A Christmas Tea: DAR helping keep culinary history alive with recent purchases

Published 8:43 am Friday, December 22, 2023

Dec. 25 is the day Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Many special celebrations take place leading up to Christmas. One such occasion was held in the Messinger room of the Rowan Museum.

The Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter (EMS) of the North Carolina State Society, part of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR or DAR) recently held its annual Christmas Tea. The event also commemorated the chapter’s 125th anniversary – as one of the oldest chapters in DAR.

But there was more to be celebrated – the day embodied the holiday spirit of giving. While sipping on hot cranberry tea, members listened while guest, NC State Regent, Anna Choi, highlighted how the funding of her State Regent’s project had represented our state.

Among several meaningful projects, one that grabbed my attention was Ms. Choi’s establishment of a collections acquisition fund for the DAR Museum in Washington, DC.  The museum collection contains nearly 20,000 decorative arts objects that represent the American home and domestic life in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

I’m all about museums and history – so it meant a lot to me to have NC’s role in the early years of our nation represented in the collection. The museum has specific requirements for acquisitions – and now with funding, genuine NC items reflecting NC’s contribution to the cause for independence can be purchased.

Made all more special was that Ms. Choi selected two items that represent NC – both in art and in historical significance. But more specifically, I loved the fact that the two NC treasures purchased were associated with food – the one thing that brings all of us folks together. Sharing a meal is the most communal thing we can do – and that’s universal.

The acquisition fund helped curators purchase a highly collectible and iconic, Southern folk art piece – one made by the Moravian potters of Salem, NC. The early piece of American ceramics, (1801-1820) was Moravian earthenware – a green-glazed, molded flask in the form of a fish – called a fish bottle. These bottles – made in three sizes – were often used to carry liquids. It’s fun to imagine how the flask might have been used. Might one of the ladies have carried a bit of “spirit” or giggle juice to spike the punch?

The second acquisition that touched my heart was the purchase of an Edenton Dining Table (1770-1790) – one attributed to the Edenton school of cabinetmakers from around the Chowan River Basin in NC.  Made from solid walnut and yellow pine, the square drop leaf dining table featured straight taper-turned legs with pad feet. A glimpse into the past might reveal a family gathered around that dining table for a holiday feast of homegrown vegetables, fire-roasted turkey, or some trout.

The acquisition fund project was truly a commemoration of the past and the embodiment of the spirit of giving – through personal service and donations.

The scripture found on Ms. Choi’s DAR website page is taken from the book 2 Chronicles, verse 15:7, and reads, “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

My wish for you this holiday season is to let this scripture encourage you to not feel disappointed. Whether your good works are acknowledged here on earth or you receive personal recognition in your life to come – just keep the faith that you will receive your reward.

Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

BLUE CHEESE CRACKER CRISPS

½ cup softened, salted butter

4 oz. crumbled blue cheese

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup poppy seeds

¼ tsp. ground red pepper

In a mixer bowl, beat butter and blue cheese until fluffy. Add flour, poppy seeds, and red pepper. Mix well. Divide dough into two sections, and shape each section into 9-inch length logs. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. When ready to bake, cut each log into ¼-inch slices. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet in a preheated 350-degree oven for 13-15 minutes or until golden. Transfer to wire racks and completely cool.

CHICKEN SALAD TEA FINGERS

4 cups cooked, diced breast of chicken

½ cup chopped, toasted pecans

½ cup chopped green onions

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup premium mayonnaise

½ sour cream

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ tsp. each, salt and ground black pepper

Chopped fresh parsley, garnish

In a bowl, combine cooked chicken, toasted pecans, green onions, and celery. Set aside. In another bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Combine the mayonnaise mixture with the chicken mixture. Mix well. Spread on 2-inch bread rounds or fingers with crusts removed. Garnish with chopped parsley. A little chutney can also be added for a delicious combination.

