I can't believe it's been so long since I last wrote anything here and that it's actually December!
Where on earth did the year go? Today my house smells just like Christmas ~ I'm making mincemeat.
We won't be having a traditional Christmas lunch this year and I won't be making a Christmas cake or a pudding either (shock, horror, screwed up faces when I announced this to my family). The reasons being:
It's too hot here on Christmas Day to have the oven going or to eat a hot meal so I made the decision to order a gigantic Christmas Ham from Mr Heck the German Butcher and I'll make some nice salads to go with it from our veg garden. If the men feel the need to put the BBQ on then so be it but they will be the ones doing the cooking. I will be sat in a shady corner knitting hopefully :-)
Christmas cake ~ this will be the first year in forever that I haven't baked one. After tidying out a storage cupboard after the earthquake where I discovered ~ sealed in a cake container ~ the cake I made last year totally untouched. I seem to remember this also happened the year before when I found half a christmas cake in the back of the pantry in the middle of Winter.
I think because it's the middle of Summer here you don't get the urge to eat things like this, maybe a mince pie is now my absolute limit and I thought I would never say this but I much prefer a fruit platter now ~ the berries are all in season at that time of the year. I can tell you that no one else in the house was happy at these new fangled ideas of mine because for years they have all been so terribly spoiled! Yet as much as I love our traditions I feel that now we live here we really need to try to change some things to fit in with this seasonal topsy-turvyness.
This will be our 4th Christmas in New Zealand yet each and every one of them have not felt 'right', not Christmassy at all, maybe the lack of family members and the weather have a lot to do with that, I'm not totally sure. I used to love Christmas when we lived in England but now I don't care for it at all because it only reminds me of what I am missing back home.
However I do have a christmas wish list that goes something like this:
Ashfords Drum Carder so I can work my way through the many boxes of fleece I have stored away.
A new Knit Picks yarn winder
2 skeins of some utterly scrumptious yet frivolous yarn that I would never dream of buying for myself in a colour that I wouldn't normally choose but that I would love
3 Merino sheep
3 Alpacas in Cream, dark brown and ginger colour
So today I tried to get into the christmas feel and made mincemeat ~ a recipe I have owned for many years but have never used. I cannot get suet here (traditionally used in mincemeat) so 2 years ago I made a recipe with no fat and a pint of brandy as the preserving element, nice but a little toooo boozy for my tastes. Last year I found a jar of Robertson's traditional mincemeat in a shop here and stupidly paid an extortionate $20 for it (it was a small one too). This year I decided to used a recipe that was from my Mother In Law (strangely she made it herself for the first time this year too), it's from an old Women's Institute cookery book from Northern Ireland in the early 70's.
I changed the recipe a little, I like to add dried cranberries and changed the spices by adding a little freshly ground nutmeg, ginger and cloves and reducing the mixed spice. I used a rind parer for the zest, it gives those nice long thin strips which after cooking look translucent and slightly candied. I used a mixture of half brandy and half rum as the alcohol.
Mincemeat Without Suet
6 oz unsalted butter, cubed
24 oz apples, peeled, cored & finely chopped
12 oz raisins
12 oz currants
12 oz sultanas
12 oz brown sugar
4 teaspoons mixed spice
rind and juice of 2 oranges
rind and juice of 2 lemons
4-6 tablespoon brandy, rum or whisky
Mix all the ingredients except the alcohol together in a large saucepan. Heat gently and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the apples are nice and tender and the juice has reduced to a thick consistency.
Add the alcohol and put into sterilized jars (wash jars in warm soapy water, rinse and place in a pre heated oven at 140 degrees c for 15 minutes, fill while still hot and seal carefully). This filled 5 medium sized jars.
This is best if made at least 3 weeks before using and will keep indefinitely if jars are properly sterilized and sealed and stored in a cool, dark place. Once opened store in the fridge.
On the craft front I have recently mailed out my final 2 Ravelry swap packages of the year and have hardly done a stitch of knitting of late! Seriously, I can't seem to get the time at the moment. I knitted a Norrie hat from my new Shetland Trader Book which arrived this week ~ I am so happy with it and can honestly say it's the first book I have ever owned/seen where I know I will eventually knit every pattern in it. I have yarns on order for Shalder and a few other projects which seem to be taking an age to arrive.
On the shop front it's been very busy throughout November, I've been dyeing almost every day. I'm dyeing lots of new floral themes inspired by my garden. Yarns are taking an age to dry because we seem to have had very high humidity over the past week and we have our dehumidifiers on constantly. I have a large order of yarn bases due in any day now including a couple of new ones ~ a new silk sock 50/50 silk/merino blend and a MCN sock yarn (merino/cashmere/nylon) which are both totally gorgeous. I've decided not to continue buying in the sublime sock yarn base I have been using - the last batch I received were rather knotty skeins and I dislike knots and don't like sending them to my customers either.