Keeping traditions alive

December 24, 2012 

Gregg McConnell

For decades it has been a tradition here at the Tri-City Herald that editorial board members craft a personal Christmas letter. The idea is that by sharing personal stories of Christmases past, readers get a glimpse at who we are as individuals.

Part of the tradition is the annual Christmas photo that we pose for each year.

It's a great tradition. Unfortunately for me it combines the two things I try really hard to avoid -- having my picture taken and writing about myself.

I suggested to the board members that after decades they must have run out of topics and perhaps the tradition had run its course. That idea was quickly and soundly dispatched. So, we settled on the "Favorite Christmas Recipes" theme.

Now we had successfully combined three things I avoid whenever possible -- having my picture taken, writing about myself and cooking.

Although I can't imagine how a holiday recipe will give you insight into what makes me tick, I'll do my best to follow in the TCH tradition.

When I think about Christmas meals from my childhood two dishes come to mind: oyster casserole and homemade icicle ice cream.

The casserole is easy. In a buttered casserole dish, alternate layers of crushed saltine crackers with layers of canned medium-sized oysters. Throw in some butter atop each layer and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Icicle ice cream starts with cream skimmed from the top of a gallon jar in the refrigerator after it's had time to separate from the milk -- usually several hours after the morning milking. Add lots of sugar, some vanilla and toss it into the churn.

Break some large icicles off the porch eaves and put them in a gunny sack. Crush with a hammer. Place ice chunks around the ice cream container in the churn.

Churn.

Keep churning.

One of the benefits of making homemade ice cream with a hand cranked churn is that you burn off as many calories making it as you take in eating it.

Although it's not required, I'd recommend you allow the oysters to settle before serving the ice cream.

Add a turkey, ham, fruit salad, mincemeat pie, a half dozen screaming kids and a few siblings with marginal table manners and you have a McConnell holiday feast.

Enjoy at your own risk.

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