Now that Thanksgiving is officially on its way out, I guess we can all start focussing our efforts on Christmas. Although, if your English you may have been doing that for some time. In fact, you may have started your pre-christmas baking last week with the appearance of Stir-up Sunday.
Originally an informal term in Anglican churches for the last Sunday before the season of Advent, Stir-up Sunday has now come to represent the day in which bakers prepare their preserves, puddings and cakes ready for Christmas. Most of them contain a large amount of booze, so they keep well, and are mixed with even larger amounts of fruit. The combined flavours of both are able to mature and grow richer in flavour over the days leading up to the 25th.
Another part of the tradition is the “stirring” part. This is something the whole family is meant to do together, with each member getting a turn to stir the ingredients while making a wish.
Until I started making the traditional pudding, cake and mincemeat that make up the sweet staples of an English Christmas, I really believed they were too complicated to make myself. How wrong I was and I can’t recommend enough trying at least one. The difference between homemade and store-bought is beyond anything you can say in words!
On this year’s Stir-up Sunday my two younger daughters and I put our hands to mincemeat and were able to make up a number of jars by making up the recipe below. This mincemeat needs to be eaten this Christmas (no problem there!) and if you want one that will last longer, try this recipe by Delia Smith.
As you can see from the pictures, we went to town with the decorating of our jars. I think I had more fun doing it then the girls. We used stickers, stencils, sticky labels, yarn, ribbon, gingham squares and all kinds of Xmas clip art stored on the computer. It was cheap and so easy to do and the jars of homemade mincemeat will make great pressies for the kid’s teachers.
(adapted from Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible, Tamasin Day-Lewis)
approx 340g/12oz each of sultanas, raisins and currants
170g/60z finely chopped almonds
3 large apples, grated
400g/14oz dark brown sugar
200g/7oz mixed peel, finely chopped
grated zest and juice 2 lemons
grated zest and juice 1 orange
1 heaped teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 heaped teaspoon cloves and cinnamon
1/8 heaped teaspoon ginger
170g/60z vegetable (or beef) suet
4 tablespoons dark rum
120ml/4fl oz cognac or brandy
Put all ingredients into a large bowl. Mix really well with a wooden spoon.
Decant into sterilised jars and keep in a cool dark place.
Turn the jars upside down every once in a while so that the juices permeate throughout the mixture regularly.