With our Thanksgiving feast past us, we now turn to planning our Christmas meal. I have been reminded that my task is the Yorkshire pudding.

We had four generations at our Thanksgiving table this year. After decades — feels like centuries — of baking pies, stuffing birds, making gravy and all the rest, my part is now sitting and watching the kids and grandkids do it all. And they do it up proud.

Now comes Christmas. That means Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. I’m not getting out of that this year.

You can find plenty of Yorkshire pudding recipes online but none of them gives the most important part for success, the old time cook’s secrets that make all the difference.

And I mean “old time.” I got my recipe from my late friend, Evelyn. She passed away in 1999 at age 103, just shy of having lived in three centuries. A feisty little English lady, she was born in England in 1896.

The first year she came to my house for Christmas dinner, she made her Yorkshire pudding to go with the roast beef. It was a recipe she got from her grandmother, in Yorkshire, England. That takes the recipe back to the early 1800s and who knows how many years before that. (I suspicion it goes back to at least the late 1500, early 1600s.

I think the English group known then as Separatists, from Yorkshire, the people who would become forever known as “The Pilgrims,” took the recipe with them to Holland when escaping from England. They lived in Holland for 12 years before they boarded the Mayflower and made their famous voyage. A few years ago, I stumbled upon a recipe online for "Dutch Baby Pancakes." Upon reading the recipe, I realized it was none other the batter for Yorkshire pudding, but to make "pancakes" as a breakfast dish.)

The first secret to success for Yorkshire pudding is cast iron. Back in the days of the Pilgrims, and before, most cooking was done in cast iron. I have a set of cast iron frying pans nested on my stove. They range in size from the small “No. 3” to “No. 10.” Most are older than me. They all have the smooth surface that, with proper seasoning, rivals today's non-stick pans. I wouldn't give one of those non-sticks house room. Ditto the cast iron made today that have the rough surface. I use these for most of my cooking. The No. 10 is large enough to cook a roast in. I also have antique cast iron muffin pans.

The next secret is to have all ingredients, milk, eggs, at room temperature before mixing. And make your batter an hour before cooking it. This allows the batter time to activate the gluten (secret No. 3).

Time to put the batter in the oven when the roast comes out. Since your meat should rest 20 minutes, to let the juices redistribute, this makes it perfect.

Evelyn’s way was to pour the batter into the pan with it’s spitting-hot fat. The cast iron prevents the batter from cooling the temperature of the pan a bit, changing the cooking process and likely ending in greasy pudding.

Now you have your baking pan, when done, full of fluffy pudding which people pull apart and east like rolls. Perfect for gravy dipping. Instead of the roasting pan, I use the cast iron muffin pans. I spoon the pan drippings into the bottom of each muffin space and a bit of organic lard.

Cooks back then, and even up on the Tucker Farm in the 1930-'40s, used lard, rendered from their own fat back. Never saw olive oil, let alone Wesson oil, canola oil, etc., in Gramma Tucker’s kitchen. Lard is also the grease used then, and I still do, for seasoning cast iron. Another secret. I don’t use supermarket lard. It’s been pasteurized, which changes its chemical structure. I either get some organic fat back and render my own or send for it online.

Lard is mild tasting, has a higher burn point than most fats, making it ideal for tasty sautéing and frying and the only thing I use for pie crust. There isn’t room here to explore the health and taste benefits of lard, but you can easily look them up with a "lard healthy” Google or YouTube search.

(You might also want to look up "schmaltz," which is rendered chicken fat, delicious for frying — or waterproofing your moccasins. )

There are many recipes for the “Yorkshire pudding” batter (it’s actually not a "pudding" as we think of it today; it’s more like a bread – with taste.) I’ll leave looking up a recipe to you, as the ingredients are pretty basic. It’s the "secrets," starting with cast iron and all ingredients at room temperature, that make the difference.

Now, this year, I’m going to pass on the baton for making the Yorkshire pudding to my kids and then I can just relax and eat for holidays from here on. Being the matriarch of the family has its perks.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.