The Christmas Goose and Other Favorites

by Marc Maurer

Each Christmas for at least the last dozen years the Maurer family has entertained and been entertained. On Christmas Eve we invite friends to our home for a light supper. Mrs. Jernigan always brings her delicious oyster stew, but a main feature of this supper is hamburgers barbecued over a medium fire.Steaks should be cooked over a hot fire without a cover. Hamburgers should be cooked covered, over a medium fire. Turkeys and chickens should be roasted over a slow fire with a cover. My hands tell me the difference. I cannot get my hands near a hot fire without fire gloves. A slow fire with a cover on it is hot enough to cook meat over several hours, but I can put the palm of my hand on the fire cover without burning myself. I can touch the cover over a medium fire, but I can't keep my hand there for long.

Marc Maurer and Lynn Mattioli
Marc Maurer demonstrates to Lynn
Mattioli how to
cook perfect hamburgers
on the grill.

I use about a third of a pound of meat to make each hamburger. It should be about three-quarters of an inch thick. I place the burgers in a cooking basket with a rack lid and put them on the fire for six minutes. Then I turn the rack over so that the burgers cook on the other side for another six minutes. Then I look at the meat. If my fire is a little hot, the burgers will be done after cooking six minutes on each side. If the fire is a bit cooler, they take an additional three minutes per side. When they are done, the burgers should be firm to the touch but not hard. By the way, I would like to find a rack with a non-stick surface for use on my grill. Hamburgers do not stick on conventional racks, but steaks do. Anyone who has found a handleless, non-stick rack with a lid would do me a great service by telling me where it may be purchased.

On Christmas Day we generally head to the Jernigan house for food and fellowship, and we take with us our contribution to the dinner, a stuffed roast goose. The stuffing is a sage and onion concoction with apples and prunes. We simplify this a little by buying a bag of bread cubes as the basis of the stuffing. We chop up a large onion and a couple of stalks of celery and fry them in about two tablespoons of butter. We pour this into the bread cubes along with a handful of prunes and one tart apple, chopped. To this I add about a half a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of sage. When I get the goose, I boil the giblets in enough water to cover them. Unless somebody wants to eat the giblets, I cut them up and put them into the dressing. I would probably leave the liver out, but I have never had to make up my mind on this point because somebody has always wanted to eat the liver of a fat goose, which is the principal ingredient of pat‘e de foie gras. I add at least a cup of the broth from the cooked giblets or a little more to make the dressing a gooey consistency. I salt and pepper the goose inside and out, and I stuff it loosely with the dressing.

Recipe books recommend that a goose be roasted in a very hot oven for a half hour, then reducing the heat to 350 degrees for the remainder of the cooking time. I have tried this, but I don't care for the results. It makes my delicious young goose into a tough old bird, unappetizing to the palette. One year I tried cooking the goose in a mixture of champagne and cream. The best you could say for this idea is that it was unfortunate. Today I place the stuffed goose on a rack in a roaster. A lot of grease comes out of a roasting goose, and the rack prevents the bird from resting in it while cooking. I put a little water in the bottom of my pan to steam the goose, I cover it, and I bake it at 350 degrees about twenty minutes to the pound. I know the goose is done when its legs wobble around loosely and appear ready to be cut from the goose and eaten.

One of the most delightful Christmas stories is "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. In that story Bob Cratchit takes his small Christmas goose to the bakeshop to be cooked. I have wondered for many years whether goose was less expensive in the England of 1843 than other meats. Either way, I find the Christmas goose delectable, and I recommend it to you.

Dr. Jernigan always referred to stuffing like that described above as "yucky, Yankee stuffing." He preferred southern-style cornbread dressing. Marie Cobb always prepares this delectable dish for Christmas dinner, so people can choose between stuffing and dressing. This is how she describes her method:

Marie Cobb

Marie Cobb

Cornbread Dressing

by Marie Cobb

Art, not a science. So use this pattern and keep tasting until you think it is right for you.


1 cast-iron frying-pan full of cornbread, made with lard and no sugar

6 slices yeast bread, rolls, or biscuits, processed into fine crumbs

6 raw eggs

6 hard cooked eggs, chopped very fine in food processor

1 quart turkey or chicken stock

1 bunch celery

2 large onions

1 green pepper

sage, savory, salt, and pepper to taste

Method: Crumble cornbread made with no sugar and real lard and baked in a cast iron frying pan into a bowl. Add the bread, rolls, or biscuits reduced to fine crumbs. Bring turkey stock to a boil and add celery, onion, and pepper that you have chopped fine in a food processor. Cover pan and cook till vegetables are tender. Drop six raw eggs into cornbread and stir. Chop hard-cooked eggs very fine in food processor and add to cornbread. Pour in stock mixture, and add savory, sage, salt, and pepper to taste. The mixture should be quite soupy. Preheat oven to about 450. Place a little lard into two cast iron frying pans and heat in oven till very hot. Quickly pour dressing into both pans and bake till surface is browned and mixture is somewhat set. Serve immediately.

Mary Ellen Jernigan

Mary Ellen Jernigan

Oyster Stew

by Mary Ellen Jernigan

This dish is always served on Christmas Eve along with Dr.Maurer's hamburgers.


2 quarts oysters

1 to 1-1/2 gallons milk and cream (see note below)

1 stick butter (see note below)

salt and pepper to taste

Note: Choose whatever mixture of cream, whole milk, 2 per cent, or skim milk suits your calorie and cholesterol notions. Butter can also be adjusted according to conscience.

Method: Cook 2 quarts of oysters gently in their own liquid, being careful not to overcook. (Oysters are done when their edges open and look like an accordion or a folded paper fan.)

In a separate pot carefully heat milk, cream, butter, salt, and pepper to just under boiling point, stirring continuously to prevent burning. I use about a tablespoon of black pepper and teaspoon of salt, which might be too much pepper for some, but it's the way I like it. Combine the cooked oysters (including their liquid) with the milk and butter mixture. Reheat to just under boiling point immediately before serving.

Holiday Fruitcake

by Doris Schaaf

Grandma Schaaf's fruitcake is always part of the Maurer Christmas dinner. Mrs. Maurer buys the fruit for her mother and ships it off to Iowa, where it is transformed into her memorable fruitcakes. One of these then comes back to Baltimore in time for the Christmas feast.


4 cups mixed candied fruit (red and green cherries and pineapple)

1 pound pitted dates

1 cup raisins

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup English walnut halves

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1-1/2 cups buttermilk

Method: Grease and flour four 8-by-4-by-2-1/2-inch bread pans. Prepare and measure fruit, leaving cherries and dates whole. Sift together flour, salt, and spices. Use enough of this flour mixture to coat all fruit pieces (about 1-1/2 cups). Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add soda to remaining flour mixture. Add flour alternately with buttermilk to the egg mixture. Fold fruit into batter and spoon it into prepared pans. Bake at 300 degrees for thirty-five minutes. Decorate with additional fruit. Return cakes to the oven for fifty-five more minutes. Total baking time is 1-1/2 hours. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cakes briefly on racks then remove from pans to cool completely. When cool, brush entire cake with orange juice or apple cider. Wrap in waxed paper, then in aluminum foil. Store in covered container in cool place. After two weeks, unwrap and brush again with orange juice or cider. Wrap tightly until ready to slice.