For a country that celebrates one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world, we Filipinos sure take this season of giving very seriously. However, much of our preparation for the holidays actually revolves around one particular night alone, the height of our celebrating where friends and family gather to usher in Christmas day: Noche Buena.
Most Filipino households (ours included) pull out all the stops, searching high and low for top-quality ingredients and items and special touches to give their Noche Buena feast a little something extra. And why wouldn’t we? Our loved ones only deserve the best on Christmas Eve! For discerning holiday shoppers who want only the best, here are four cool tips on how to make your Noche Buena staples even better.
No Noche Buena is complete without a platter of Christmas ham! Most Filipinos associate its savory-sweet taste with Christmas festivities and fond family reunions; it’s such an important part of Noche Buena that some homes even serve TWO Christmas Hams on their spread! But how does one discern high-quality ham from inferior ones? Here’s a tip: look for the net marks! Only whole-meat hams (meaning those made without nasty extenders) can be smoked in ham nets. These hams are made from pure pork hind leg, have superior texture, and are the best-tasting ones.
When it comes to selecting the best ham to serve on your Christmas feast, it also pays to actually inspect hams up-close than choosing by basis of ads and packaging alone. Some ham products have too much watery glaze and air in their packaging; this is done to conceal the non-appearance of net marks! I did a side-by-side comparison of Holiday Ham by CDO Premium and another brand gifted to me, and Holiday Ham by CDO Premium wins, hands down! The net marks were very visible, and the ham was easy to slice and free of patches, evidence that Holiday Ham by CDO Premium is made from real whole boneless meat from the hind leg, the best cut of pork for hams.
Also remember, a higher price doesn’t always mean better quality. Some high-end Christmas hams priced at P500 or higher per kilo are not even made from whole hind leg meat but from different cuts of pork – inferior quality at such a steep price! You will notice this from the patches they have when sliced, proof that the ham was molded. That, and the ill-concealed absence of net marks
Having a side-by-side comparison of hams really helped me determine the better ham to serve this Christmas. Holiday Ham by CDO Premium retails for only P490.00 but is made from the pure hind leg, free of extenders and smoked in ham nets for the best quality. But really, you gotta taste the difference for yourself!
Ahh, a classic Noche Buena dessert! This one is enjoyed in most local households, each with their own unique spin on the Filipino favorite. While canned fruit has been a staple for this sweet treat, why not upgrade this year’s version by swapping your canned fruit cocktail for fresh ones? In-season fruits at the peak of their ripening not only look great, they are refreshingly tastier too!
Since rice just won’t cut it for special occasions like these, most families switch up their carbs for the Noche Buena with festive pasta dishes like macaroni salad and spaghetti. And while you can never go wrong with either, the cardinal rule for great pasta is not to scrimp on the ingredients! We’re talking extra-meaty spaghetti in quality Italian/sweet sauce (if that’s your thing; or if you’re feeling really fancy, homemade tomato sauce) and creamy elbow macaroni salads where you can really bite into and taste the chicken!
Sometimes a bright adornment for your table setting, oftentimes actually sliced up and served with crackers, fruit and even as palaman to our favorite pan de sal on Christmas morning – either way, cheese balls has become a mainstay in the annual Christmas Eve celebration. Its sharp, salty flavor and distinct aroma and texture brings back a rush of childhood Christmas dinner memories, as it should! If you’re looking for great-quality cheese balls at a fraction of the cost, Danes Cheese Ball makes the best choice!
Hope these tips helped! Especially for Christmas Ham shopping because honestly, the type of ham you buy can make or break your Noche Buena! Got any other tips to share for Noche Buena? We’re dying to know! Happy Holidays!