CUCUMBER AND DILL TEA ROUNDS

1 thinly sliced, seedless cucumber

2 tsp. salt

¼ white wine vinegar

Spread

4 oz. softened cream cheese

½ cup softened, salted butter

5 chopped green onions

2 minced cloves garlic

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ tsp. each salt and ground black pepper

1 tsp. chopped fresh dill, garnish

White bread slices

In a colander, place cucumber slices. Sprinkle salt and pour vinegar over the slices. Drain 30 minutes. Remove slices and pat dry. In a food processor, combine cream cheese, butter, garlic, green onions, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and dill. Process until smooth. Cut bread slices into 2-inch rounds or fingers removing the crusts. Spread the cream cheese mixture on bread. Top with thin cucumber slices. Garnish with fresh dill.

CREAM CHEESE WITH RASPBERRY BITES

Butter pastry shells

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp. sugar

1 stick cup up, salted butter

2 egg yolks

Filling

4 oz. softened cream cheese

1 pint whipped, whipping cream

½ cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Fresh raspberries, topping

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, and cup up butter. Use pastry cutter to cut in butter until it forms a crumbly texture. Stir in egg yolks until well blended. With hands, work dough until a smooth ball forms. Pinch off enough dough to line bottom and sides of mini tart pans. Bake in a preheated 300-degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Completely cool. For the filling, in a mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Fold in whipped cream, sugar, and vanilla. Fill each pastry cup with cream cheese mixture. Place a fresh raspberry on top of each cup. Chill for several hours and serve.

HAM AND CHEESE ROUNDS

30 2-inch assorted bread rounds

¾ cup cooked, ground ham

Chopped parsley

¼ cup orange marmalade

Softened butter

Cut assortment of bread rounds into 2-inch circles. In a mixer bowl, combine ground ham, chopped parsley, marmalade, and enough softened butter to make it spreadable. Spread sandwich filling over 1 slice and top with a second slice of bread. Ham with chopped prunes is also delicious.

ENGLISH FRUIT SCONES

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. softened salted butter

2 Tbsp. sugar

½ cup chopped raisins/currants/candied fruits

1 beaten egg

4 Tbsp. whole milk

Sweetened whole milk, for glaze

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Stir in sugar, and fruit pieces. Add the egg and milk. Lightly mix well until a soft dough forms. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to ¾-inch thickness. Cut into 10 circles with a biscuit cutter. Place scones on a cookie sheet, and brush tops with milk. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Serve hot or cold with whipped cream and marmalade.

HOT CRANBERRY TEA

4 quarts water

3 cups sugar

1 tsp. whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

2 cups strong brewed tea

1 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cups fresh orange juice

2 cups cranberry juice cocktail

1-quart apple juice

In a large pot, combine water, sugar, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. Boil for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Strain cloves and cinnamon before serving. Can make ahead, keep refrigerated, and reheat before serving.

COMMEMORATIVE LEMON CAKE

½ cup softened salted butter

6 beaten eggs

18 ½ oz. Duncan Hines yellow cake mix

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. lemon zest

¾ cup raspberry preserves

1 ½ cups sliced toasted almonds

Lemon Frosting

24 oz. softened cream cheese

11 oz. lemon curd

1 cup powdered sugar

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. lemon zest

For the cake, in a mixer bowl, cream butter. Beat in eggs. Add cake mix, while alternating with cream, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add lemon zest. Beat for 2 minutes or until smooth. Bake in two greased and floured cake pans in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until tests done. Cool completely on rack. Cut around sides of pan to loosen and remove cakes. You can make a two or four layer cake. For a four-layer cake, cut each cake in half horizontally, resulting in 4 layers. Place one layer, cut side up on cake plate. Spread with ¾ cup frosting. Repeat layers twice. Top with final cake layer cut side down. Frost sides and top with remaining frosting. Press almonds into sides of cake. Chill 2 hours or until frosting sets. For the frosting, in a mixer bowl, beat cream cheese, lemon curd, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and zest until smooth consistency.