Christmas Food part 1: Mom’s tradition

Though it is a bit late for a Christmas entry (or three), between driving up and down the western coast of the country through dubious weather, packing and unpacking car, dog, and husband, and figuring out up- and downloading procedures for the new camera, whose glories are displayed below, this is the first chance I’ve had to share my festive food frolickings.Since this is (or was) a time of year for celebrating togetherness, family, and traditions, I’ll start with a contribution from Mom.

In the late days of the 20th century (hah!), my mom cut a recipe for Cranberry-Nut Bread out of her local newspaper.Since that time, she has probably made at least 50 loaves of this moist, crumbly, fresh tasting holiday quickbread.Okay, some of them were made in the mini aluminum tins that you give out to neighbors you don’t feel that close to, but still… We’ve distributed these loaves of tart tastiness to not only neighbors, but family friends, teachers, coworkers, and this year I took up the tradition, handing out a few to our neighbors before arriving in California just in time to make more!

One of the nicest things about this bread is that it is not overly sweet.Not only do the cranberries contribute their customary tartness, but the walnuts add an edge of strangely creamy bitterness that cuts through what might otherwise be a dessert-like batter.The walnuts, and the small amount of fat in the recipe, also keep this from being an overly oily bread, though it is still quite moist.Using fresh orange juice rather than juice from a carton results, I have found, in a bread that tastes bright and sparkling, almost as if it were carbonated.The flavor is fine with premade juice, but the extra oomph from the fresh squeezed is worth the minimal extra work, in my opinion.

Mom says I can share the recipe, since after all, she received it through an act of free and willing disclosure in the first place:img_0106

Mom’s Cranberry Nut Bread

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking soda

¾ cup orange juice (I prefer freshly squeezed)

1 TB finely grated orange peel (rind only, no white pith)

2 TB shortening

1 egg, well beaten

1 ½ cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped (the food processor works well for this.Otherwise the cranberries roll and burst all over your cutting board, kitchen counter, and floor)

½ cup chopped walnuts

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.Stir in the orange juice, orange peel, shortening, and egg.Mix until well blended.Stir cranberries and nuts into the thick batter.Spread evenly in the loaf pan and bake for 55 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.Sometimes this takes as long as an hour and ten minutes, depending on the batter and the oven.Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the loaf pan to cool completely.If distributing these as gifts, it is nice to cook them in disposable aluminum tins, so that you can leave the loaf in the tin, wrap it in colored saran wrap, and bedeck with ribbons of festive colors.Makes a lovely presentation, and a welcome snack, in the late morning on Christmas Day.

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