Alternatively…November

Spring Cleaning in November

I always ‘spring clean’ in October/November. Why, because in the spring I’m in the garden growing seeds etc. In the Autumn the dust from the open doors and windows of summer can be removed, the winter log fires (I have central heating too) have yet to be lit, it is New Year/new beginnings if you’re pagan, and it clears out old energy. It is a good time to remove old food and ‘stuff’ before Christmas, just so you can fill it up with more ‘stuff’ at Christmas again, thus keeping the charity shops and car boots in business for another year. I also have a ‘live out of the larder and freezer week’ in November. It makes room for the Christmas overindulge and the money saved contributes towards the extra expense of Christmas food.

Hands up all those who say “This year I won’t buy so much food!” Yes, my hand is up too. It’s an annual chant for this season.

Making Chrismas puddding & Mincemeat

Now Kitchen cupboard cleaning day is Christmas pudding day. Yes I still make my own, even the so called ‘luxury’ puddings are never as nice as homemade because you get out of a pud what you put in, good puds need good ingredients, and I don’t need to make a profit from mine, so they’re better than any shop bought one.
I also find that whilst microwaves and pressure cookers are quicker, a slowly matured flavour only comes when your pudding is steamed slowly. As food deteriorates over time, ‘maturing’ your pudding for a year is not good for me. 6 – 8 weeks is perfect.
So 8 hours tied to a steaming pot is a great time to clean cupboards and cull contents.
The 8 hours is for steaming a 2 pint pudding, which is double the size of the shop luxury puddings. I am sharing with 12 persons this year, on other years I just half all quantities.   Originally  I  found I always had ingredients left over that I would not use during the year, and then I discovered homemade mincemeat!
With the addition of a little more cooking apple, which I already have harvested and in the freezer, and a little more other ingredients like suet (or vegetarian suet if you like), I can make 6& 1/4 lbs of mincemeat too. Wow this is fab, no bought ‘luxury mincemeat looks like it or tastes like it, and it lasts indefinitely due to the 6 Tbspns of Brandy added on completion. Again I half all ingredients if I’m not catering for 12, but gifts of my mince are always in demand, and you can use during the year.
So this year for 1 x 2 pint Christmas pudding and 6 & 1/4 pounds ( Thats about 3Kg) of mincemeat total cost was £15.00.
That makes a double size xmas pud  £7.50 and mincemeat was £1.25 a jar.

Xmas Pud Spell

When looking at the image of my handiwork, please note the green 1 pint supermarket standard size standing on top of my pud. Note how much larger my pud is for it’s £7.50 cost

I have to ‘fess up’ I already had rum and brandy, but since I don’t drink either a 1/2 bottle of brandy lasts 4 -6 years and rum about double that (you need less) Don’t buy the finest spirits for cooking, but don’t buy really cheap brandy because it’s not cooked out in the mincemeat making process.Cheaper rum is o.k. though because you add for flavour, all alcohol goes during cooking.

I am a Delia girl. I have followed cook Delia Smith’s recipes since the 1990’s. I have Delia’s Christmas book. I like Delia because she is a good old fashioned cook and not a fancy chef. Since I am the same I find her recipes do-able and reliable. I don’t have fancy chef skills.

Magic Spells Added?

I’m sure everyone remembers stirring the Christmas pudding and making a wish. Or is it a ‘wish’. The tradition goes back to at least Elizabethan times, that is the time when the spices and dried fruit we use were first available.  I believe the wish stirring thing transfered from much earlier times. Stirring the family Yule feast in the family cauldron over the fire.
I think about all those symbols of the  sun, all that dried fruit and citrus from the summer harvests! They are symbols of the returning sun (our star) celebrated as  the birth of the ‘star child’ (the returning sun) by pagans. Surely when you make a ‘wish’ for the new year by stirring the pudding a spell is what you do. Everyone in the household should participate.

And what about the charms? Did you think they were just silver sixpences? No! Originally they were:
A horseshoe for good luck, A button for a man thus prophesying he will remain a batchelor for another year, a thimble for a spinster prophesying that she will remain a spinster for another year, a bell for a bride to be, a coin for financial good fortune – there’s your silver sixpence, and it says much about how our views on ‘good fortune’ have changed that only these go into the pudding now.   It is all in essence a spell with the charms acting as  fun prophesies.
As I am making my pudding I ask for the returning sun to bless all that eat with health, abundance and happiness adding may they never hunger or thirst which is a Druid blessing. If all this Christmas pudding malarky is not a spell, then please tell me what is?
There's a magic spell in every pud

‘Spring Cleaning’ in November

Ever the optimist I always convince myself that cupboard cleaning will take just 1 day. It doesn’t! My kitchen/diner is the biggest room in my cottage. In the days when it was a 2 up, 2 down (before 1890 when the front extension was built) This was the original 2 rooms, now become one and so by cottage standards large.
It is the heart of my home and the most used room. Nowadays it contains 17 cupboards and 8 drawers. It takes 2 days Judith! Time to remember that!
Anyway Kitchen now gleaming (for 5 minutes), and Christmas pudding and Christmas mincemeat jars now done.

Going all the way back to 7th November (Samhain) Our group celebrations went well. See pictures of altar, the homemade (and homegrown) butternut squash, sage, feta and hazelnut quiche .

Samhain Altar  Samhain food squash, hazelnut, sage, feta quiche

Talking of pictures I have snapped the plethora of essential oil bottles on my dresser. Late October/November has made the dresser into an experimentation station. I’m looking for that ‘perfect’ Christmas room scent. I have spent hours trawling the internet and mixing concoctions. Finally I came up with my own interpretation of ‘the smell of Christmas’ and a couple of sourced alternatives, tweaked by me, for course participants. The tweaking is because the source sites don’t always trial the fragrance blends being primarily a source for selling. Wintergreen featured heavily in one recipe. It is a very strong fragrance (smells like the old product Germoline), and it overpowers more delicate perfumes. I found I needed to substitute peppermint and reduce the wintergreen.
All my fragrances on my courses are tested first.
I still have 1 person coming for bespoke tuition on 3rd December. I also had a further ‘starting with crystals’ enquiry, but my December diary is now so full with family  and work commitments I just can’t fit in any more until the New Year. I have mentioned before that I work part-time and have a pension and don’t rely on sales of my courses. But I love learning and sharing that learning with others, and you meet such interesting people, and this is why I offer courses.
Essential oils Finding that Christmas smell
Lastly, thought you would like to see a pic of my cat Mimi ‘fully joining in’ the kitchen hustle and bustle. I have never had a cat sleep as much as she, and she almost never ventures outside now, she doesn’t approve of the cold and wet! With the kitchen turned upside down, she happily settled in a patch of sunlight and was oblivious! Mimi 'participating' in the hustle & bustle