Concord, Mass., is a special place at Christmastime, especially every other year when the Concord Antiquarian Society decorates each of its 14 rooms for the holidays. With painstaking attention to detail and historic authenticity, each room reflects a different period of history from the 17th century through the Victorian age, capturing the warmth and cheer of past New England Christmases.
This year the society has published An Olde Concord Christmas (New York: St. Martin's Press, $11.95) to share its festive decorating ideas and special Christmas recipes from Concord kitchens.
There are beautiful color photographs, beginning with the candlelit windows of the museum seen at twilight after a fresh snowfall, then showing the decorations in each room -- arrangements of juniper, pine, and holly; a tree decorated in the German manner with shiny balls and tiny white tapers; a centerpiece of lemons and boxwood topped with a fresh pineapple; mantels adorned with garlands of flowers and fruit; a roping of laurel, grapes, and berries winding its way up a banister.
The book will give you lots of ideas for decorating your own house for the holidays, with topiary trees, kissing balls, and wreaths with herbs and flowers.
Directions for each are given in detail and are written clearly and explicitly. There are also one hundred recipes, many passed along from generation to generation, that are especially appropriate for the Christmas season.
Here are three recipes taken from "An Olde Concord Christmas." The first is a hot mustard sauce that would be delicious with a Christmas ham, but also with the cheese and crackers served beforehand. The recipe can be increased and put up in pretty jars to give for a holiday gift. Sweet and Sour Mustard Sauce 1 cup brown sugar, packed tight 1/3 cup dry mustard 1 teaspoon flour 1/2 cup water 1/2 cider vinegar 2 eggs, beaten
Mix dry ingredients together. Add liquids and eggs in a saucepan. Cook over slow heat, stirring constantly with a whisk until thickened, about 15 minutes. Makes about 2 cups. Hot Cranberry Punch 2 cups granulated sugar 1 cup water 1 cup lemon juice 4 cups cranberry juice 4 cups pineapple juice 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ginger Thin slices of oranges and lemons
Boil sugar and water over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add lemon, cranberry and pineapple juices, and spices and heat slowly until just boiling. Allow to cool slightly and pour into a warmed punch bowl. Garnish with thin orange and lemon slices. Make 20 4-ounce servings. Christmas Heirloom Cookies 1 cup butter 1 tablespoon vanilla 1 cup confectioners' sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/4 cups almonds, finely ground 2 cups flour, sifted 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Cream butter, vanilla, 1 cup confectioners' sugar, salt. Add almonds. Blend in flour. Shape dough into balls or crescents, using a rounded teaspoonful for each.
Bake at 325 degrees F. for 15 to 18 minutes. Cookies will not be brown when done. Roll in cinnamon and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar mixture while warm. Makes 4 1/2 cookies. These can be frozen.