A Tale of Two Christmases
Feliz Natal, Happy Christmas
A Tale of Two Christmases is a celebration of the wonderful culinary traditions of the two places with which Port is inextricably linked - Britain and Portugal.
In both countries, Christmas is a time for honouring rituals, and for sharing delicious, ceremonial food and drink with family and friends. And, in both countries, it is also a time for Port.
Not even Scrooge could resist a drop of Port at Christmas. His promise of sharing ‘a bowl of Smoking Bishop’, the popular Victorian Christmas Punch, must have been music to the ears of long-suffering Bob Cratchit.
So, with glasses raised to Ebenezer, please join us on our mouth-watering journey.
Christmas At The Port Houses
Christmas Eve is the main family Christmas celebration in Portugal. Homes are lavishly decorated, often with the Nativity scene, O Presépio, although it should be noted that the figure of baby Jesus himself does not appear until Christmas Day!
At Taylor’s in Oporto, the family share a traditional bacalhau – salt cod baked with a breadcrumb crust – and doused with the finest extra virgin olive oil from Quinta de Vargellas. For a Port family like Taylor’s, this rich dish holds a special significance, honouring the historic connection between the Port trade and the Newfoundland cod fisheries.
Traditional Portuguese Christmas desserts are simply made for Port. Lip-smacking rabanadas – the Portuguese cinnamony take on French Toast - are served with a smooth, mellow Taylor’s 20 Year Old Tawny. Or heavenly sonhos de Natal, literally ‘Christmas Dreams’ – little fried balls of yumminess – are complemented beautifully by a rich, nutty Taylor’s 10 Year Old Tawny.
King Of Cakes
The crowning glory of the evening is the magnificent, crown-shaped Bolo Rei, meaning King Cake, lavishly decorated with jewel-like fruits and nuts and, as befits its status, served with a superb Taylor’s Vintage Port.
Then, fortified by Christmas food and Port, the family make their way to Midnight Mass at Oporto’s beautiful 14th century cathedral. If the night is cold enough to make one shiver, a glass of mulled Port, made from Taylor’s First Estate, is a final warming treat before bed.
A Vintage Day
On Christmas Day, we turn to Britain for culinary inspiration. The festive table groans under the weight of Roast Goose with all the trimmings. A classic, juicy Christmas pudding full of plump raisins is served flaming, with brandy butter and a glass of Taylor’s 20 Year Old Tawny.
Finally, it’s time for perhaps the most famous and historic of Christmas pairings: Port and Stilton, the combination itself a celebration of the best of Britain and Portugal.
Known as ‘The King of English Cheese’, Stilton is a highlight of the Christmas table and pairs beautifully with a number of Ports. But the ultimate match is a Taylor’s Vintage Port, which combines smoothness and complexity with the rich fruitiness needed to enhance the ripe yet buttery flavour of a mature Stilton.
Of course, any Port left in the glass slips down rather nicely with a mince pie or a slice of Christmas cake!
A Christmas Conundrum
The custom of scooping cheese from the top of the Stilton and pouring in Port to keep it moist, has prompted many a Christmas table debate.
Indeed, the practice has as many detractors as fans, one of whom once remarked, "It ruins good Stilton, wastes good Port and gives weevils rheumatism.”
Boxing Day With A Punch
On Boxing Day, the celebrations continue. At Taylor’s, a firm family favourite is a traditional Christmas Punch. Ebenezer would be delighted - and so that you may share his delight, we have included the recipe.
So, as this Tale draws to a close, may we wish you a Christmas of Port and plenty, wherever you may be celebrating.