It is my extra special pleasure to share the following story and recipe. Terrie and Les are adventurous cooks, gentle souls, and good friends. I hope you will visit their blog, https://comfortdujour.com. I know you will enjoy their innovative recipes and wonderful sense of humor.
Terrie’s and Les’ Merry Christmukkah
“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine”Anonymous
I’m delighted to share this recipe and tradition story for Bernadette’s holiday edition of New Classic Recipe. The WordPress community has come to mean a great deal to me, and I have enjoyed “meeting” many new friends through this digital platform. At the end of summer 2021, my husband and I were on a road trip through New Jersey and had the pleasure of actually meeting Bernadette in person. We enjoyed a lovely lunch and great conversation, and I’m very happy to call her my friend. Through her blog, I have also met other fun people and learned so much about different cultures through the food stories people share here.
This is my story.
When my husband and I decided to make our relationship official in 2016 (there’s another whole story there because we broke up about eight times first), we knew that there would never be a dull moment because we met later in life, and our backgrounds are so different. You see, Les is a Jewish, born-and-raised New York City guy and I am a native of rural Upstate New York with no religious upbringing but 25 years of Christian faith in my adult life.
The faith difference has not been an issue for us at all—rather, we enjoy learning about each other’s beliefs and traditions. We regularly celebrate special occasions on both sides, and sometimes we even combine them into one. The first winter holiday season that Les and I spent as a couple, Christmas Eve, also happened to be the first night of Hanukkah, and we both saw this as a blessing on our decision into coupledom. The holidays, which don’t have anything to do with each other, don’t always overlap. This year, Hanukkah begins, as Jewish holidays do, on the evening of Dec. 18, and its eighth and final day is the day after Christmas.
I have been excited to learn how to make traditional Jewish foods, and I quickly latched onto some of the Hanukkah classics, including crispy latkes—my favorite because I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like. What’s funny about this (to me, anyway) is that Les did not really grow up eating many of the traditional Jewish foods, and he has repeatedly implied that I “might be more Jewish” than he is. Rest assured, he enjoys my delving into the food traditions of his heritage as much as I do, and he has come to anticipate them as we rotate through the seasons together (he makes a wicked good homemade applesauce for those latkes, too).
Most of the other traditions we celebrate at our house are new ones that we have forged as an interfaith couple, and there is no better evidence of this than our “Christmukkah tree,” which is a traditional live fir, decked out in blue and white miniature lights (a nod to Hanukkah) and an eclectic collection of ornaments (I gift him a new one every year), plus a beautiful stained-glass Star of David at the top. Beneath the tree, stockings for our spoiled fur babies.
There is one holiday tradition carry-over from my family background that has become a standard for us, and that is this homemade Irish cream, an easy recipe my father shared with me a few years ago. This stuff goes down easy from Thanksgiving all the way to New Year’s Day, and though we usually enjoy it served over ice, it’s also a lovely addition to a cup of coffee or even hot cocoa. The key ingredients are sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, milk and Irish whiskey. A touch of chocolate syrup and espresso powder add the special somethings that make it memorable.
I’ll confess that my dad’s version always seemed a bit heavy to me, and I’ve lightened up very easily with a little shift in the ratio of heavy cream to milk. I’ve even left out the heavy cream altogether some years in favor of half and half, and it works out just fine. Less fat means it’s lower in calories too, and you know what that means? You can have a second pour!
A couple of tips about this Irish cream—first, keep it the fridge because, unlike the pre-made stuff you can buy at the liquor store, this is made with real, fresh dairy and it doesn’t have preservatives. Second, give it a gentle whisking before you serve because the cream has tendency to separate in the fridge.
From our house to yours, Merry Christmukkah!
Ingredients (my version; if you want my dad’s super-rich version, flip the ratios on the cream and milk, and double the chocolate syrup)
14 oz. can Borden’s sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk, divided
1 Tbsp. espresso powder or good instant coffee
1 Tbsp. chocolate syrup (such as Hershey’s for chocolate milk)
1/2 cup heavy cream (or half and half)
3/4 cup Irish whiskey (we like Jameson’s for this)
In a large bowl or pitcher, whisk together condensed milk and half the amount of milk.
Place a small saucepan over medium-low heat to warm the remaining milk. Dissolve the espresso powder and chocolate syrup in the warm milk, then let it cool (you can speed this up by putting it in the fridge for a few minutes).
Add the flavored milk to the bowl with the condensed milk mixture and stir in the heavy cream and Irish whiskey. Whisk gently to combine evenly and adjust whiskey to taste.
Transfer to bottles for easy serving. This will keep in the fridge for about three weeks. Shake or stir it just before serving.