Christmas is a time for feasting and what better occasion to make the most of last season's glut of fruit and vegetables by indulging in some homemade preserves? They make fantastic Christmas gifts that will be greatly received by anyone!
The beauty of Christmas preserves is that there are lots of different ingredients you can use that will happily marry with most festive dishes, whether you opt for sweet or savoury alternatives.
If you have an abundance of fruit left over from your summer yield, these transform perfectly into jams. Blackcurrant or redcurrant jams are firm favourites but if you were wondering what to do with an excess of gooseberries, why not combine these with elderflower to make a delicious preserve with subtle hints of summer? As the perfect Christmas treat, it is so easy to make. Simply simmer 2 lbs of gooseberries in a pan of water until tender. Add a similar amount of sugar and stir on a low heat until it sets. Add 4 tablespoons of elderflower cordial, and allow the mixture to settle before pouring into sterilised jars.
To get a real flavour of Christmas cheer, make a festive preserve that combines ingredients reminiscent of the season. Pulse 3 cups of cranberries and a peeled orange in a food processor. Add orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon each of cloves and cinnamon. Stir and mix in 4 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Cook gently for a few minutes and then stir in a packet of liquid fruit pectin. Remove from the heat and pour into sterilised containers.
A traditional Christmas preserve, mincemeat is ideal for making into mince pies or pairing with cheese and crackers - it wouldn't be Christmas without it! Erstwhile celebrity chef Fanny Cradock has a classic Royal Mincemeat recipe that involves adding and mixing the following ingredients in a bowl, and then packing into sterilised jars: 1 lb each of currents, raisins and sultanas, 1 1/2 lb suet, 1 lb brown sugar, 1 lb chopped apples, rinds of 3 oranges and 2 lemons, 1 cup each of rum and brandy, and the strained juice of an orange and a lemon.
Another Fanny Cradock recipe that's ideal for Christmas is a blackberry and elderflower gin jelly. This is made by adding 2 lb 4 oz. blackberries and 2 chopped cooking apples to a pan, with the juice of a lemon and 18 fl. oz. water. Simmer for 15 minutes. Drip ingredients through a jelly bag, then weigh the juice and add an equal amount of sugar. Warm liquid until sugar has dissolved and then heat to a fast boil until it has set. Mix in 2 tablespoons of elderflower gin, and then pour liquid into sterilised jars.
For the most delicious Christmas preserves, homegrown fruits are the tastiest ingredients. No luck with your fruit crop this summer: did the birds get there first? The best way to protect your crop is by netting them or using fruit cages, such as those available at Henry Cowls. Add one to your Christmas list, and then next year you will be able to enjoy homemade preserves made with homegrown crops too!