Thursday, December 6, 2012

Traditions: St. Nicholas Day

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Roger's treats from St. Nicholas

Do you know about this holiday?  It's St. Nicholas's feast day.  The patron saint of bakers and pawnbrokers, St. Nicholas is the forerunner of Santa Claus, mostly do the power of poetry and, in particular, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas."  On December 5th, in Germany, children leave their shoes outside for St. Nicholas to fill with treats and small gifts.  My next door neighbor, Emily, was the first person to introduce this tradition to me, and I remember her getting a CD or two one year, and thinking it was a great idea.  We never did it in my house growing up, but like the Christmas pickle, I thought it would be cute to start doing it.  Of course, Roger goes to bed after me and wakes up before me, so I couldn't surprise him in the morning, but I did manage to surprise him after he came back from work.  I watched him from our peep-hole, and he seemed pretty happy to see the candy, book, and holiday boxers I left for him.

Not completely unrelatedly, we enjoyed a big German-themed meal on Tuesday.  I threw on some polka-music, grabbed a cold beer, and before frying up the "Hofbrau" sausages we'd bought at Trader Joe's this weekend, I made these two delicious side dishes: 


German Potato Salad (adapted from Food Network)
The grandmother of some of our family friends makes the greatest German potato salad known to mankind.  This isn't quite as good as hers (nothing ever will be), but it's pretty darn close.  I've made this with and without the bacon, and it's delicious either way, but with the bacon is much closer to what I remember, so I prefer it.
  •  2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Chives or parsley (optional)
Peel and dice the potatoes, and place them in a pot.  Cover them with enough water to extend 2 inches above the surface of the potatoes. Salt the water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 12 minutes. Be careful not to overcook, as this will turn into mashed potatoes when you toss them if you do.  (This is actually really good, and what I've done every time I've made them, but it's not traditional.)

While the potatoes boil, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once crisp, place on a paper towel-lined plate and crumble into small pieces. Pour off the rendered fat, reserving 1/4 cup in the pan. Turn the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in the vinegar, sugar, mustard, and salt and stir until thick and bubbly. Add the cooked potatoes and toss to coat. Top with the crumbled bacon and garnish with chives or parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

German Red Cabbage (Adapted from AllRecipes)
This turned out to be a really nice side dish that was quick to whip up and didn't involve too much prep (I used a food processor to shred the cabbage). 
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup sliced green apples
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I didn't use these, but I bet they would be good!)
Place butter, cabbage, apples, and sugar into a large pot. Pour in the vinegar and water, and season with salt, pepper, and cloves.

Bring the liquids at the bottom to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the cabbage is tender, about one and a half hours.

Guten Appetit!


  1. Gah! I love that you celebrate St. Nick's day! It's like crazy popular in southeastern WI where I grew up, but my parents were from a different part of the state and seriously thought I was making stuff up when I'd come home from school and tell them EVERYONE in my class got presents that day except me. My mom started grudgingly giving us candy when I was in high school--apparently by the time my youngest sister got to school she was convinced it was real. But C and I have celebrated it every year since we started dating.

    1. I love that story! I'm sure my parents would also think my sister and I were making it up if we came home with stories of everyone else getting gifts! Emily and Kiera (the family friend with the Oma of potato-salad fame) were the only friends who celebrated it growing up, but I've always thought it was such a cool tradition. Glad to hear you and C have made it your own!