Nov 2010 – Homemade Treats

I’m feeling inspired by ‘Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas’ a Channel 4 TV series. In these times of austerity a homemade Christmas makes sense and is great fun. So far I have the Chutneys made, along with a relish to go with the turkey, similar to cranberry sauce, but made from Chilian Quava berries (Ugni Molinae), which are a bit like blueberries, but pink and slightly perfumed. I discovered them in my local nursery and have taken loads of cuttings for the greenhouse, so maybe next year I will have the beginnings of an Ugni hedge!

We’ve used Kirstie’s recipe for salt dough decorations:

  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 cup of flour
  • Mix the ingredients into a dough and cut with cutters
  • Dry the shapes in a low oven. 

These are now all painted and covered in glitter ready for the Christmas tree.  We also made some to go on the shelf above the Stanley saying ‘PEACE’, it should have said ‘HAPPY CHRISTMAS’ but we ran out of dough.  Next I have the Christmas wreaths for the doors of the cottages to make using the willow from the top of the drive. I made these for the first time last year, but having watched Kirstie make them I now have some extra tips to improve on them this year. The pampas grass is in bloom and I’d like to incorporate that. I’m pleased to say that one of our Christmas trees we bought last year with roots, has survived and it has beautiful, fresh green soft needles. A couple of weeks before Christmas I’ll dig it up and pot it. I would also like to have a go at making homemade Christmas cards using lino cuts. I tried using potatoes instead of lino, but it wasn’t too good, so I’m going to invest in the proper tools and lino tiles, which are surprisingly cheaper than I’d expected and stocked by our local bookshop. Still on my list is mincemeat, paper chains, decorations for the table, homemade crackers and finally chocolates. One of our guests, Ulrike, gave me a great traditional German recipe for Quince Christmas Sweets and kindly sent some on to us to try. The quince tree fruits in October so it’s an ideal time to make them. They are sweet and almost jelly like – delicious.

Ulrike’s Quince Christmas Sweets Recipe

Wash the quinces and cut them into pieces. You needn’t pare them or remove the core. Put the pieces into a big pot and add water so that they are covered with water. Cook the quinces till they are soft. Although they are very hard, it takes only a few minutes. Then you have to sieve the cooked pieces the same way you do when you make apple puree. Now you can mix it with sugar (for 1 kg puree 1/2 kg sugar) and heat it again and fill it into glasses. That’s quince jam. Or add 1 kg sugar to 1 kg puree and spread it on big plates (about 1 or 1 1/2 cm thick) and wait for about a week till the surface feels dry. Then turn the mass round and leave it for another few days. Now you can cut it into different shapes. It’s also possible to spread melted chocolate over the quince sweets and to cut them afterwards. I let the small sweets dry on a grate so that every surface is dry. Then I put them into a metal box with aluminium foil between. The sweets will be good for at least three months if you keep them cool (for example in the cellar).

 The rest of the festive food I’ll leave to David, although I have insisted on turkey – he usually favours duck, but I’m craving turkey and all the trimmings.

The weather is turning much colder and we’ve had frost every morning this week. The weather man’s predicting snow across the country and there’s already snow on the distant Glengariff mountains. Santas on his way! 

*WILD LIFE NEWS FLASH *– You can imagine how surprised we were this week when we spotted an otter in the river that runs along-side Field’s Supermarket car park in Skibbereen. He seemed quite at ease with the attention, floating along on his back then diving under the water. I looked him up on google and sure enough he’d been filmed in September, so he must be a regular visitor to the town.

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