‘Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe perhaps Christmas means a little more.’
For me Christmas is a mix of shop bought and make your own. Making your own will generally be nicer, tastier and should be cheaper. However there are a few short cuts that shop bought can help with.
This is a big blog so please have a look, there are lots of great makes and information to get you through the festive season.
This year I am going all out on the Christmas makes.
Home-made gifts, decorations and food for the big day. All traditional looking and feeling fuzzyness for my favourite and most magical time of year.
Home-made gifts: Ill go through making up Christmas gift hampers with the preserves, drinks and jams you made at harvest time. How to make a hamper look beautiful and have that rustic farmhouse look.
Home- made Decorations: A look at my first attempt at a door wreath- and I am pretty pleased with it too. Also tree decorations and aromatic table additions. All using cheap fabric and garden plants.
Home-made Christmas cooking: I use a great little book to create traditional Victorian food. I am not the worlds biggest fan of raisins sultans and currents so I find an alternative Christmas cake, mince pies and pudding. As well as a few traditional extras and a Christmas cooking schedule to make that run up to Christmas easier and more organised.
To start, Christmas hampers.
There is nothing nicer to receive as a gift, as a lovely hamper full of treats.
I am filling them with the products I made from the autumn harvest;
Green Tomato and Chilli Preserve,
Spiced Apple Chutney,
Caramelised Onion and Orange Chutney,
and Sloe Gin.
What a nice selection. See Happy Harvest blog for recipes.
To decorate I am going simple this year. I want a rustic, country feel so am using plain calico for lid covers, plain brown labels, and hay for packing. I am also using a festive snow cellophane and string to tie it all up in vintage wicker baskets.
You may think this lot sounds expensive, but if you are canny you can find some bargains.
The baskets were from a second hand shop and cost a mere £3 for all 6. The cellophane was 50p per metre, so very inexpensive, the labels were 1/2 price in closing down sale of 50p for 10, the calico was £4.50 per metre, mine is double width, so I had plenty and used the rest for Christmas decorations, and the hay was £2 but you can use straw which is cheaper, and if you get a bale or half a bale it is cheaper. But of course sourcing it may be a problem if you live in the city. Any good pet store will do hay and straw but you may pay a little more for it. Plus I know a rabbit that will enjoy any leftovers.
To start with the jar covers. measure a square of calico 5×5 cm squared and cut with pinking sheers, if you do not have any sharp scissors will do, the edges just may fray a little.
Place on lid then secure with a tight elastic band.
Next onto labels. Decide what you want on them. I go for a straight forward item on the front with a brief witty or informative line, then a list of ingredients on the back. be aware of allergens such as mustard, wheat, onion seeds and certain spices.
Attach under the elastic band and tie in a neat knot.
Make sure baskets are clean, line with hay then arrange jars and bottles in a way that suits. place cellophane underneath and bring together at the top tying with string and attach a label if desired. A truly beautiful, thoughtful, gift.
My partner and I have our own pad for Christmas, so I needed a whole set of decorations. We only have a small tree, so I knew I wouldn’t need too many. I decided to make some of my own. I also did a door wreath which I will show you. This is a quick, cheap way to get a beautiful display
I started off by making some dried orange slices, these smell amazing and give a kick of colour. Cut oranges into slices about 3 cm thick, and pat off excess juice. add some cinnamon if desired.
Arrange straight onto the oven shelves, dry bake at a low 100 degree oven for about 1-2 hours depending on the thickness of your slice. keep an eye on them to check they don’t burn. They should be dry and will smell amazing.
Next I bought a plain door wreath for £1.50 at a local garden centre. You can use this year after year. Raid the garden. I am lucky enough to have lovely Holly trees and Ivy plants. I also found some lavender stems, which added another shade of green to the display and more aroma. I found some great little toadstool decorations and used some dry roses my boyfriend had bought me to add another dimension and colour pop.
I started by adding the ivy and securing with wool sown through, but wire would work better.
