It’s that citrus time of year again. The clementines, satsumas, tangerines and kumquats are everywhere in the markets. I can’t get enough of them! Recently, I was intrigued by a recipe for candied kumquats that fellow blogger, Cheesy Biscuit posted. It’s on the list of things to try. But, nothing is better than fresh clementines. I love putting them in this blue stoneware bowl we bought at the studio of a potter in Exmoor.
Also, around this time of year, Brussels sprout tops are available for a short time in the shops – the leafy tops of Brussels sprout stalks. These are from a red variety of Brussels. Not being overly fond of sprouts (something to do with being forced to eat mushy “little cabbages” as a child), these leafy tops were a revelation! I love them chopped and cooked like collard greens or kale. They have an amazing subtle Brussels sprout flavor.
My thoughts have now turned to holiday gifts. I give edible gifts to friends – including preserves made at the end of growing season, like my brandied quince – a new recipe this year (see my post, Ambrosia). I’ve recently found a Medieval recipe for a spiced quince butter cake that would be a perfect use for the brandied quince.
There are also all those little mince pies to make. It wasn’t until I started using the correct baking trays (with shallow dips, not mini muffin tins) that I got into this British holiday custom. Then, Nigella Lawson came along with her recipe for cranberry mincemeat and star topped pies – homemade with cranberries and no suet required! Come to think of it, with no suet, the last vestige of “meat” has gone from mincemeat. Perhaps it should just be called mince? Yes, there really was meat in early mince pies. I just saw a recipe for “minst pies” from a document dated 1624 in The National Archives that lists “a Loyne of fatt mutton with a little legg of veal to mince with it” in the list of ingredients. For my meatless mincemeat, I modified Nigella Lawson’s recipe and added some quince to the mix – makes it go a little bit further = more mince pies!
- 3/4 cup ruby port
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 5 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 3 medium-size quince
- 2 clementines
- 2 cups sultanas (= American golden raisins)
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 4 Tablespoons brandy
- 4 Tablespoons thick golden honey
Put the port, sugar, cranberries, juice and chopped zest of the clementines, sultanas, dried cranberries and spices in a large sauce pan. Bring up to heat and leave at a simmer for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring and crushing cranberries with your wooden spoon. Meanwhile, peel and coarsely grate the quince, discarding the core. Add the grated quince to the pot after the initial 10 minutes and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off heat, add the brandy and honey. Stir and ladle into a clean jar. Cool completely, seal and store in the refrigerator. Use within a few weeks. In addition to mini mince pies, I also use this mincemeat with apples or pears in strudels and crumbles. Or, I simply spoon a little into batter for Christmas morning breakfast muffins.
But, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without that American custom – cookies! When my son was young, I used to make a lot of cut-out cookies which we would decorate with mad splash designs in colored icings – á la Jackson Pollock. I still make some, mostly stars and gingerbread men. I’ve found some new sprinkles – tiny sugar stars, pearls and bronze nuggets – for classy decoration. But our favorite cookies are various flavored shortbreads, rolled and then decorated by stamping with Scandinavian clay cookie stamps.
Of course, it helps with the baking that my spices are now lined up on their rack in the pantry, back in place after months of living in boxes in the living room while the kitchen reconstruction was in progress.
Kitchen reorganizing was just in time to think about all these holiday preparations. The turkey, chipolatas and pork pies (a Yorkshire must!) have been ordered from the organic farm. It’s almost time to decorate the tree. This year my husband presented me with a new ornament to hang – a miniature Christmas cake!
Another batch of mince pies is just about ready to come out of the oven, so it’s time to sign off. Wishing you all seasonal good cheer in your own kitchens out there in the virtual IMK global village.
I’m very excited about joining the ranks of IMK (In My Kitchen) bloggers. Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial has really thought up a winner! All of us out there in the blogosphere – and in the real world – once a month writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens. Celia lists them all, so it’s easy to find your way into a virtual friend’s kitchen to see what they’ve been up to. Now, it’s time for me to open my kitchen doors.
♥ ♥ ♥
I’ll be listing all of my In My Kitchen blog posts on a separate page (just click the link), or you can find them by clicking on the In My Kitchen category listing.