Friday, 9 August 2019

Christmas Pantry Thinking in August

It is August.  

This year is marching on at a terrific pace.  It seems to have been a case of blink and you miss a bit.  I just do not know where the time is going.

I know a lot of you will groan at the C word but out of necessity I have to plan things as I go along.  It is something I do year in year out.  It is also something that gives me a form of escape from real things in that I am planning for the future whilst dealing and living with the present. I can dodge off for a bit refresh myself and then start to deal with reality again. In reality, if something needs doing then I down tools and get it done and out of the way with so there is less work to do although something else always ends up taking its place.  I therefore keep a list of what I have and what I would like so that items can be ticked off once achieved.


Time for me to start thinking about Christmas and starting to get items organised and in place for the making of things.  This year I have four Christmas cakes and four Christmas puddings to make (at the moment it could be more before I am finished) as some are being given as gifts.  I shall now watch carefully offers on dried fruit (dried apricots, figs, dates, sultanas, raisins, golden raisins, currants, glace cherries and mixed peel) and snap up bargains as I go along so that I do not end up paying through the nose.  I usually check out Holland & Barratt  or what used to be Julian Vine shop in Spalding. They are important ingredients in my Pantry.  Dried fruit that is often past its best is not wasted.  I also use it extensively in chutneys and in my homemade Mincemeat.

For August 

I need to get some five spiced pickled peaches put up as well as the chilli and peach chutney which I make every year.  I also thought that I might also put up some peach jam for a change this year.  

I also need to put up a couple of batches of long-keeping mint which is finely chopped fresh mint which is then stored under vinegar as a concentrate.  To make up mint sauce in the winter months you then take about a tablespoon of the finely minced mint, add a little more vinegar and some hot water and a little sugar and you have mint sauce for the winter months.

However before I make cakes and puddings I have piccalilli to make and we have also have plums to deal with.  I love Victoria plums as well as Black Diamond and Greengage.  I usually make Plum jam, jelly, chutney, wine using the ingredients singly or mixing plums and apples together or other variations.  There is also  Christmas jam and a Christmas chutney to make as well.

I went into John Lewis' on the way home from an outing with a friend recently.  For the past couple of years or so they have had some decorated pudding/mixing bowls which I have been using to give the puddings in.  The bowl is then returned and re-used for the following year.  John Lewis' have this year's design in their cook shop at the moment.  They are £9 apiece.  They also have very large mixing bowls in the same design which is a holly and red berry garland at £20 apiece.  They also have the plain Mason & Cash cream mixing bowls at £6 apiece.  A couple of these will be budgeted in somewhere down the line whether decorated (which I rather like) or the plain.  I already have two different designs but have managed to break one of the bowls which I was not too happy about.

Buy John Lewis & Partners Traditions Ceramic Mixing Bowl, 5.3L, White/Red Online at


is also the month when I start adding extra food to the Christmas stash i.e. dried fruit, baking ingredients.  Lots of home made preserves are added to the stash and putting stuff up in the freezers and the pantry as well.  In effect the food (although predominantly for Christmas) stash is used all year round.  I just try and give myself a lot of choice ingredients so that at this very important time of year I have the pick of ingredients with which to make stuff i.e. sausage meat in the freezers with which to make sausage rolls or stuffings or even home made Scotch Eggs. I also intend putting in quite a few frozen pork pies supplied in this way so that you just cook them fresh when you need them.  Our Butcher does not have the facilities to cook them at present but the pies come up perfect each time and they supply the jelly as well. Plenty of puff pastry, flavoured butters, seasonal fruit, preserved herbs, seasonal vegetables,  home made ice creams. Pre-prepared meals prepared at home so that all have to do especially if in a hurry is cook the meal  without all of the other stuff.

Practically speaking we cannot always afford to do things in one fair swoop so I do a bit at a time building things up gradually so that a healthy store is acquired.  The added bonus of this is that buying in a lot of the stores in advance frees up the money available to spend on Christmas presents for the month of December in the long run (apart from the fresh stuff and the Turkey) without having to use a credit card and everything is paid for up front.

Christmas for my family is a big deal and really the only celebration that we go OTT on as it is about family and as ours is a blended family on several different levels. However we learned many years ago that it is not worth getting yourself into debt for and the way my grandmother and mum dealt with things is the most effective way to go on.    

I also when I am looking for items for the Christmas pantry hone in on offers first and buy only a few items a week and do not do a bulk buy at this time all in one place (that can be done nearer Christmas probably at the end of November).  I am very selective in what I buy.  Things like chestnut puree are always put up as I make a super Chesnut and chocolate slice that can be frozen and then slices taken off and cut from frozen as needed or you can serve it as is on the table.  So I always take advantage of any offers on the chestnut front as well adding extra so that this fabulous pudding can also be made during the year as well.


is also the month when the Christmas cakes will get made this year.  I will probably have to do this over the period of a couple of days and then get the puddings stashed either in the pantry or under the stairs.  The same with the Christmas cakes.  There is no problem in storing your cakes and puddings in a cool environment.  It allows them to mature properly.  They do not go off as the fruit has been soaked in alcohol.  You feed the cake every couple of weeks or so anyway so you will see if any problems start to appear which very rarely happens.  You just have to make sure that both the puddings and the cakes are well cooked and well wrapped before storage.  My Nan also on occasion kept them in the freezer.

The sooner you can find your sloes as well this year pick them and freeze them especially if you are time constrained.  You can make Sloe gin at your leisure then and if you pick enough some preserves too.  Sloes are variable from one year to another in quantity and it depends whether the blossom gets hit by frost.  It would therefore be an insurance policy to make sure that there are always some in the freezer so that you do not miss out on your tipple (one of my favourites) of Sloe gin. The berries once pickled in the alcohol need not be wasted as you can add them to chocolate and make your own sweeties for Christmas too or freeze the pulp and take the pits out and use as the base for the bottom of a trifle or pudding.

I will also be looking to make my Mincemeat.  This will be done once the pantry is sorted out and I see what dried fruit needs using up first.

Pickled Onions, Shallots, Pickled Eggs (both hens eggs and quail eggs) and chutneys will also be on the agenda along with lots of other goodies.

The more you get your act together now the more that gets put up out of the way in readiness. None of us knows quite what is to happen in our lives so if Christmas preparation is in progress quite early on even if something unexpected happens you still have the basis of a good Christmas on the eating front.  If you have not done anything as yet you could start with some home made Bramble jelly or Bramble and apple jam, Bramble vinegar, bramble cordial, elderberry jelly, elderberry wine, Pontack sauce, elderberry rob (for coughs and colds), rosehip syrup, rosehip jelly, rosehip wine.  Crab apple jelly all from the hedgerow.

As I have mentioned before I also intend to make lots of Christmas presents as well.  I have candles to make, soap, Christmas decorations to give as presents, aprons and lots of other goodies to have a go at.  Another reason I need to get myself organised more especially if I go back to work.

At the moment I am multi-tasking on several different levels.  I have another friend to meet today and then I have the weekend to get stuck in again.  I think OH is home this weekend so I really need him to get stuck in and help me get a lot of the jobs out of the way with.

Right I had better get a wriggle on.  Sorry about the C word so soon but in this household at least this is part of the normal rhythm of my year.  It has been a way of life for a long time now.

Catch you soon.



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