As a child I remember my Mum and Gran always baking and making things for Christmas. There was a quite a ceremony when the Christmas puddings were made. `Stir Up Sunday’ is the traditional day for everyone in the family to take a turn at stirring the Christmas pudding whilst making a wish. I remember it took ages! For some reason the dried fruit needed de-strigging unlike now when the fruit can be used straight out of the packet. The puddings and Christmas Cake were made at least a month before Christmas and this formed part of the excitement of waiting for Christmas. A coin was traditionally added to the ingredients and cooked in the pudding. It was supposed to bring wealth to whoever found it on their plate. The traditional coin was an old silver sixpence. We stopped the tradition when my Gran nearly broke her false teeth on the coin. I did try making my own Christmas Pudding a few years ago but had a bit of an accident with a cracked work top when the steamer had boiled dry and I put the boiling hot pan straight down on to the worktop!
Last year I made my own Christmas Cake for the first time. I was very proud of it. However the cake was so boozy the reindeer decorations collapsed with the alcoholic fumes! I was amazed how much it cost to make your own cake. It is much cheaper to buy one. However it’s not half as much fun.
We always had a good spread at Christmas tea and it was all home-made – sherry trifle, Christmas Cake, mince pies, chocolate log and my shortbread Christmas tree biscuits with illuminous green icing! On Boxing Day the chutney and pickles to go with the cold left over turkey and ham were always home-made.
I like the tradition of baking and making things to share at Christmas. This year I have made a selection of preserves throughout the year to give away as gifts to friends and neighbours. I made rhubarb and vanilla, rhubarb and ginger, strawberry and gooseberry jams earlier in the year. I wanted to add something Christmassy so this weekend made Cranberry and Port Jelly which is great in a cold turkey sandwich.
Cranberry and Port Jelly
- 1.5 kg cranberries
- 1 cinnamon stick
- a few juniper berries
- a few cloves
- strips of orange zest
- preserving sugar
- 500ml ruby port
1 Put the cranberries, cinnamon stick, juniper berries, cloves, orange zest and port into a preserving pan. Add enough water to barely cover and bring to the boil. Simmer over a gentle heat for 30 minutes, until the cranberries have burst and become tender. This is one of the best bits of the recipe. It smells divine. There is a gorgeous Christmas aroma of fruit and spice like mulled wine. It made the house smell very festive as I sung along to Christmas songs on the radio. Mash well, using a potato masher, to extract as much juice as possible.
2 Strain through a jelly bag over a large bowl. Do not be tempted to press the fruit or squeeze the bag, as this will cause the jelly to become cloudy. Leave overnight. Handy hint – make sure the jelly bag is secure! I didn’t, and the bag fell off. We had red juice all over the floor and walls. Luckily I could rescue some to finish off the recipe.
3 Next day, when the dripping has stopped measure the resulting liquid and return it to the pan along with 275g preserving sugar for each 600ml of liquid. ( I needed about 350g of sugar, but had lost quite a bit of juice on the floor!). Stir well over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. The liquid is a lovely deep, magenta colour.
4 Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 15 minutes until the jelly has reached setting point.
5 Remove the pan from the heat and allow the jelly to cool briefly. Carefully pour into hot sterilised jars. Seal the jars and allow the jelly to cool completely before labelling.
When I had finished making the jelly I parcelled them up in baskets and gift bags with pretty tissue paper to give as Christmas presents. The `proof of the pudding’ is in the eating. So we sat down with a nice turkey sandwich and enjoyed a good dollop of home-made Christmas Preserve!