Friday, 16 November 2012

Christmas is Coming....

....or Yule, or Midwinter, or whatever you fancy calling it.  OK, it's still a few weeks away but I ought to consider getting into gear.  So far I've made the Christmas Cake (about 4 weeks back) and it's sitting, tightly wrapped, in the bread bin waiting to be marzipanned (sometime at the start of December) and iced (a week before Christmas) and I'm pondering making a Christmas Pudding this year.  I haven't tried before - mainly because I find the thought of hanging around waiting for a pudding to steam for 8 hours is a bit off putting - always a first time.

Normally by this time of year I'll also have my sloes soaking in gin in time for Christmas gift giving ( *hic* ), but the sloe harvest has been shockingly bad.  No exaggeration here, we went out last month and found a grand total of five! Five sloes?! That's not even enough for a thimble full of sloe gin.  It's not just the sloes that have been lacking....the horse chestnut out the front of the house has no conkers (every year previously there's been large quantities scattered across the ground ready to be gathered for conker fights), the blackberries were either rotten before they were ripe or, if they did survive, were bitter and watery and I've not seen any elderberries either.  The birds are going to be hungry this winter - which reminds me, I need to stock up on seed and mealworms.   Birds deserve a happy Christmas too, in the same way we really deserve our Christmas sloe gin ;)  Seeing as we're lacking in that particular department I thought I'd have a go at making a sort-of spiced mead as an alternative.  Although I doubt it'll be ready for Christmas it's another one of those things I've fancied making for a while (although I won't be able to enjoy it myself for at least another 7 months but shhhhhh, the reason for that is still a bit hush hush - at least until we have the first scan next month!).  I used a recipe for a mead in a book I own called "The Real Witches Kitchen", which I bought years ago as it had various interesting recipes in (for cosmetics, incense, food, all sorts).  I didn't have all the ingredients needed but I adapted it a little and this is what I came up with.  I used:

  • 1 and a half large oranges, chopped up, pith removed.
  • 2 large eating apples, chopped up
  • Large handful of currants (or raisins)
  • 12 cloves
  • 2 large cinnamon sticks
  • Roughly 1inch piece of dried ginger
  • 8 pints of water
  • 4 jars of honey (weighing 454g each, which is roughly a pound - so 4lb of honey)
The orange, apple, currants, cloves, ginger and cinnamon sticks went into a large stock pan with half the water.  I brought that to the boil and left it to simmer - supposedly for half an hour but I got distracted by other things so it was probably a lot longer (if I'm honest I got distracted by guinea pigs - we have two; R's 4th birthday present and a lesson in responsibility. Both boys - she's named them Holly and Dave).  After the appropriate simmering time the mix came off the heat (all the spices and fruit simmering away produced a beautiful Christmassy smell, reminiscent of mulled wine) and the rest of the water was added as well as the honey which was stirred in until it dissolved.  I then mixed in a sachet of wine yeast (a 5g packet which is what? About 0.2oz? Probably around a teaspoon give or take I imagine) and then strained the whole lot via sieve and funnel into a 2 gallon demijohn.  Added a bung and airlock and voila!.......
Now it's just a case of waiting for fermentation and maturation and I'll unfortunately have to use my husband as taste tester.  Exciting! (Note - I remembered to sterilise everything I used.  Had some sterilsing tablets left from when R was a baby....well, I had a full unused packet as we never bothered with bottle-feeding.  Far too much hassle!).

Now to plan the family Midwinter Feast (I have parents, in-laws, grandparents and siblings around for a three course monstrosity on or around the 21st December) and ponder whether I've got the time to make some new Christmas decorations with R.  Pass me the glitter! :-D

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