I am delighted to offer you, on the cusp of Christmas, a delightful conjunction of two of my favourite topics – cheese and gingerbread.
I begin with the concept of “Christmas Cheese”, which I came across in an entry on “Pepper-cake”, aka gingerbread, in A Glossary of the Cleveland Dialect: Explanatory, Derivative, and Critical by J.R. Smith (England, 1868)
Pepper-cake. A kind of gingerbread baked in large and thick cakes or flat loaves.
At Christmas, and on the occasion of the birth of a child also, one of these cakes in provided and a cheese; the latter is set on a large platter or dish and the pepper-cake upon it. The cutting of the Christmas cheese is done by the master of the house on Christmas Eve, and it is a ceremony not to be lightly omitted. All comers to the house are invited to partake of the pepper-cake and cheese, the form of invitation seldom varying much:- “Noo, ye mun taste our cheese.” Wine or spirits are usually offered too; and the etiquette is to offer the “good wishes of the season,” or the congratulations and kind words for the occasion, as the cheese and its concomitants are taken.
It does not appear that any specific style of cheese was nominated as the “Christmas cheese,” but there are relatively few references to the concept in the literature. It seems likely that a new wheel of cheese was used, as it was considered unlucky to cut the cheese before Christmas Eve.
I was delighted to find this story, as it gives me an opportunity to use a recipe I have been hoarding for some time:
1 c molasses
1/3 c cheese cut in small pieces
½ c water2 c barley flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp soda
½ tsp ginger
Heat molasses and cheese in double boiler. When cheese is melted remove from fire. Add other ingredients. Bake 15 minutes in muffin tins.
Two hundred and seventy-five war-time recipes (Bedford, Mass. 1918)