Holiday Recipes - McCord Stewart Museum
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Robin Hood Flour Mills Limited, extract from the booklet Réceptions des Fêtes par Robin Hood, about 1960. Gift of Catherine Charlebois, Recipes and Food Collection C265, M2008.126.1, McCord Stewart Museum

Holiday Recipes

Let's end the year on a delicious note by revisiting some holiday culinary traditions!

Catherine Ferland, historian

November 22, 2022

Any discussion of holiday meals and New Year’s celebrations will undoubtedly summon up a multitude of smells, flavours and images: from the rich aroma of meat pies and roast turkey, to the sweet scent of desserts prepared especially for the occasion. Served all at the same time to accentuate the impression of abundance, these festive dishes are symbols of a special time of year, dedicated to togetherness. To help you properly celebrate the close of another year, here are a few recipes from the Museum’s Recipes and Food Collection that evoke Quebec’s culinary heritage.

TOURTIÈRES AND MEAT PIES

Pie and pastry recipes can be found in La cuisinière canadienne (1840), the very first cookbook published in Quebec, and these dishes are still a favourite of many Quebecers. Nestled between two layers of flaky golden pie crust, any meat, poultry or venison becomes a delicacy.

Furthermore, this type of fare is ideal for holiday entertaining. Some families bake large numbers of pies in advance, making it easy to heat up as many as needed to accommodate guests—even those who arrive unannounced!

While some meat pies are big enough to feed the entire extended family, this recipe is for delectable mini pies, to be served with a variety of sides.

Although stew recipes have changed over time, ragout is one the most enduring dishes in Quebec tradition. Stews have also evolved in response to waves of immigration—receiving tasty contributions from Great Britain (Ireland in particular), Italy, and the Caribbean—while everyone appreciates their practical side. Many a leftover holiday roast beef, turkey or vegetable has found a second life in a New Year’s stew.

Those pickles carefully put up in the preceding months are an expected accompaniment, providing a tangy counterpoint to the richness of the meats.

SIDE DISHES

There is no denying that meats and poultry take centre stage on traditional holiday tables, but vegetables also feature prominently. Leafing through old recipes, one quickly realizes that the custom of serving a crudité platter with a meal is relatively recent: our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers preferred to prepare their vegetables with a holiday twist. Jellied moulds, like the following recipe for Christmas Cucumber Mould with Dill, were remarkably popular. Could aspic experience a renaissance in 2022? Why not!

SUGAR AND SPICE

The holidays also offer a feast of sweets. Along with traditional favourites like freshly fried doughnuts, mini fruit or nut tarts, ‘pets de soeurs’ (cinnamon pastries), maple cupcakes and maple fudge, chocolate desserts are very popular, especially since the industrial era. I found this very easy recipe for mocha hot chocolate. Fast and practical, it looks great on the table and is handy for serving to visitors who have dropped in to wish you a happy new year!

Finally, for those who enjoy a hint of sweet in their cup or glass, we complete this lavish holiday meal with a reinvented version of a mid-20th-century classic: eggnog ice cream!

Looking for more holiday inspiration? Find more recipes here.

A very happy holiday season to everyone!

About the author

Catherine Ferland, historian

Catherine Ferland, historian

With a PhD in History, Quebec culinary heritage expert Catherine Ferland works to communicate her passion for the past to a multitude of audiences, both on the radio and on television. She has also written several books (including one that was a finalist for the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards) and over one hundred print articles for various local and national media.
With a PhD in History, Quebec culinary heritage expert Catherine Ferland works to communicate her passion for the past to a multitude of audiences, both on the radio and on television. She has also written several books (including one that was a finalist for the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards) and over one hundred print articles for various local and national media.