For several weeks now, maybe more, special edition peppermint cookies, coffees and candies at supermarkets, drug stores and cafés have made us well aware that the most wonderful time of the year is upon us. So it’s no surprise that all things minty fresh have made their way into the pages of December food and cooking magazines.
But it’s more than just one of the sweet by-products of the season. The candy cane is popular enough to warrant its own observance, National Candy Cane Day on Dec. 26. Last year, $214 million was spent on the red-and-white striped treat.
If you don’t want to wait until the day after Christmas to get creative with your leftover candy canes, then December magazine issues have a few ideas. The one that I tried, a candy cane dip, comes from the December 2010/January 2011 installment of Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine.
This dip, though super easy, did not come with any measured instructions, and I’m typically in awe of anyone who can cook without a recipe. I’m not quite there yet, but for the less intimidating dishes, I don’t mind giving it a try. This was one of those.
Every Day With Rachael Ray simply said to stir finely crushed candy cane and cracked black pepper into cream cheese. Serve on wheat crackers and top with smoked ham.
Adding the candy cane and pepper was easy enough. I started with the candy cane and added until it wasn’t too too sweet. And I followed that with the cracked black pepper to taste. I can’t decide if I should have cut back on the amount of pepper or ground it more finely. One of those two would have improved the final result.
Per the magazine’s suggestion, I tried the dip first with wheat crackers, but the flavors seemed bland. The taste of the cracker didn’t enhance the dip and vice versa. I didn’t try it with the smoked ham though, which could have made a huge difference.
I did have small pretzels on hand, and those were key to enhancing both the overall taste and the dip itself. The saltiness of the pretzel with the sweetness of the candy cane, and the occasional kick from the pepper, made this combination complete.
In the absence of instructions, I’d probably experiment with this one again, possibly adding more candy cane and less pepper (or more finely grinding it). It’s a different taste, but something worth trying if you’re a little adventurous.
Stay tuned for more sweet candy cane ideas as we get closer to the big day!