Cooking for Christmas: Recipes for relish and cookies to suit Santa

December 2009 Posted in Food & Drink

By Kathy Cook Hunter

Here is a recipe to fill your special Christmas needs. From what I could glean from my oldest cookbook, what I’ve always called “date bars” are English Matrimonials – also known as “matrimonial cake.” This version came from a friend, Patti Krug.

It’s a good cookie all year, I think. If you or your family doesn’t care for dates, however, there are all sorts of variables for the topping, including pineapple, cranberry or raisins, among a number of others. (Betty Crocker’s Cookie Book, has lots of options if you’re interested).

If you want the recipe for the longtime holiday dinner accompaniment, Cranberry-Orange Relish, you won’t find it at Ocean Spray’s website or on the cranberry bag. They tell me they no longer encourage the use of raw food. Astonishing! But do be careful to wash your fruits thoroughly, just to be sure. My mother made this every Christmas, and we stored it for weeks.

Cranberry-Orange Relish
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, picked over and rinsed
1 large juicy orange, rinsed, cut into 12 chunks (including peel) and seeded
¾ cup granulated sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur, such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier (optional)

In a food processor combine cranberries and orange chunks; pulse until finely chopped. Transfer fruits to a bowl and stir in the sugar and liqueur, if using.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. The relish can be made up to a day ahead.

Resourced from Mary Engelbreit’s ’Tis the Season Holiday Cookbook

English Matrimonials
Date filling:
2 cups finely chopped, pitted dates
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat until thick. Stir frequently; if needed, mash with a potato masher to help break down the fruit. It should be fairly smooth and not too chunky.

Cool slightly; add lemon juice.

¾ cup butter, chilled, sliced in chunks
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ cup rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 x13-inch baking pan or dish.

In a mixing bowl, work butter into flour using a pastry blender, a fork or two knives until the particles are as small as peas. Add the rolled oats and brown sugar; mix well.

With your hands, firmly pat one-half of the crust mixture on the bottom of the pan. Carefully add the filling layer to the crust by dropping small mounds from a spoon and spreading with a spatula to within
1/4-inch from the sides of the pan.

Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over the filling, covering to the pan sides.

(Optional: Add finely chopped walnuts and/or a little coconut to the mixture.)

Bake for about 45 minutes until top is browned. While warm, cut into small squares or longer bars. Store in an airtight storage container.

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