Keep layering up the foliage and adornments till yo have something you are happy with.
Add a loop at the back to secure it to the door.
Have fun with your design and make it your own.
Other items you could add that would look great would be cinnamon sticks, walnuts, candy canes, ribbons and beads.
Home- made Christmas Cooking.
It is a bit of a soft rule, but I am not the Worlds biggest fan of raisin, sultans or currents, so Christmas pudding and mince pies are not my stars this festive season.
I found a gorgeous little book when getting our tree. It is called ‘Favourite Christmas Recipes,Traditional Seasonal Fare’ by Salmon publishing. It was only £1.50 and is a little book on Victorian traditional recipes. From starters, to the main, puddings, cakes and more it is packed with vintage treats. I have chosen a few to try. they are;
Honey- roasted Turkey
Rum Butter Tarts
Old English Nog Tart and
Carol Singing Pepper Cake.
Firstly to start with a very easy little number to get you going.
x 1 oven ready turkey
x 1 apple
x 1 potato
x 1 onion
x 3 oz/90 g butter
x 6 oz/180 g honey
salt and pepper
Place the Turkey in a roasting tin with 1 inch of water in the bottom
Chop the potato, onion and apple in half then stuff the turkey with them.
Mix the softened butter and honey together and rub onto the skin and all over the turkey.
Cover with foil.
Roast at 180 degrees, allow 15 minutes per 1lb of meat.
Throughout cooking make sure the water level stays at an inch and keep covered.
15 minutes before cooking ends, remove foil and let skin crisp up.
Leave covered when out of the oven for 10 minutes before carving.
Rum Butter Tarts
My alternative to mince pies. Less raisins, more apricots, delish!
x 8 oz Short crust pastry-see Bake Love Basics.
x 3 oz/90 g apricots, finely chopped
x 2 oz/ 75 g raisins
x 1 tablespoon dark rum
x 2 oz/75 g butter
x 2 oz/ 75 g soft brown sugar
x 1 egg
x 1 oz/30 g ground almonds
x 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
x pinch nutmeg and ground cloves. Although I used 1/2 teaspoon of ground mace, I just love it!
Set oven to 190 degrees.
Mix the dry fruit wit the rum and stand for at least 15 minutes.
Roll out and cut mince pie size discs and to put in a greased tart tray. Around 12-15 of them.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, them add egg, almonds and spices, mix again till combined then stir in the fruit and rum mix.
Place a spoonful onto the pastry and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Take out of the tray and place on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy hot or cold with cream or brandy butter or on there own, yummy!
Old English Nog Tart.
This will be my substitute for the traditional Christmas pud. I love creamy deserts and pastry so it is win, win for me.
x 6 oz/ 180 g plain flour
x 4 oz/ 100 g butter
x 3 tablespoons of ground almonds
x 6 tablespoons caster sugar
x 1/2 pint creamy milk, full cream milk I presumed
x 2 eggs separated, that means separate the yolk from the white into different bowls.
x 3 teaspoon of powdered gelatine, you can get veggie substitutes
x 3 tablespoons of dark rum
x 6 tablespoons double cream
1.2 teaspoon grated nutmeg, but again I used 1/4 teaspoon of mace.
and grated nutmeg to finish, but a dusting of icing sugar and mace worked nicely.
To make the flan/tart base, rub butter and flour, or chop together to breadcrumbs in a processor, add the almonds then 3 tablespoons of sugar. Add a little milk and mix to a soft dough. this can all be done in the processor.
Roll out on a floured surface and line a deep loose based 8 inch flan tin or cake tine. Bake blind for 10-15 minutes at 190 degree.
Blind baking- once in the cake tin, prick gently then line with baking paper and baking beads. I use a load of clean pennies, these conduct heat better too. Leave to cool completely.
For the mix, heat the remaining mix with the mace. Beat 2 egg yolks and 1 egg white with the rest of the sugar, the pour on the warm, not hot milk.Return the mix to a low heat, stirring until thick. Do not allow to boil, or you will have scrambled eggs.
Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Sprinkle the gelatine over the rum in a bowl, when it sponges (about 5 mins) stir into the warm custard, stirring well. Leave to stand until setting begins. Whip cream until thick but not stiff.Whisk the remaining egg white until stiff. Fold the cream into the custard mix, then mix in the egg white. Spoon into the flan/tart base and leave to set completely in the fridge, then dust with mace/ nutmeg and a little icing sugar.
A different desert but still with the feel of Christmas in the form of traditional egg nog. Nice.
Carol Singing Pepper Cake.
My kind of Christmas cake. Spicy and dark. A kind of ginger bread density. this could easily be covered with marzipan and icing as a traditional cake would be.
x 1 1/2 lbs/ 480 g plain flour
x 8 oz 230 g butter
x 8 oz/ 280 g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 lbs/ 480 g black treacle
4 eggs beaten
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
4 tablespoons of milk, i used whole, but any should do.
Set oven to 170 degrees. Rub butter and flour into breadcrumbs add sugar and spices.
Put treacle in a pan and heat gently until warm, but not hot.
Mix dry ingredients wit the eggs. Mix the bicarb wit the milk until dissolved, and stir in with everything to make a thick batter.
Line a tray approx 10 x 14 inches and spread evenly. Bake for 1. 5 hours or until a springy and cooked all the way through. Cool in the tin then turn out and cut into even slices, Best stored in an air tight container for a few days for the spices to develop.
This could be covered with marzipan and icing and decorated a a traditional Christmas cake, although it wouldn’t last quite as long, having a life of around 1 week I would say.
Cranberry and Sloe Gin Sauce.
A lovely twist on a classic, using my own home made sloe gin.
x 1 pack 250 g of fresh /frozen cranberries
x 100 g sugar, i use soft brown
x 100 ml orange juice, fresh or carton.
x 4 tablespoons sloe gin
Tip the sugar, orange and sloe gin into a pan and heat and bring to the boil.
Add cranberries and simmer until they are tender, but hold their shape. Take off the heat and it will thicken as it cools.
It will keep in the fridge for 1 week.
This festive season can be very stressful, but by having a plan you can save some time and keep your blood pressure low.
I would start wrapping presents and getting decorations done now.
The main event preparations would start the week of Christmas, so around the 18th -20th. This is when I would do the shopping, all except the meat which I would get on the 22nd. This gives you 3 days to cook it which is a recommended time to have meat for. But check dates with the farmer/packet to be sure.
Vegetables will last about a week t keep them at there peak, plus you’ll avoid the supermarket madness buy shopping earlier. Also I go either very early or late as most supermarkets open late.
Farmers markets and shops will be open too and may even do a box of Christmas veg for home delivery. And of course if you have own own, harvest and scrub it up a few days before.
Carol Singing Pepper Cake
Rum Butter Tarts
Monday 24th Christmas Eve
All veg prep-peel and put in Tupperware or saucepans of water,or par cook and cool fast, such as sprouts in iced water to keep the colour.
Any sauces and extras, cranberry, bread, stuffing,brandy butter
Old English Nog Tart
Stuff and glaze Turkey in the cooking pan, ready to pop in the oven the morn.
Tuesday 25 th The Big Day!!!!
Just before serving main, rest meat for 15 mins before carving, heat up veg if par cooked.
Warm up sides, bread sauce and stuffing.
Have cake, tea, coffee, watch TV.
Get someone else to clear up.
Remember to keep any left overs for yummy snacks and pies later on in the week. Let nothing go to waste.
Wednesday 26th Boxing day and Beyond
Make some yummy Turkey Pie
Epic leftover sandwiches
Christmas soup, just use the same as chicken
I hope you have enjoyed the Christmas issue, Let me know how you liked the Victorian Classics.
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.
Bake some Festive love into that food.
Oh one last picture. I think Bailey thinks he’s a Christmas goose and is getting very very fat!!! In his usual place on a cold evening right in front of the fire.