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A Southern Country Christmas

Chef Linda Weiss
Photographs Anne K Moore

This past year I had the opportunity to visit an old plantation in upper Berkeley County, South Carolina. The plantation house is grand and the gardens are planted in native plants of the south such as huge oak trees, magnolias, hollys, dogwoods, cedars, and azaleas. As I walked around, all I could think of was Christmas.

I know that you must be wondering why I’m walking around this beautiful place and all I can think about is Christmas? The plants have a lot to do with that. For instance, back in the early years of my life, we didn’t go to town and buy a Christmas tree, nor did we buy a wreath. Instead, we took a saw and went to the “Old Rogers Place” where my grandfather had been raised, and we’d cut a fresh cedar “Christmas tree.” My mother would decide which tree we cut. It had to be very tall, well shaped, and perfect by her standards.

We’d take the tree home, put it in a tree stand filled with water, wrap it in a tree skirt, and place the tree in front of a living room window. My mother would get out the boxes of ornaments that we used year after year and we’d decorate the tree. After the decorations were on, we’d place each tin icicle - strand by strand.

The wreath on our front door was also made by my mother and it was usually a group of magnolia leaves. Rarely, but occasionally, it was made of cedar boughs. Some of those years, we used holly around the house, except there were several years back then we had a difficult time finding holly with berries.

Whatever we had, we used; and it was the way it was used that made it so beautiful. It was the same with food. We always had fresh coconut, oranges, nuts of every kind, and dried fruit around the house to nibble on. There were cakes on stands and salads in the fridge if someone dropped in or we got hungry. There was always someone stopping too, because they knew that they were welcome and that we had plenty to share.

That was a Southern Country Christmas. Now, we’ll talk about coconut, because I don’t think there is anything more southern at Christmas. And, with this lump in my throat, it is hard to write more.

This dessert was a favorite in my cooking classes. You might want to double the recipe because it is really GOOD! This recipe uses canned pears, so if you canned some or “put some up”, or you have fresh pears and want to use them, just cook them in simple syrup and use the same amount called for in the recipe.

Vanilla Coconut Pears
Chef Linda Weiss

3 (15-ounce) cans chopped pears, undrained
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flaked coconut, toasted
¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted

Drain pears, reserving 1 ¼ cups liquid. Set pears aside. Combine ¼ cup reserved liquid with cornstarch, vanilla and cinnamon, stirring until smooth. Combine remaining 1 cup liquid with sugar, bourbon, and butter in a small saucepan; gradually stir in cornstarch mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter melts and sauce is thickened. Place pears in an ungreased 8” square baking dish. Pour sauce over pears, sprinkle with coconut and pecans. Bake uncovered at 350ºF for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve warm. Serves 6.
Follow Anne K Moore and Linda Weiss as they blog at Diggin’ It at the Christian Science Monitor website.
Visit Chef Linda at her website:
and her blog:
Linda’s first book, Memories From Home, Cooking with Family & Friends
is available at or at her website.

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