Here’s 12 meats that’ll make for a mouth-watering Christmas. But don’t worry, you’ve got way more than 12 days to get them all in…
Perfectly placed as the Christmas centre piece because it goes with just about everything, turkey was brought over to the UK by Native American traders in the 1520s. It hit the big time when Ebenezer Scrooge bought the Cratchit family a turkey for their dinner in 1843’s A Christmas Carol, but only really became the festive go-to when it prices dropped post World War II.
Our tip: If you’re trussing your turkey, make sure not to truss too tightly – it puts the breast at risk of burning while the legs take their time to cook.
2. Pigs In Blankets
Pigs in blankets are such a Christmas icon it’s almost hard to believe their first written mention was in 1957, though they’ve likely been around much longer. Though they’re simple in concept – a chipolata wrapped in bacon – some UK supermarkets sell up to 10 varieties.
Our tip: Coeliacs needn’t miss out on the fun, not when The Welsh Sausage Company (whose chipolatas experiment with ingredients like chilli, leek and garlic) also do Gluten Free pigs in blankets.
Once upon a time – well, the 16th and 17th centuries, goose was the king of Christmas dinner, as referenced in the children’s rhyme “Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat”. It’s also a stealthy healthier option – geese are grass-fed, which leads to more vitamin A and E, and CLAs (which have cancer fighting properties).
Our tip: We all know what the best bit of the goose is, so stock up on Goose Fat by Cook & Co to give your roast potatoes and vegetables that magical Christmas crispness.
A castrated rooster, the capon has literary kudos – it’s mentioned in the famous “All the world’s a stage” monologue from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. It’s also a traditional part of the Christmas family feast in many parts of Northern Italy and Tuscany.
Our tip: Capons are no longer legally produced in the UK, but chicken also makes for a light and lovely Christmas dinner choice when roasted with lemon, thyme and rosemary.
The traditional Christmas Ham is associated with the feast of St Stephen (which takes place on 26 December and is mentioned in the carol Good King Wenceslas) with its roots in the Germanic people who gave one as a tribute to Freyr, a pagan god. Saint Stephen is said to have inherited some of Freyr’s legacy.
Our tip: Looking for a low maintenance culinary option? Roast your ham in a slow cooker with a glaze made of sugar, black pepper, star anise and Coca Cola.
6. Sausage Meat Stuffing
Stuffing as a concept has existed since Roman times, but only really went mainstream in the 50s and 60s when poultry became affordable and people began eating it more. Sausage meat, sage and onion remains the gold standard, but chestnut is a popular festive addition.
Our tip: If you’re making your own stuffing, save yourself time and labour by using something like Cambray Natural Breadcrumbs, which will still provide that home-made taste.
People have been eating venison since prehistoric times, and fittingly the word venison comes from the Latin “venor”, meaning to hunt or pursue. Venison is wild and grass-fed so it’s much leaner than other meats and contains tons of iron and B vitamins.
Our tip: Make The Weald Smokery’s English Wild Boar and Venison Salami the star of your charcuterie board. Serve with horseradish and beetroot.
Perfectly sized for smaller parties, pheasant was another British Christmas staple before turkey began its domination. It also scores points for being abundant this time of year, and comparably quick to cook.
Our tip: Italians use sweet ingredients like port to bring out the gamey flavour, but we love pistachio and bacon stuffing. Buy Afropol Green Peeled Pistachios so you don’t have to shell them yourself.
9. Black Pudding
A delicacy particularly associated with Scotland and Lancashire, black pudding is also known as blood sausage, and it’s the pork blood that gives it such a high iron and zinc content that it’s been dubbed a “super food”. It also becoming more inclusive – The Bury Black Pudding Co have a Vegan version made with black beans, cereals and herbs.
Our tip: For a seriously festive breakfast, serve your black pudding with pancetta and duck eggs.
Forever associated with Christmas thanks to the song The 12 Days of Christmas, which has been around since at least 1780. People seem to have taken the concept of a partridge in a pear tree literally, as many recipes include both ingredients together.
Our tip: Indulge yourself with The Patchwork Trading Company’s Partridge & Pear with Sloe Gin pâté, served with crusty French bread and a sharp cheddar cheese to bring out the flavour.
The nation’s favourite meat for a roast dinner, so beloved they wrote a song about it – The Roast Beef of Old England – which is still played when Royal Naval Officers go in to dine. The best cut for a Christmas roast? Tenderloin. It’s easy to prepare, with no bones, and cooks quickly.
Our tip: Give your beef a patriotic kick with a mustard crust made with Colman’s English Mustard powder.
12. The 10 Bird Roast
If you include the bacon and sausage meat, this is almost the 12 Meats of Christmas all on its own… Popularised around a decade ago by the chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, there are also those who claim interest in multi-bird roasts spiked after the TV show The Tudors showed them being enjoyed by Henry VIII at his lavish banquets.
Our tip: Get started on your list asap. The birds included are turkey, goose, duck, mallard, guinea fowl, chicken, pheasant, partridge, pigeon, and woodcock.