Thursday, 29 August 2013

Planning for Christmas

We are at the end of another month; the nights are starting to draw in a little and there is a nip in the air and the blackberries and elderberries are putting in an appearance. We are slipping into autumn gently almost imperceptibly the wheel is turning again.  Bringing in the new shaking things up again.

Soon time to go picking blackberries for freezing, making jam, chutney, bottling, vinegars and wine making and blackberry vinegar.  Also time to look for mushrooms, Rosehips, Rowan berries, crab apples, Damsons, sloes.  Time to get making wine either buying a kit or creating from scratch and putting some beer, cider and lager, bitter or stout down for Christmas as well as Ginger Beer. This is the time of the year where we have to make the best of what comes our way to make sure our pantries are filled to last us through the winter months until spring arrives once more.

 My local Coop has the Christmas sweets in and the biscuits and there are offers on already and the beginning of September is the month that I start to buy a few extras here and there to pop up out of the way. Whether those be base ingredients for making things myself at home or the finished product.  I buy in basic items like dried fruit (it i well worth checking out home brands on dried fruit as they are often quite a lot cheaper), flour, luxury items like a bottle of wine, or a speciality liqueur like Amaretto (I like the Lidl version and its cheaper); chocolate, marzipan, ingredients like pecan nuts, hazlenuts, chestnuts etc..  I always check use by dates and only buy items now that have a long use by date.  Give it another month or six weeks on those items that do not at present have a long sell by date.  They soon will.  Shopping this way helps you actually get the ingredients you are after without causing problems to your purse.  A little and often are the watchwords and also shopping this way gets rid of last minute panic buying, less stress and a pantry that gives you the choice of ingredients from which to work which in turn frees up your recipe choices.  Remember Christmas is about feasting so even if you go without the goodies in the run up to Christmas it will make you enjoy them even more but be sensible with your choices and remember you do not have to fork out pounds and pounds for a cake or cakes make them yourselves they do not have to be complicated and simple recipes are often the most memorable.  Equally I raid the pound shops for offers on bits and bobs especially those cheesy biscuits and choccy biscuits.

The only thing you do have to do is to make sure that you have somewhere out of the way that the rest of the family do not have ready access too. Put the goodies under lock and key   I use the cupboard under the stairs which is my Jam Store.  Anything I make  and put up during the year I always put a couple of jars of whatever it is I have made especially for the Christmas store. I use bits and bobs in between . I have a large red plastic box which I store quite a few of the items in to start with.  If you try and squirrel away a few pennies here and there it will give you a float in which to take advantage of offers in the run up to Christmas.  Quite frequently hams and Gammons are on offer it is worth buying a couple of these if you can or more as it will come in handy not only for Christmas but also for pack ups in the new year and for an evening meal.  Just freeze them until you need them.  I always soak hams/gammons in water before cooking in any event as sometimes the ham/gammon can be a tad salty.  What goes with ham/gammon -  mustard.  Make a few jars whilst you have the time - it is not complicated and ring the changes by adding a different beer or fresh herbs.  There is a very good tutorial on

September is also the month if you have not made any already to make your own mincemeat and also your Christmas cake.  In fact I usually start buying the fruit first so that I can get the cake out of the way with  apart from occasionnaly feeding it and making sure that the cake is maturing nicely there is very little to do until the end of November beginning of December.  Equally once the mincemeat is made that's it until you need to use it. 

 I also have the pickled shallots to prepare and pickled onions.  I usually keep a load on hand for everyday use and also put a load in the freezer to use when time is at a premium i.e. roast dinners, in casseroles and stews.  I also have herb and apple jellies to make. I would like this year to have a go at making my own Gravlax and I have come across a recipe for storing Fennel in sea salt which I think will be ideal for using in making use of all those herbs in the herb border or freezing or drying the herbs and making vinegars and oils for bringing a touch of summer into winter salads especially with home made goats cheese.  Think home made goats cheeses toasted and melted on French bread served with a crisp salad and drizzled with home made raspberry, strawberry or blackberry vinegar.  Or alternatively  making curd cheese  for making your own cheesecakes. or making labnah from yogurt.  Scrummy.

Lots of ideas hurtling around now to sort a plan of action and get cracking either making preserves of whatever description myself and also buying odd bits and bobs and stockpiling in the Christmas box and getting things sorted for the freezer as well.  I also intend to start sourcing a few presents and making a few presents myself.  

Simple things to do now include making honeyed pecans, hazlenuts or almonds for liberally dribbling over home made ice cream or whatever you fancy dribbling it on.  Buy the honey when it is on offer I currently have orange blossom honey but any clear honey will do.  Its just a little something special for the store cupboard.

I have home grown tomatoes sourced (or should that be sauced) from my friends gardening neighbour which I intend to turn into a home made soup for the depths of winter.  I will cook them in the oven like I do for passata and then add some bacon bits and some of the fresh basil that is growing outside my kitchen window.  So that will be another treat for a miserable winter's day.  I also have picallili to make.  I also need to source some Victoria Plums for bottling and for Plum jam.

Right must get on catch up soon



Catch up soon



  1. Wow you are going to be busy! I make a few things and think after your prompt I'll do some mincemeat this year although I still have a lot of last years picallili left!

  2. Hi Jay. Its just the depth that varies with me. With me working full time and going to clean for my mum on a Saturday and doing other things as well time is at a premium and its a case of me downing tools and just focusing on a batch of things so that I can get them done. Since making my own mincemeat I do not buy it.I also freeze stuff for the freezer from fresh and make my own pickles, chutneys, jams, wines, bottling etc. and then there is the craft stuff as well. Never a dull moment and always something on the go.

    Take care




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