It’s November already and those of you who have followed Thinly Spread for a while will know that the beginning of November heralds the return of Festive Friday! It starts quietly with a whipser, the smell of spice and a suggestion of sparkle, gradually gaining momentum as we head into December; this will be my fourth year running Festive Friday!
I make no apologies for my Christmas addiction, for me it is all about traditions, a gradual build up, a feast for all our senses and it starts now. This year is poignant because it is, in all probability, the last time our eldest boy will spend all of advent at home with us. All being well he will be striding out into the world of University this time next year and will be spending November and early December doing all things student (arghhhh) so I want to make this one special.
So far, it’s been all about the smells. I’ve made one Christmas cake and the fruit is soaking for a second. This second one will be cut into small squares and iced to give away in Christmas hampers along with Christmas chutney, crackers (both to eat and to pull), some cheese, pickles, truffles and flavoured oils. I made the chutney last week because it needs to mature for a month or two, my daughter is keen to start making truffles immediately but I’m holding her back for as long as possible or my hips won’t fit through the door by Boxing Day!
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- 350 g pitted prunes no soak
- 225 g pitted dates
- 225 g dried apricots
- 110 g dried figs
- 450 g onion peeled and roughly chopped
- 570 ml cider vinegar
- 6 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 2 tbsps sea salt
- 450 g dark brown sugar
Chop the dried fruit and onions in a food processor until very small
Put the vinegar in a preserving pan or large heavy bottomed saucepan with the salt, ginger and allspice
Put the remaining spices in a small piece of muslin, tie securely and add to the pan
Bring to the boil and stir in the fruit and onion pieces
Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves
Reduce the heat and simmer without a lid for about an hour/hour and a half, stirring occasionally until the chutney has thickened
You will know it is ready when there are no pools of vinegar left behind when you draw the back a spoon over the surface
Spoon the chutney into warmed, sterilised jars, seal and label
Allow the chutney to mature for at least a month before eating
(I sterilise my jars by placing them in the oven at 150C for 20 minutes, you can also sterilise them by putting them through a hot cycle in a dishwasher.)
I’m also thinking about charity giving at Christmas. The leaflets for Operation Christmas Child came home with the children at the end of half term and it reminded me that we need to decide what we are doing this year. The shoe box appeal doesn’t sit happily with me, I’m not comfortable with its evangelical background, but I do think it is important to encourage children to think of others at Christmas and to be aware of problems and issues in the wider world. This year I am joining in with Liz over at the Mum Blog and a group of other bloggers and choosing something from the Save the Children Wish List – my long association with Save is well documented and I am now working for them as a Community Liaison Officer so this seems like the perfect option for us!
We are going to have a rummage through and decide which of Save the Children’s areas of operations we want to donate to this year. £5 could send a child an art set, £31 could give a child healthcare for a year…we could send a football for a fiver, some toys and books for a tenner or we could send tree saplings or a gardening pack, mosquito nets or a birth pack. It’s a fabulous way to get children thinking about the things other people need and which we take for granted, we’ve done this many times now and it always prompts discussion and debate.
Britmums are hosting a linky for any bloggers posting about the Save the Children Wish List, do add yours if you decide this way of giving to charity at Christmas is for you!