This Year it has had to be Whiskey
This post was initially written a month or so ago, when I started my Christmas preparations. It is only now that I have been able to settle and finish off the article. A way of honouring the past and bringing it into the present.
..... that is all I have spirit wise at the moment is a bottle of good Whiskey for the Christmas preparations. A bottle of Jamesons. I personally have never used whiskey in the Christmas cake before but it is the ingredient that my Nan always used for her Christmas cakes. I have nearly always used Brandy as my Mum used to do. This year however it has had to be Whiskey.
(Whisky or Whiskey which is the correct spelling? Both are correct. "Whiskey" spelling tends to be Whiskey that is made in Ireland and "Whisky" tends to be Whisky that is made in Scotland).
My grandparents were land rich but cash poor and the only way they could survive was to grow their own food as much as they could and seasonal bulk preserving as well as topping up at the local market once a week for things like fresh cheese curd, nuts (roast salted peanuts), fresh veg out of season that they had not grown, other cheeses that sort of thing. Milk was delivered via the milkman. Nan always had a couple of bottles of sterilised milk as the saviour in case they ran out of the other pasteurised milk, together with a couple of gold top Jersey milk. (Nan used to take the top off the milk and save it in a pot in the fridge and then when there was enough whip it all together and then it was served with jelly and fruit. This was her way of making sure that there was at least a little treat during the week. This was in the days before supermarkets were even an idea in this country.
Their way of living was a simple and frugal way of living where they harvested food from the garden which they had grown. Also from rearing pigs and butchering their own meat, chickens for the eggs and occasional meal, from bartering, the market, by swapping, by gathering from the wild larder sustained them. Also by being frugal, scrimping and scraping, monitoring portions, this enabled them to live as comfortably as they did and they also shared their bounty with those less fortunate.
During the War years, my Dad became a dab hand at catching rabbits and if it was a particularly good session, not only would he bring rabbit home for the pot for the family, but also for one or two less fortunate neighbours. The meat would be wrapped in newspaper, delivered early hours, and a knock on the door and then scarpering so the recipient did not see who had left the package. Nan did not want the recipient to be beholden; and just by her very nature was of the view that everyone needs help now and then but there is no need (especially so if there were children in the house) to make an issue or fuss about it; its best done discretely. They also kept pigs, there was always an extra one though that was not disclosed and neighbours would also receive a cut after a kill in a similar manner.
Anyway back to the Christmas cooking. I have gone off course as usual, but it is all part and parcel of how my family coped and got by and what I was brought up to.
The Mincemeat has been made from bits and bobs. I use a very old farmhouse recipe for this, which takes sometime to make as the items are mixed and allowed to ferment with regular stirring happening every day. Yet again I have had to use the Whiskey for this, so we shall see how much of a difference it will make on taste testing. I like for the mincemeat to mature a bit before tasting and using.
I have also made two other versions of a new to me recipe but which is a World War II recipe when items were rationed or unobtainable. However it has been updated by using a frozen fruits of the forest mix or Blackberries. (Not my recipe but details of where it comes from are included in the link below). I used the frozen forest fruits for the first batch with Cherry Brandy added and the second batch was made with Blackberries left over from my Bramble Whiskey which was made last year and some left over from my Bramble Syrup with just a little nip of the Bramble Whiskey made last year.
The cake has also been made and has been fed regularly. I have used various recipes over the years. My go to recipe has always of late been Delia's Christmas cake recipe, but I am thinking for Christmas 2024 in any event to trial a new to me recipe or maybe one that I have used previously many years ago.
The pudding has also been the Delia recipe, but yet again I might go back to a recipe I used many years ago which I know to be an extremely rich Christmas pudding or indeed my Nan's frugal recipe which uses mashed potato. Typical Nan style gave me the recipe but not how she made it. So will come down to Trial and Error. However, will trial these out in the coming year when things have quietened down a bit.
Normally, Christmas puddings if wrapped and kept in a cold place will keep on the Pantry shelf for a lot longer than people give them credit for. I have in the past with careful storage eaten Christmas pudding that was two years old. You do have to check on a regular basis that the pudding has not dried out and if it does then give it a bit of a feed, but I am still here, and the pudding was delicious.
Have you made your Christmas cake and Christmas puddings yet?
Stir up Sunday is fast approaching on Sunday 26 November 2023, (this Sunday coming) and is "technically" the last day to get your puddings ready for the Christmas celebrations.
Sunday December 3rd will be when I make my Nan's Tea bread, so still quite a bit of baking yet to do.
Hopefully will be back posting more regularly again this week.
Catch you soon.