. Refrigerate and slice as needed.

(If you butter the sides of the double boiler, the melted marshmallows come out easier with a greased spatula.)

Christmas Wreath Cookies


  • 1 stick butter
  • 30 large marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoon  green food coloring
  • 4 cups cornflakes
  • Red hot candies


  1. In a saucepan melt butter and marshmallows, stirring frequently.
  2. Add vanilla and food coloring. Pour mixture over cornflakes and stir well.
  3. Drop by spoonful onto waxed paper. While cookie wreaths are hot, decorate with red hots.

Chipped Beef Cheese Ball


  • 2 (8 oz.) cream cheese
  • 1 package chipped or dried beef, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 dashes hot sauce
  • Parsley


  1. Mix all ingredients except the parsley.
  2. Form into ball and sprinkle with parsley.
  3. Hint: Serve with crackers.

Christmas Salad


  • 18 or more marshmallows
  • ½ cup chopped nuts
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup cool whip
  • 1 package Lime Jell-O


  1. Melt marshmallows.
  2. Mix nuts and cherries.
  3. Drain juice from pineapple; add to cottage cheese, whipped cream and marshmallows.
  4. Mix with set Jell-O chill until firm.

Bill Smith’s Corned Ham

(I grew up in a family who regularly had “hog killings”, so corning the ham was done in a smokehouse by my Grandaddy Jim, but as we continued the tradition, I learned how to do one, so we would never have to have a Christmas Eve without one. This is Bill Smith’s recipe, and since he is an Eastern NC native, the taste is pretty darn close to the one I grew up having).


  • 1 16 to 20 pound fresh ham
  • 2 pounds Salt


  1. Ask your butcher for a fresh ham. This is easier said than done these days since supermarkets mainly sell ready-to-eat hams. It is much better if the ham is really fresh because ones that have been frozen, no matter how carefully they are thawed, seem to be tough.
  2. Rinse and dry the ham.
  3. There are three places where the bone protrudes; at each end and one side near the hip end. Use a sharp knife to make incisions of about 3 inches deep along all three.
  4. Fill the incisions with salt. Rub the outside of the ham all over with more salt. You want to cover the ham lightly, but you don’t want to make a paste of the salt.
  5. Place the ham in a non-reactive pan, cover with plastic wrap then aluminum foil and refrigerate. Cure for about 11 days.
  6. During the curing period turn the ham from time to time, rerub it with salt, and pour off any juice that the ham has produced as it cures.
  7. The day before you plan to cook the ham, wash it under cold running water. Be sure to flush out the salt pockets. Then submerge under clean cold water overnight.
  8. Set the oven to 325°F. Put the ham on a rack in a covered roasting pan and bake for 20 minutes a pound. The internal temperature should reach 150º for safety reasons, but I like to cook these hams until they start to fall off the bone. About 1 ½ hours before the ham is done, remove cover and raise the oven to 375º so the ham will brown.

For the last 10 minutes or so, I lift off the carapace of skin and set it beside the ham in the roasting pan. It will crisp up into the best cracklings ever.

Ma Pat’s Thanksgiving and Christmas Dressing

(This is my mother’s recipe; it is easy and yummy)


  • 3 large bags of Pepperidge farm herb dressing
  • Meat of turkey dark already cooked (I generally use baked chicken, chopped)
  • 1 celery bunch chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 6 boiled eggs chopped
  • Enough butter to sauté the onions and celery
  • 2  boxes chicken broth
  • sage  to taste


  1. In frying pan put butter and chopped onion and celery until cooked not crispy divide equally into 2 halves. put 1 half into 1 bowl and other half into other bowl
  2. Divide the meat the same way and put into each bowl. divide 6 eggs equally and put into each bowl
  3. Put spoonful of sage in each bowl, my mother adds quite a bit of sage.
  4. Begin mixing with hands while adding the broth. It will probably take some of the third bag of herb dressing. Keep adding liquid until consistency is not dry, this part is important: if you do not get it dry enough it will never bake and cut into squares.