The tradition of Boxing Day, traditionally celebrated on December 26, began in England during the Middle Ages. Some historians say that the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day and were given the following day off to compensate. As servants would leave to visit their families, the lord and lady of the house would present them with gift boxes, often containing leftovers and castoffs from the prior day’s celebration.
When we first moved to Sharon Springs, we were eager to start our own traditions. We thought that a holiday party would be nice, but after consulting the local social calendar we learned that many of the prime holiday spots had already been spoken for. There are incredibly wonderful annual holiday parties in Sharon Springs scheduled from Thanksgiving straight through Christmas afternoon.
So, without much time to think, we staked our claim on Boxing Day.
Having a party the day after a major holiday presents a bit of a conundrum. By this point people have had just about all they can take of gingerbread, egg nog, fancy Christmas sweaters, and good will toward men.
We wanted to do something more casual. A Raclette.
What’s a Raclette? Well, it’s both the name of a cheese, the method by which it’s cooked, and the term used for the entire meal that includes the cheese. Think fondue, but less liquid-y.
Years ago, Josh’s mother surprised him with a Raclette grill as a present. He’d enjoyed his first Raclette in Switzerland during the obligatory post college backpacking trip. For years we’ve hosted and attended raclette parties in New York City using the Raclette grill.
But for our Boxing Day at the Beekman Raclette Party we decided to employ an even more traditional cheese-melting method than a Raclette grill. Instead, we melt it the old fashioned way – on the hearth.
We chose a flat piece of blue slate stone and placed it on the kitchen hearth.
A 1/2 wheel of French Raclette cheese is then placed on the stone with the cut edge closest to the fire.
As the edge melts, the molten cheese is scraped away (we use a wide painters edging knife) and then poured over boiled potatoes and fresh baked baguettes.
The meal is accompanied by a sprinkle of paprika and pickled vegetables. The pickled carrots, green tomatoes, string beans and garlic cloves are all from this year’s garden, as were the potatoes used under the melted cheese.
While we serve the Raclette itself with the traditional Riesling, we chose to serve small glasses of hot Glogg to our guests as an aperitif as they arrived in from the cold. Glogg is a hot spiced Swedish drink made from red wine spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, citrus peel, cardamom, and sugar. For an extra kick of warmth, vodka is added just before dipping in the ladle.
To serve the glogg, a few raisins and almonds to the bottom of the glass before filling.
We finished off the evening with lemon coconut cupcakes filled with lemon curd, a delicious chocolate pecan pie (sent to us as a gift all the way from Michigan), and an exceptionally moist spike cake made by Farmer John. How lucky are we to have a farmer who also owns a Bundt pan?
If you’re throwing a New Years Party this week, be sure to check out the latest Nepenth blog entry for an entertaining and informative look at champagne. And Mary Beekman has an historic recipe for her favorite “New Years Cookey.”