Making a batch of Plum and Mulled Wine jam this morning and filling my kitchen with festive aromas, my mind turned to thinking about Christmas. This time of year is always my busiest in terms of sales of my homemade preserves so why do people want preserves for Christmas?
There seems to be two main reasons for this - one is as a gift for someone else and the other is for the Christmas table. It is also a time for straying away from the usual brands and looking for something "a bit different" and "special".
There are certain people who are very difficult to buy presents for - the ones who end up receiving a pair of socks or a monogrammed hanky. When I do Christmas fayres, some people admiring my stall suddenly realise that it does not need to be socks again this year. It seems to me that jam is the ideal gift for pretty much anybody from the secret Santa colleague to Great Aunt Ivy and Uncle Bert. And the small size of my jars makes them particularly appealing for this purpose as they are ideal for those people who live on their own and who have to eat up a whole jar on their own. They also seem to work out about the right price as a gift for these people. For Granny, a gift bag of 3 jams for £6 is perfect!
As for the Christmas table itself, there are a some preserves which seem essential at Christmas. Mincemeat is the most obvious one and, with 3 different varieties on offer, Jammy Cow mincemeat can make a change from the usual supermarket jars. But there are other things too such as redcurrant jelly that go well with a nice joint of lamb or the Christmas goose. Chutneys too are a requirement with the selection of Christmas cheeses on the cheeseboard and for the cold meat meal eaten on Boxing Day. Again, the small sized jars I make mean you can buy a range of different chutneys to suit all tastes and meals.
I did once plant a cranberry bush but sadly it required ericaceous compost to grow and the heavy clay of Milton Keynes is far from ideal. It struggled on in a container for a while but never did bear fruit before succumbing to neglect one hot summer. Fortunately, fresh cranberries are available in the produce department of supermarkets from mid November and they are dead easy to make into cranberry sauce. Not being grown in Milton Keynes, I can't add cranberry sauce to my Jammy Cow range of preserves so instead I shall share my recipe with you - it is very simple. And don't worry that it makes more than you need for your Christmas Day turkey because it keeps well in its jars and can be used as an ingredient in flapjacks and brownies. Remind me in January and I'll share my recipes for those too.
Makes 2-3 1lb jars
12 oz (275g) granulated sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) port
1lb 5 oz (600g) cranberries
2 eating apples
Grate the zest from the oranges and squeeze out the juice. Put the juice, sugar and port in a pan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the cranberries, orange zest and grated apples. Cook, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes until the fruit is soft and the juices are thick. Ladle into warmed jars and seal immediately. Job done!